Thursday 24 March 2022

People's History Museum, Manchester (Review Visit)

Last October we were invited over to take a good look around People's History Museum in Manchester, but then my 11 and 13 year old boys caught COVID and our plan was put on pause. This February half term we jumped on the tram into Manchester for a day looking at the history of the people who helped make our world what it is today. 

People's History Museum Manchester review (we had a complimentary lunch for review)

People's History Museum is really easy to get to, just a short walk from a couple of different tram stops, right in the centre of Manchester. 

It is a challenging museum. It asks you to think about what you see. I like that, and my children have been raised to question, so I'm stunned I haven't ever taken them before. I think life just got in the way for us, so this visit was definitely overdue... 

People's History Museum Manchester collage of 10 photos with images from throughout the museum

Before our trip, the People's History Museum shop sent me a Craftivist Collection Mini Banner Kit, which was a great way to get my kids interested in what they might see at the museum. It's been a long time since I did any embroidery, but I think I came up with a suitable message... 

Craftivist collection banner kit People's History Museum

When you first enter People's History Museum. you have the shop on your left, and the Open Kitchen Cafe Bar on the right. In front are accessible toilets and stairs. Gender-free toilets are to the left, as is the 'Playful Protests' area, which is where we started out. 

Playful protests at the peoples history museum

The table tennis is to get you to think, and debate, although my boys were more interested in actually hitting the ball back across the table (didn't happen). This area also houses study rooms for student groups, and has a massive Battle For The Ballot timeline on the wall (click to enlarge).

Peoples history museum battle for the ballot timeline

Although my boys knew not every adult used to have a vote, and politics has changed, they considered most of this 'ancient history', so the timeline actually made the rest of the museum seem more 'modern day' to them. It's definitely worth a good look as you go past. 

People's History Museum More In Common Jo Cox

More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox - is an exhibition on the ground floor which really did bring a tear to my eye. Jo was the MP for Batley and Spen, the constituency in which she was born. She was murdered in 2016 as she was about to meet with constituents. No-one should ever lose their life for representing their local community, and the man responsible is one of very few people in the UK to receive a whole-life prison sentence. 

People's History Museum More In Common Jo Cox exhibit

There's a lot to 'do' at People's History Museum,. and wherever possible it is 'hands on'. There are opportunities to draw and write and add your thoughts. And you will have lots of thoughts... 

Display of large photographs covering a wall depicting There have always been ideas worth fighting for

Below is Main Gallery One, and 'Migration: a human story' which is probably best for children and adults aged around 9+, and my boys really did find it fascinating. 

My 3 young men and teenagers looking at the photographs in the Migration race exhibit

Migration: a human story is included in one of the 3 different Family Trails - which are a great way to have a good look around the museum, and ensure you don't miss the best bits. 

The Passport Trail is designed for children aged 9+ and their families - to explore stories of migration either as a refugee, asylum seeker or economic migrant.
More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox looks at Jo’s legacy, values and her life as an MP and a Mum, and is aimed at children aged 5-10.
I Spy is suitable for anyone aged 5+ - follow the clues and find the treasures dotted all around the museum.

sculpture of people toiling Peoples history museum Manchester review

People's History Museum is the museum of democracy, so there is a lot of space dedicated to voting, workers' rights and the rights of all people... and the individuals who worked to improve those rights. 

What it was like before the vote peoples history museum

People's History Museum history of employment

Unusually for a museum, there are seating areas for you to have a break and rest your legs - and there is a LEGO play area for younger children... and 12 year olds who can't resist a bit of DUPLO. 

People's History Museum Manchester seating and play area

People's History Museum political parties suffragettes

We found loads to look at, and loads to do, including a board game to play, doors to open, costumes to try on, and a quiz to attempt... You could also try your hand at packing matches for a living, like the Little Match Girl. 25 years ago I used to pack condoms for vending machines, which really wasn't so different... 

My boys in a darkened area, using a computer screen to do a quiz

People's History Museum is housed in an old pumping station, and in places you can see the original walls and structure of the building. That fascinated me, and I thought it was fabulous that it's not all been hidden away behind plasterboard and false ceilings. 

