Manchester Histories Digifest 2020: Disabled People’s Rights and Histories – An Update

Manchester Histories Digifest Team

Asked about the impact of the first ever disability rights legislation in the world that he introduced, Alf Morris (MP for Manchester Wythenshawe and later Lord Morris of Manchester) famously remarked “it may not add years to your life but it will add life to your years”. We too had life added to our years on Friday the 4th and Saturday 5th September as we celebrated 50 years of the landmark legislation “The Chronically Sick and Disabled Person’s Act 1970”, affectionately known as ‘Alf’s Act’. 

Following an initial approach by the Morris family to The University of Manchester’s Disabled Staff Network, Manchester Histories, Manchester Metropolitan University, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, North West TUC, and others worked together to produce a two-day digital festival that was broadcast live from Manchester Central Library. Attracting an audience of over 3000 people.

The Bee Vocal Choir

The themes were ‘celebrate, learn, challenge’ and through a call out to individuals and groups in Greater Manchester and beyond, newly commissioned work by young disabled musicians, James Holt, Lucy Bales, Ollie Hyland, Bee Vocal Choir, and three short films made by Brazen Productions about the life and work of Alf Morris, a wonderful montage of disabled people’s lives, histories, contributions, political struggles, and joyous creativity was live across the globe.

Compered by comedian Jackie Hagan, audiences were led into thought provoking, moving, entertaining and fascinating contributions exploring the positive legacy of Alf’s Act as well as the contemporary challenges of today. Debates about the right to life in the wake of doctors encouraging disabled people to consider “Do Not Resuscitate” orders at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, mingled with art, music and histories. Projects exploring disabled people’s ‘lifeworlds’ were scattered across the programme including one by young deaf sign language users in South Africa using the medium of photography, lockdown blogs from disabled people’s perspectives and historical dramas including the stories of incarceration experienced by people with learning difficulties and much much more. DigiFest 2020 was accompanied by in depth filmed pieces and a gallery which are still accessible now.

Jackie Hagan

Led by disabled people, front and centre, and with high levels of access for the audience in this online medium, DigiFest 2020 would have been unthinkable 50 years ago.  The world in which Alf’s Act was born was one where disabled people were literally not seen, not educated alongside others, rarely regarded as having the potential to live independent lives and not supported to do so. People’s preferences for language and communication were at best overlooked and at worst denied and disabled people’s contributions to society and the benefits they brought were not recognised.  True, today is different and the Equality Act 2010 brings important protections and also promotions of disabled people’s rights. But there is still much to be concerned about as the festival’s live debate with Victoria Macdonald (Channel 4 News’ health and social care editor) demonstrated.  Seemingly common-sense relaxations in some Local Authority duties of assessment and care under the Coronavirus Emergency Act have placed many disabled people at a disadvantage. 

The appropriation of ‘vulnerable’ as a stigmatizing term to describe people at greatest susceptibility to COVID-19 (including many disabled people) has been a step backwards.  Yet as many contributors to the festival alluded to – restrictions in movement and socialization, barriers to working as usual and isolation are hardly new experiences for many disabled people.  In that sense the resilience, honest emotional reflection, and practical ability just to get on with it, possessed by many disabled people, has found a new value and recognition in the eyes of others.

The online DigiFest, free and open to all, raised the profile of the ongoing struggles for disabled people’s rights bringing new perspectives to many watching. It celebrated the diversity of disabled people’s contributions to making society better for everyone. It highlighted what is to be learned from the past 50 years of disabled people’s histories and rights and showcased the future in the rich mix of rights still to be won, creative avenues still to be explored, and the inclusive and accessible communities still to be fully realised.

A follow-up event is now being organised by the DigiFest steering groups on Thursday 3rd December 2020 to celebrate International Day of People with Disability. Keep an eye out on Manchester Histories website for more details.

To watch the broadcasts, see behind the scenes photos and to explore all the digital content produced for DigiFest2020 please click here.

Manchester Histories DigiFest 2020 Team.

Gill Morris, Hamied Haroon, Kirsty Hutchinson, Alys Young, Jessica Bolan, Ros Oates, Karen Shannon and Janine Hague.

Thanks to our funders and all people who contributed to make DigiFest 2020 possible.

As Seen on Screen: Period dramas, ‘accuracy’ & the historical adviser – Dr Hannah Grieg Public Lecture, 11 November 2020, 5.30pm

We are delighted to announce that Dr Hannah Grieg will be delivering her postponed lecture “As Seen on Screen: Period dramas, ‘accuracy’ & the historical adviser” as part of Manchester Metropolitan University’s History Research Centre Seminar Series.

