New exhibition, Workers’ Playtime, launches at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library

About the exhibition

The exhibition explores culture and community in 19th century industrial Lancashire. Workers’ Playtime goes beyond the factories to explore the cultures and communities created by the workers in pursuit of a better, fuller life for themselves and their children. It is a tale of political, economic, and cultural self-organisation in pursuit of mutual improvement and creative expression. Above all, it is a tale of culture and community made by the hearts and minds of the hands themselves.

The exhibit will be open from 29 March 2023 to 9 September 2023.

Items on display

Explore workers’ lives outside of the factory including playing sport, trips to the seaside or supporting the growing Co-operative Movement.

Uncover the club and societies set up by workers including the Moss Side Debating Society and the brass band from Dobb Lane Sunday School.

Read books by Lancashire mill-workers Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, Ben Brierley and Sam Fitton who became popular writers.

Public tours

Did industrial workers in Victorian Lancashire have time to participate in literary culture and leisure pursuits? From the Factory Acts to the First World War, this tour will explore archives that illuminate lively networks of poets and performers, humourists, authors, dramatists and theatregoers all belonging to Lancashire’s urban communities.

We are excited to welcome Dr Michael Sanders, Senior Lecturer in 19th Century Writing at The University of Manchester and academic lead for Workers’ Playtime, who will be guiding this in-depth tour.

Dates and times:

The tours are free and there’s no need to book. For other events related to Workers’ Playtime, visit our Events page.

Where can I find out more?

Visit the Rylands website to find out more about the exhibition.