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Manchester 2011



National Delegate Conference 21-24 June 2011


MANCHESTER: Steeped in labour history

  People's History
People's History

Not since Glasgow has National Delegate Conference landed on somewhere so steeped in labour movement history.

From a Roman settlement in a Celtic heartland, to a medieval market town, Manchester grew into a metropolis in the 19th century with the massive growth in textile manufacturing. It is home to the world’s first ever passenger railway station.

It even, somewhat oddly, raised a regiment to support Bonnie Prince Charlie on his way south but turned on him on his way back.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the city was enriched by immigrants from Ireland and central and eastern Europe as the place expanded with canals, factories and the railway.

And radicalism grew. There were food riots in 1797. The Blanketeers mounted a huge march in 1817 against poverty during the textile recession and against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act.

60,000 gathered in St Peter’s Field in 1819 to demand parliamentary representation. Cavalry charged protesters with sabres, killing at least 15 and injuring hundreds in the ‘Peterloo Massacre’.

Manchester became a borough in 1837 and the council eventually bought out the last of the feudal rights.

From 1842 to 1844 Friedrich Engels lived here and wrote his Condition of the Working Class in England. He met with Karl Marx in an alcove at Chetham’s Library (built 1653).

The Cooperative Wholesale Society was formed here in 1862. By 1895 over 300 local branches of the Labour Party had sprung up. 40,000 people gathered to hear Keir Hardie speak in 1896.

Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in Manchester in 1903 - better known as the suffragettes.

By 1906 there were three Manchester Labour MPs and the city council had 13 Labour members. Today, 75 of the 96 councillors are Labour with no Tories.

What a history, and we haven’t even touched on football yet. Like Edinburgh, Manchester has a Hearts supporters club. Unlike Edinburgh it has trams!

Modern Manchester had gone through a huge revival before the savage ConDem cuts this year and there is much to see and do.

What to see

First stop has to be the magnificent People’s History Museum telling the story from the chartists, trade unions and the co-op movement to the Spanish Civil War and much more - including a huge collection of banners and badges.

The John Rylands Library collection includes the oldest known piece of the New Testament, the St John Fragment, and a 1476 William Caxton edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

The Manchester Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and the series of art galleries are all worth a visit.

Eating out

Manchester boasts a fantastic Chinatown not far from the Town Hall and a famous Curry Mile in Rusholme. The city centre has many restaurants near the Conference centre, down by the canals, across to Piccadilly and the area around the Cathedral and the Arndale Centre.

Pubs and Bistros

The supposedly smallest pub in Britain is the Circus Tavern on Portland Street and there are a few good real ale pubs around the area. Some trendy bars are to be found in Deansgate with popular venues alongside the canals at Castlefield. The gay scene centres on Canal Street.

The ancient Wellington bar and Sinclairs Oyster bar are near the big wheel. Astonishingly, the pubs have been physically moved twice. Once in 1974 to make way for the shopping centre, then again closer to the cathedral after the bombing of 1996.

John Stevenson