Dr Hannah Greig is a senior lecturer in history at the University of York where she teaches eighteenth-century history and public history. Alongside her academic work she is an established consultant to film, TV and theatre productions with over a decade of experience of working closely with period dramas. 

Her credits include feature films “The Duchess” (2008) and “The Favourite” (2018); BBC dramas including “Poldark” (series 1-5), “Death Comes to Pemberley”, “Jamaica Inn”, and “Gunpowder”; ITV’s recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, “Sanditon”; and the forthcoming “Bridgerton” series for Netflix. 

In this talk Dr Greig will reflect on her practice-based work as a consultant, the place of film and television as a form of public history, and the issues involved in attempting to create a historically ‘accurate’ drama.

You can sign up to the lecture here .

This lecture is part of the History Research Seminar Series at Manchester Metropolitan University and is organised by the Manchester Centre for Public History and Heritage.

Covid-19 in Historical Perpsective: an ‘in conversation’ series

Covid-19 in Historical Perspective: an ‘in conversation’ series

In partnership with the Raphael Samuel History Centre we invite you to an ‘in conversation’ series on Covid-19 in Historical Perspective.  Building on our first workshop (Doing Public History in Lockdown and Beyond) and bringing together historical experts on health, disease, policy, and more, this series or workshops will explore the many historical perspectives through which we can view, and better understand, the current coronavirus pandemic and the political and cultural responses to it. In each session, a panel of historians will discuss and reflect upon key questions, comparisons, contrasts, and ‘lessons’ that we might draw upon to help us make sense of the present through an examination of the past.

These virtual events are free and open to all, but registration is essential. Please specify which event(s) you’d like to join. Contact the RSHC administrator Katy Pettit to register:

Please note that all events will be recorded; by joining the event you give your permission to be recorded.

Thursday 12th November, 4.00pm – 5.30pm GMT

The History of Pandemic Responses

What have pandemic responses looked like, and what public health and political tensions have there been, in different times and place?


Matthew McCormack (University of Northampton):  The Pandemic Response in the context of British political history

Matt Vester (West Virginia University):  Pandemic politics during the renaissance

Rosa Salzberg (University of Warwick): Lockdown and early modern Venice

Henry Irving (Leeds Beckett University):  Keep Calm and Carry On: Comms in the Crisis


Thursday 26th November, 5.00 – 6.30pm 

Can we learn any lessons from history?

Can history tell us anything about how to better manage our current crisis?


Virginia Berridge (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine): Swine flu, HIV/AIDS, and public health in local government

Alex Mold (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine): Behaviour, change, and histories of public health

David Arnold (University of Warwick): The Pandemic in India: Influenza and Covid-19 compared

Guillaume Lachenal and Gaëtan Thomas (Sciences Po, Paris): When history has no lessons


Wednesday 2nd December, 4:00 – 5.30pm 

Change and Continuity

How is this pandemic, and our political, social and cultural responses to it, similar or different to past moments of intense crisis and change?  Can we use history to imagine what life after coronavirus might look like?


Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck, University of London): Consuming at a Distance

Kat Hill (Birkbeck, University of London): Awaiting Apocalypse in historical perspective

Andrew Jackson (Bishop Grosseteste University): The legacies of 1919 and 2020 in the community

Agnes Arnold-Forster (University of Bristol): The long history of health inequalities


This series builds on the workshop Doing Public History in Lockdown and Beyond, co-organised in September by the RSHC and the MCPHH. 

Fifth Pan-African Congress 75th Anniversary Celebrations, 15-18th October 2020

By Professor Ola Uduku, Acting Joint Head of Architecture, MMU, Dr Shirin Hirsch, Senior Lecturer in British History, MMU, Dr Marie Molloy, Senior Lecturer in American History, MMU.

‘We are determined to be free. We want education. We want the right to earn a decent living; the right to express our thoughts and emotions, to adopt and create forms of beauty…. We will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy and social betterment.’

‘The Challenge to the Colonial Powers’, Statement from the Fifth Pan-African Congress, Manchester 1945.

Delegates to the Fifth Pan-African Congress, Manchester. Copyright Manchester Archives Plus.