Peoples history museum in old pump house

There is a brand new banner exhibition for 2022 (it only opened on Saturday 29th January). The 26 banners in the exhibit all come from the People's History Museum collection and represent people who have fought for the rights we have today. They range from hand towel size to absolutely immense. 

You can also have a peep at the staff restoring banners in the back room - and use a microscope to take a look at some of the parasites which have damaged these decades old fabrics. 

People's History Museum collage of banners

The last part of the museum (at least the way we went around it) was my favourite. My own history from the 1970's, 80's and 90's, and the history of the Co-Operative Society. 

LGBT+ Rights Peoples history museum display of leaflets behind glass

Peoples history museum music booth and juke box

People's History Museum modern protest miners LGBT and migrant rights

I love the Co-op. I've been a member since 1990, and as a child I thought it was incredibly clever to cut out the middle men and only pay the people who actually worked, not the ones who held the money. Excitingly I recognise that budgie food box. Back in the 1970's budgies were incredibly common pets... 

Peoples history museum Coop shop mock up frontage

People's History Museum Coop shop stock from the 1950s to 1970s

Before we left - lunch. People's History Museum have teamed up with Open Kitchen and it's a match made in heaven. The rcafe and bar is open 8.00am to 4.00pm weekdays, and 10.00am to 4.00pm at weekends, and it's a great place to have a snack, a meal or just a hot or cold drink - alcoholic or otherwise. 

Peoples history museum open kitchen cafe bar seating area big and bright and warm

Menus change all the time, so these are just a guide, but the food is excellent. Open Kitchen use ingredients from a sustainable food chain – local, seasonal, organic, independent, short supply chains and Fairtrade – supporting other ethical businesses and social enterprises, and at times using food that would otherwise go to waste. And they charge an incredibly fair price. Kids meals start at £1, and at breakfast time toast and butter is just £1.88. I'm not sure where else in Manchester you'd ever find such a great deal. 

People's History Museum  Open Kitchen Cafe Bar Menus

We had sandwiches - veggie egg and vegan tofu, and chicken for my teenager. We shared a portion of wedges with the tastiest garlic mayonnaise EVER, and my youngest chose the children's pizza, even though he's technically a bit old for it. Be aware the children's portions are very small, but just as delicious. 

People's History Museum Open Kitchen Cafe Bar food review

The drinks are excellent quality and far more ethical than your standard pop, with a wide choice of fruit juices, fizzy drinks and presse, and a fabulous Espresso Martini for my older son. We all chose different desserts, and they were also great. There is a huge selection for vegetarians, vegans and people who eat a gluten-free diet, and the staff are happy to cater for any food allergies. 

There is table service, and the staff really look after you well. 

People's History Museum Open Kitchen restaurant cafe food

 The Open Kitchen was steadily busy the whole time we were there, and no wonder with the food and drink on offer at such great prices. They have twice as much seating as you can see in the photo, including large tables for big groups, or small tables for quiet moments. 

Open Kitchen Cafe Bar Review at Peoples History Museum Manchester

Before you leave, don't miss the People's History Museum Shop, where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs, including a tea towel protesting for Votes For Women, a sticker book for smaller, more personal protests, or a Mini Banner Kit like mine for £12. 

You can find out more on the People's History Museum website, and book if you can, so that they have an idea of how many people are visiting. Entry is FREE, with a suggested donation of £5.
The museum and shop are open Wed-Sun 10am-4pm, and the Open Kitchen Cafe Bar is open Mon-Fri 8-4 and Sat/Sun 10-4. 

Our visit was free, including the Mini Banner Kit and our meal, which were for review. We paid our own tram fare. Afterwards we walked over to take a wander around Manchester Art Gallery, and stocked up at the Chinese supermarket. Proper day out... 


  1. Great review - been thinking of taking my daughters (9&7) and definitely will now. Thank you! Liz

    1. Thank you! That means a lot. I hope you had/have an excellent time


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