For the past 12 months, we have worked hard to forge a tripartite University Initiative celebrating the 75th anniversary of the fifth Pan-African Congress that took place in Manchester in October 1945. Despite COVID-19, and the implications that a global pandemic has had on us all, our plans for the PAC October celebrations have continued, albeit in an online form and we are thrilled with the upcoming three-day schedule of events   from 15-17th October 2020. These celebrations are vital as they not only draw on a historic event in Manchester’s history, but they also highlight present day issues connected to systemic racism that continue to exist across the world, as illustrated by the murder of George Floyd in the USA, which sparked a summer of BLM protests. The past and present are intimately connected and therefore in examining the Pan African Congress that took place in Manchester in 1945, we shine a light on the modern day struggle for racial equality.

‘In memory of George Floyd’ Heidi Molloy. Year 12 Graphics Communications Student. Brine Leas Sixth Form.

Photograph of the new Arts Building, MMU. Courtesy of Tim Brennan, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Despite the fifth Pan African Congress often being much forgotten within our city, this critically significant event played a key role in the shaping of modern world history. It was the first time after WW2 that emerging Africans took on the leadership of the struggle, to demand self-rule and freedom from British colonialism, supported by allies from across the world. The plaque commemorating this event is sited in the recently rebuilt MMU Arts Faculty Building facing onto All Saints Square in what had previously been Chorlton Town Hall where the six-day event had actually taken place. The congress had 200 attendees from across the world; including delegations from Africa, America, the Caribbean and Asia, as well as black and white delegates from Manchester and across the UK.

Plaque commemorating fifth Pan African Congress Conference, Courtesy of By KGGuewa

A number of future independent African leaders were delegates at the Congress, including Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Jomo Kenyatta. The Congress provided a forum, which would be a springboard for these key figures in connecting with each other and developing new national strategies towards hastening decolonisation and ultimately self-rule. The black American civil rights activist and sociologist W.E.B Du Bois, past organiser of the previous Congresses, attended as a delegate, whilst the writer Peter Abrahams represented pre-apartheid South Africa.

The Manchester 1945 meeting was a precursor to the development of a number of African independence movements that went on to successfully secure self-rule for countries across Africa. It also signified the movement of the intellectual discourse on African self-realisation and solidarity with other causes moving from the Americas and the West Indies to the UK and then on to Africa. Joe Appiah, the representative of the West African Students Union in the UK for example went on to play a key role in Ghana’s independence working directly with the nation’s first premier Kwame Nkrumah. His son Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah is one of the leading philosophers in the world and we are delighted to be hosting him in the marking of this anniversary, where he will be delivering a keynote lecture.

The demands for self-rule and decolonisation that were tabled at the Congress in 1945 are not far away from the Black Lives Matter protests that we are evidencing today. Our University campuses are also included in this movement. It is significant that the opening session of the Congress focused on the ‘Colour Problem in Britain’. We feel this anniversary comes at a critical time in our history and allows us to reflect on Manchester’s role in its support of the freedoms of the oppressed.

We are particularly excited to be hosting this 75th anniversary event in association with colleagues from the Universities of Manchester and Salford, echoing the solidarity formed across various peoples and nations of the Manchester Congress. In these extraordinary times, the celebrations will take place online with plans to have socially distanced events across the three University Greater Manchester campuses over the second weekend in October.

As part of these celebrations, we wanted to ensure that we reached the whole community, not just our students, but also the local community and schools. The History, Politics and Philosophy Department have worked closely with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust and will host an online sixth form conference on Thursday 15th October. Contributors include well-known speakers including Hakim Adi, Marika Sherwood, and Terence Dooley. There will be a live online Q and A session with leading scholars and aspirational figures, including writer Alex Wheatle MBE, Paul Okojie, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust, and student representatives. In the afternoon, students will be involved in creative workshops led by MMU academics, and colleagues, Jade Munslow Ong (Salford University) and Tunde Adekoya (Big Music Company) on issues relating to race through history, poetry and literature.

The MCPHH will be hosting a public history talk on the evening of Thursday 15th, also linked to Black History Month, with a talk by Ray Costello on what black lives were like in the region around the time of the congress. Ray is well placed as both a historical researcher and former Adviser for Racial Equality for Liverpool Education Authority Schools Inspection Department.  On Friday 16th October, we are holding a series of city based activities culminating in a keynote talk by Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, with expected contributions from Paul Gilroy and Afua Hirsch. On Saturday 17th October, there will be further conversations with academics with connections to Manchester that will take place at a number of physical venues and be relayed live digitally. Finally, we are hoping to host a reflective discussion amongst poets including Lemn Sissay, Jackie Kay and Carol Ann Duffy on Sunday to close the celebrations.

We will have interactive coverage of events throughout the weekend using various digital media, and participation in all public events will be free to all. This enormously important event aims to celebrate the past and critically supports the Black Lives Matter agenda by publicly celebrating Black history.

Professor Ola Uduku, Acting Joint Head of Architecture, MMU.

Dr Shirin Hirsch, Senior Lecturer in British History, MMU.

Dr Marie Molloy, Senior Lecturer in American History, MMU.

75th Anniversary Pan African Congress Talk by Dr Ray Costello, 15th October 2020, 5.30pm

Marking the 75th anniversary of the Pan African Congress which took place in Manchester in 1945 in the Chorlton Town Hall, now the MMU Arts faculty building, Dr Ray Costello will be delivering a pre recorded talk and live Q and A discussing what black lives were like in the North West around the time of the Congress.

Delegates to the Fifth Pan African Congress, Manchester. Copyright Manchester Archives Plus

Dr Ray Costello

We look forward to welcoming you to the talk. Please sign up using this link in order to attend. 


Forgotten Stories: Poorly Manchester and Salford Children sent to Switzerland for ‘Health Holidays’ in the 1940s

By Professor Melanie Tebbutt, Manchester Metropolitan University

Returning Home is a community engagement project exploring the experiences of ‘delicate children’ from Manchester and Salford who, in 1948,  were sent away to stay with Swiss foster families for three months to improve their health. The children were aged between 5 and 11. Most had bad respiratory problems for which there was little treatment at the time, other than good food and fresh air; antibiotics were not widely used until the mid-1950s.

The project is a collaboration with the NWFA and comprises  a small team of myself, Melanie Tebbutt as academic lead, Sue Reddish, creative lead, and Jim Dalziel, community filmmaker. 


These health stays in Switzerland weren’t unique. The Swiss Red Cross approached local authorities in cities across Britain after the Second World War with the offer of similar holidays in Switzerland for children. What is unusual about this project is the survival of archival film from 1948, which records the Manchester and Salford children’s return to London Road Station in Manchester. The film was made by Manchester City Council as a thank you gift to the Swiss Red Cross and later deposited in the North West Film Archive (NWFA). 

2018 was the 70th anniversary of the children’s return from Switzerland. The NWFA put out an appeal on regional television, showing clips from the archive film and asked adults who had gone on the visit to Switzerland as children to come forward. Several recognised themselves from the film. Others were volunteered by family members, many of whom had grown up hearing these stories of Switzerland. Dozens expressed an interest, sharing old photos, postcards, correspondence, memoirs and written accounts. Returners and their families attended a commemorative event organised by the NWFA and ManMet’s History Research Centre, which included a showing of the complete archive film.  This project has worked with about 20 of these returners and their families, exploring these ‘health holidays’ from the child’s perspective rather than the adult view of official documents.

After Covid-19 lockdown

Before the Covid-19 lockdown, we aimed to explore the personal and collective meanings of the children’s visits to Switzerland by recording interviews with returners and developing participatory groupwork and creative activities with them. We had started to record interviews with individuals, but groupwork and further interviews became impossible once Covid-19 and lockdown struck and we had to revise our plans.

The project moved online, developing a new Returning Home website of background features, memoirs and  images, including photos, letters, postcards and official documentation, which many returners had kept since their visit in 1948:

During lockdown, new returners’ stories and short extracts from completed filming were added, allowing returners to get a clearer idea of what the project was about. We also started editing our documentary film about their experiences called ‘Returners’ Stories’, which was finished in August.

Lockdown and dependence on remote contact altered the project’s dynamic and slowed the engagement process.  Working with individual returners, all in their late-seventies and eighties, became particularly sensitive because of the fears which accompanied social isolation. The mood of some returners changed and fluctuated over time; working with them involved becoming alert to when, and when not, a phone call might be appropriate. Some were without computer or internet access and entirely dependent on phone calls. Others who had the internet were reluctant to record an interview over Zoom or Skype, so phone calls, texting and emails became the main form of communication. 

Having lost our participatory groupwork, we looked to encourage involvement by developing a complementary project called Postcards from the Past, inspired by the postcards that Swiss host families sent to the parents of the children they hosted. These made the project more tangible and helped make it  more intergenerational and family orientated than originally envisaged. A postcard set was designed with questions as creative writing prompts for the returners, their children and grandchildren. Each family received a set regardless of whether they wanted to write a response.

Some accepted the set as a memento. Others used the postcard questions as memory joggers to think and write about their experiences. One family, chivvied by their mother/grandmother, wrote replies to all eleven postcards, some of which reflected on the family sadnesses of lockdown.

‘Slow’ public history

Gradually, we pieced together new stories from text messages, emails and phone calls, changed or corrected by the returners  as we went along and added, with their permission, to the website. The slow working of phone calls, texts and emails perhaps helped draw out more effectively than an interview the ambivalence some felt about their childhood visit to Switzerland, giving them time to reflect on their experiences and how they wanted to share them. Returners’ memories are mixed and working in this way helped draw out memories whose disclosure might otherwise have been more difficult. It became clear, for example, that several returners had only gone to the 70th anniversary event because their children had encouraged them to go along. Stories by Barbara Fowler and Judith Sie are moving examples of these careful excavations of memory.

Over the course of phone calls, texts and emails, Barbara started to explain why she’d been uncertain about attending the anniversary. She was only 6 when sent to Switzerland because of bad bronchitis and asthma. She suffered a relapse after returning to Manchester and was invited back to Switzerland to stay with her ‘Auntie Lucie’ and ‘Uncle Roger’ for another 18 months. Gradually, she revealed how the relationship with her Swiss foster family and childhood experiences of moving between countries had left deep, confusing feelings: loved by her mother, who sent her away for good reasons, yet also loved by ‘Auntie Lucy’,  who had no children of her own and who would like to have adopted her. In retrospect, Barbara  found that she had come to a different understanding of her foster mother’s kindness: It is so sad really looking back and understanding her pain. When her story was published on the website, she responded:

Some returners’ memories remain painful, making a sharp contrast with the gloss of official accounts. Judy Sie’s stay in Switzerland, for example, had an enthusiastic write-up in the local Wythenshawe newspaper on her return, but the journalist’s up-beat account jars with how Judy remembers her ‘Swiss holiday’: It was all so frightening. Judy stayed with a middle-aged doctor and his wife whose children had grown up. They were very detached and although she returned to Manchester much healthier, she was ‘terrified’ for much of her stay:

Other returners, like Maureen Fishwick, were much more positive. Maureen loved her visit to Switzerland, which she described as ‘awe-inspiring’. She emigrated to Australia in the 1960s and we interviewed her on a return visit to Manchester.  Over the course of the project,  we’ve kept in touch with her and her family in Australia through her daughter, Jacqui, who has passed on messages to her mum. The first time Jacqui saw the website she emailed to say how she felt:

Jacqui’s comments illustrate how the project’s website has become a focal point for returners and relatives scattered across the UK and the world.  So far, it has attracted over 1500 visitors and more than 4,000 views. [76% of visitors from the UK, with visitors from many other countries, including Canada, the US, Australia, other European nations (Ireland, France, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands), and China.

Sue Littler’s husband Joe, who died in 2017, wrote a memoir of his stay in Switzerland. He’d loved his visit and ‘wept bloody buckets’ when he had to leave. As lockdown loosened, we were able to film Sue outside, reading from his memoir. This has been incorporated into our 30 minute film, ‘Returners Stories’, the first such film to commemorate children’s experiences of this Swiss-British initiative: 

Concluding thoughts 

Lockdown  prevented us from developing Returning Home as originally envisaged. There have been disappointments, especially having to postpone a celebratory event for participants and their families because of continuing uncertainty about Covid-19.

Lockdown forced us to adapt to a different way of working. We lost our original objective of producing a joint output from groupwork and it’s been unsettling to work in greater isolation without a collective spark. We missed the human contact and personal connections of community engagement. We have, however, sustained relationships with the returners who have helped create a rich new website resource based on original oral, written material and films, a legacy of lockdown which will eventually be archived in the NWFA.

Kate Pahl conceptualises collaboration across universities and communities as ‘a kind of conversation’ – a process of active listening: fluid, provisional, often unsettling and taking unexpected directions, yet bringing engagement to life and opening up new possibilities. I think that has been the case with Returning Home during lockdown. We’ve had to be flexible and responsive (key to any form of community engagement) and had to develop different conversations as the project’s participatory nature altered. These changes led to us building relationships not only with the returners but their children, many of whom have grown up with their parent’s stories of Switzerland.  Personal stories may become stale through constant re-telling but with lockdown they became a medium through which to connect the generations. Returning Home didn’t develop as originally intended but social isolation had unexpected outcomes, including perhaps heightening sensitivity to the idea of a relative being sent abroad when so young. Lockdown nuanced familiar family tales with a different appreciation of the parent as child rather than adult. It also reinforced the realisation of how far the returner had travelled since the ill-health and poor conditions of a 1940s childhood.  These are moving stories which returners’ children have relived with them. As the daughter of one of the returners put it: ‘We feel so privileged to take part in dad’s journey and a little piece of Manchester/Salford’s history’. ‘We’ve really enjoyed reliving dad’s journey with him’.

If you would like to learn more about the project and the returners, see  the website: You’ll also find our documentary film, ‘Returners’ Stories’, about the children from Manchester and Salford who went to stay in Switzerland in 1948.

The Boys and the Lake District Holocaust Project

By Hayley Shaw *

From 1945, 732 child Holocaust survivors came to Britain, often collectively known and referred to here as ‘The Boys’; there were only 80 girls amongst them. The children came to Britain under the Central British Fund for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation (CBF), later World Jewish Relief. A founding member of the CBF and chairman of the Jewish Refugees Committee, Leonard Montefiore, made applications to the government for permission to invite children to the country. Such applications were initiated after Montefiore visited Paris in May 1945. Shocked after seeing the first arrivals of camp survivors, he believed something had to be done to help the victims.  In June 1945 the Home Office gave permission for 1,000 children under 16 to be brought to England for recuperation and ultimate re-emigration overseas. The Committee for the Care of Children from Concentration Camps was soon established to monitor and care for the children.


Children in Auschwitz Concentration Camp (courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

In August 1945, 300 of the 732 children came to England from Theresienstadt concentration camp. My Masters dissertation focused on these 300 children, exploring how they, and other child survivors, were rehabilitated in the north of England. They were housed in Windermere at Calgarth Estate, an unused wartime village that had accommodated workers in the aircraft industry, and their families. In Windermere the children began their new life; they were taught educational lessons, the English language, how to break habits learnt in the camps, and the presence of an English Rabbi allowed religious teaching and the Jewish ritual to be maintained. From Windermere the children were sent to hostels in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and London. The 300 children had left Calgarth Estate by early 1946 and it had achieved its aim of being the children’s first step into rehabilitation and a new life in England.


Terezin-Theresienstadt Camp (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Lake District Holocaust Project (LDHP), located in Windermere Library, was established in 2013 to promote and preserve the history of The Boys. Following a programme titled “The Orphans who Survived the Concentration Camps”, aired on BBC One in 2010, a small permanent exhibition was located in Windermere Library. Large success led to the space being enlarged and improved in 2013 for larger displays and a separate exhibition space for temporary exhibitions. Prior to the establishment, eight years of intense research, education work, oral history interviews and various trips to European countries such as Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic took place. Such work and commitment set the level of effort and work that continues by the Director of the LDHP, Trevor Avery, and Senior Adviser Rosemary Smith.

The LDHP has done large amounts of work towards the preservation of The Boys memory and the history of Calgarth Estate, I have picked out several instances to reflect this. In August 2018 Trevor Avery appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? Robert Rinder. Rinder is the grandson of Morris Malenicky, one of The Boys. Rinder appeared on the programme and traced the contrasting experiences of two of his grandparents who came to the UK seeking a new life. As part of the filming, Rinder met with Trevor Avery and explored documents which gave information into his grandfather’s life in Windermere and subsequent journey to London. In November 2018 the story of The Boys in Windermere was presented by Helen Mark on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Open Country series, named The Windermere Boys. The episode included conversations with Trevor Avery and two of The Boys, Sam Laskier and Ike Alterman.

From 15th to 27th July 2019 an archaeological scan and dig took place on the site of Calgarth Estate, now The Lakes School. The project was named ‘From Troutbeck to Treblinka’ and I was lucky enough to take part in the dig. It was led by Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls, Professor of conflict archaeology at Staffordshire University. Numerous artefacts of interest were found such as a tube of baby curling gel, a keyhole and patterned china. The dig was filmed for Digging for Britain WW2 – Troutbeck Bridge to Treblinka. Rosemary Smith documented the dig, and a diary of the process and findings can be found in the further reading section below.

In January 2020, The Windermere Children, a film based on The Boys and their experience in Windermere aired, was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The LDHP was the principal source of information about the film and its accompanying documentary The Windermere Children: In Their Own Words. The film focuses on some of The Boys in particular: Ike Alterman, Ben Helfgott, Arek Hersh, Sam Laskier and Harry (Chaim) Olmer, exploring their personal experiences. The accompanying documentary further tells the story of the rehabilitation of the children in Windermere and includes first-hand testimony from Ike, Ben, Arek, Sam and Harry, covering their experiences in the Holocaust and their arrival and life in Britain.

Alongside these large projects, the LDHP continues to host regular events such as the ‘In conversation with…’ series which has included talks with Sam Gontarz, Ike Alterman and Mala Tribich and commemorations to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Throughout my Masters study I was lucky enough to gain strong working relationships with both Trevor and Rosemary and gained an insight into the incredible work they do on a daily basis to ensure the memory and history of The Boys lives on through the exhibition and other projects. The LDHP and its success is a credit to them and to their determination.

*  Hayley is starting her Ph.D at MMU this September.

Further reading and information:

Gilbert, M., The Boys: Triumph over Adversity (London: Phoenix, 1997).

Hersh, A., A Detail of History (Nottingham: Beth Shalom, 1998).

Kushner, T., and Know, K., Refugees in an Age of Genocide: Global, National and Local Perspectives during the Twentieth Century (London: Franks Cass, 1999).

Kushner, T., ‘Wandering Lonely Jews in the English Countryside’, Jewish Culture and History, vol.12, (2010).

Wellbeing and heritage research in times of closure

By Amy Luck and Dr. Faye Sayer, Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University

The current devastating outbreak of COVID-19, lockdown and social distancing measures have undoubtedly had a substantial impact on the heritage sector. Most museums, archaeology and heritage sites around the world are currently closed. Many heritage professionals have been furloughed. Fundraising and/or admission income has been affected. The prospect of attempting to adapt to reopening in a way that complies with constantly changing public health guidance means the immediate future is looking very unclear for the heritage sector and those researching and working in public history and heritage.

Dr Faye Sayer and I are no exception to this; our research focuses on assessing the impact of engaging with heritage on individual’s wellbeing. Heritage provides a role in helping people form connections, bringing together communities and creates feelings of shared identity. Heritage can help to rebuild communities and support both individual, community and societal wellbeing. Previous research by Dr Sayer has shown that taking part in archaeological excavations positively impacts individual’s wellbeing; participants were more interested, connected, happier and satisfied after taking part. We are currently expanding upon this research through multiple projects; my AHRC funded PhD research investigates whether visiting heritage sites impacts visitor wellbeing and Dr Sayer’s British Academy funded ‘Heritage and Well-being: Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ international project looks to understand and compare how diverse heritage activities, including museums, heritage sites and community archaeological excavations in a range of cultural contexts shape individual and communal wellbeing.

The ‘Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ project will comparatively analyse quantitative data from public participants from nine diverse public heritage projects from developing and developed countries around the world (UK, USA and India) to access the impact of participation in heritage on well-being and the link to social, cultural, economic and political factors. The project’s research methodology, developed and piloted in the UK and USA, employs quantitative wellbeing measures such as the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Modified Visual Analogue Scale (MVAS), to identify the role heritage plays in enhancing well-being.

Our current research activities would look very different if it not for COVID-19; we would be liaising with heritage professionals, planning research visits to the USA and India, and conducting research on-site at archaeological excavations, museums and heritage sites in the UK. These activities are not currently possible, and we currently do not know when they might be possible again. Heritage sites are unlikely to reopen in the immediate future and when they do, they are likely to be operating differently due to measures such as social distancing and introducing timed ticketed entry to ensure control of visitor numbers.[i]

However, despite these obstacles, heritage research is still very much possible. The pandemic has even inspired new research which will complement existing ongoing research projects such as our Virtual Heritage and Wellbeing project.

COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of the UK population; life satisfaction is lower, and stress and anxiety levels are higher than usual reported averages.[ii] At the same time, heritage organisations have had to close and move activities online where possible. A survey of 650 museums in 41 countries conducted in April 2020 by the Network of European Museum Organisations indicated that more than 60% of museums have increased their online presence since closing due to social distancing and 40% have experienced a large upsurge in online visits.[iii]

With virtual heritage becoming the main way to engage with, learn about and connect with the past, it is important to understand the impact this has on users. As a result, we have launched the ‘Virtual Heritage and Wellbeing’ project.

Using the same methodology as the ‘Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ project and adding a qualitative element (free comment space on surveys), this research will seek to:

  • Evaluate how engagement with virtual heritage sites can impact visitor wellbeing.
  • Understand how different types of virtual heritage sites and diverse demographics of visitors positively and/or negatively impact on subjective wellbeing.
  • Identify what elements of virtual heritage provide the greatest positive change to wellbeing.
  • Compare the impact of virtual heritage to that of in-person heritage experiences on wellbeing.

We hope that the findings of this research will allow both heritage and wellbeing organisations to ascertain the impact of a variety of online heritage on wellbeing, both during and after a pandemic and compare differences on wellbeing on virtual and physical visits. This could be used to ascertain the cost-effectiveness of future programmes and activities.

We are actively seeking participants to take part in this project. If you are interested in taking part, please visit:

We hope that our research will demonstrate that engagement with heritage is as important as ever. Whilst the global pandemic has undoubtedly impacted all our lives over recent months, we have and will continue to adapt. This holds true for the heritage sector too and as the way people are accessing heritage changes, we academics and researchers need to adapt also.

[i] Jim Richardson, ‘How Might Museums Look Different When They Reopen After Coronavirus?’, [accessed 18.6.20]

[ii] UCL COVID-19 Social Study, ‘Results’, [accessed 18.6.20]

[iii] Network of European Museum Organisations, ‘Survey on the impact of the COVID-19 situation on museums in Europe’, [accessed 18.6.20]

New Online: Thomas Barritt of Manchester

In collaboration with Chetham’s Library, Manchester, Dr Peter N. Lindfield FSA of MMU’s History Research Centre and Centre for Gothic Studies, has, as a Visiting Curator at Chetham’s, produced a series of online videos and an interactive map exploring the life and antiquarian work of Thomas Barritt: Manchester’s very own Georgian saddler and antiquary, available here.
Screenshot 2020-07-03 at 12.23.14
Exploring Barritt’s interest in collecting historic objects, conducting surveys of historic architecture, recording pedigrees and armorials, and creating his own imaginative heraldic and antiquarian art and artefacts, Dr Lindfield expands upon his two published journal essays on Barritt and he makes freely accessible over eight years of research into one of Manchester’s significant, but largely forgotten Georgian characters.
Dr Lindfield and the Librarian of Chetham’s Library will be running an online colloquium on Barritt and antiquarianism later in 2020.


For further details follow Peter on Twitter @PeterNLindfield



New Exhibition: Russia’s Second Patriotic War in posters, photographs and postcards.

Dr. Catherine Danks has worked with Manchester Central Library to launch the virtual exhibition: Russia’s Second Patriotic War in posters, photographs and postcards.

Screenshot 2020-07-03 at 12.15.21For Russia August 1914 marked the start of their Second Patriotic War. Just over a century before in 1812 Russia had triumphed over Napoleon in the Patriotic War. One the eve of war in the summer 1914 the Imperial Russian Empire was far from united. Even previously loyal non-Russian subjects were increasingly alienated, rapid industrialisation and continuing rural backwardness had also contributed to growing social and political unrest. 1905 had been marked by peasant uprisings, mutinies in the armed forces and strikes. In July 1914 on the eve of war, 80% of the factories and commercial centres of the capital city St. Petersburg were closed by a general strike and the Tsar-Emperor Nicholas II was jeered.

This exhibition focuses on the first two years of the Second Patriotic War, 1914-1916. It examines the images of Russia, its history and culture presented in posters and postcards used to mobilise support for the war, raise charitable donations and to sell war bonds. These images stress Russia’s endurance and long history of defeating invaders; they draw upon heroic figures from medieval rulers to contemporary Cossacks, Russia’s Orthodox Christian identity and the solid good sense and tenacity of ordinary people. They also demonise the enemy Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Turks as evil, stupid and cowardly. Russia’s enemies for their part present Russians as cowardly drunkards. Photographs from 1914 show Russian troops valiantly heading to war, but despite some successes, no amount of positive propaganda could maintain national unity and support for Tsar Nicholas, who was forced to abdicate in March 1917.

The exhibition is hosted by the History Research Centre, MMU and Manchester Central Library:


Manchester Metropolitan University

The St. Petersburg Association for International Cooperation

The Manchester-Saint Petersburg Friendship Society

Russian National Library, St. Petersburg