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Be ‘First in the Fight’ with People’s History Museum

30 May 2023

An evening of conversation, creativity, tours and more inspired by the Manchester suffragette banner on Thursday 6 July 2023

First in the Fight event

People’s History Museum (PHM) is rolling out the Manchester suffragette banner this summer to celebrate its birthday, its history and the inspirational spirit that it continues to represent.  115 years after it was first unfurled in Manchester alongside Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the suffragette movement, her great-granddaughter, Helen Pankhurst, will be taking part in a special evening of celebration at PHM on Thursday 6 July (6.00pm to 9.00pm), for which tickets have just been released.

Combining conversation, creativity and tours ‘Manchester: First in the Fight will be the chance to explore one of the country’s most significant suffragette objects and, of the hundreds of suffragette banners created, one of only a few to survive.  It will be a joyful occasion, with welcome drinks followed by gallery tours and suffragette craft activities, that will also help to raise funds for the museum.  As the evening progresses, guests will gather in the Edwardian Engine Hall to hear from PHM’s Head of Collections & Engagement, Jenny Mabbott, about the banner’s creation, why it was ‘First in the Fight’, its appearances, its disappearance and the campaign to bring it to the national museum of democracy. Then everyone is invited to join in a conversation led by Jenny Mabbott as she chats to Helen Pankhurst, Helen Antrobus and Marzia Babakarkhail.

Throughout the evening PHM shop will be open, with a whole array of suffragette-led products available, many of them exclusive to People’s History Museum and produced by artists and designers including Rickard Sisters, Clavis & Claustra, Magpie’s Daughter and The Hide Ranger. Tote bags, coasters, tea towels, badges, sticker packs, pencils, jewellery and a variety of books are just part of the range.

Wine and soft drinks will be available from Open Kitchen Cafe & Bar, who will also be serving a selection of mezze style small plates. There will also be a raffle with donated prizes including tickets to Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World at The Lowry, From The City Of Pankhurst With Love print by Caroline Dyer, Emmeline Pankhurst illustration by artist Nell Smith and a tour and afternoon tea at the Pankhurst Centre.

First in the Fight’s radical women:

Helen Antrobus is a curator and historian specialising in 20th century social and political histories, currently Assistant National Curator for Cultural Landscapes at the National Trust.  Her work strives to examine underexplored people’s histories, with a key focus on women, and their connections to place.

Her recent exhibition, Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, co-curated with the V&A is currently touring the US.  She previously curated the exhibition Represent! Voices 100 Years On at People’s History Museum (2018), so we are delighted that she is returning to the museum for this special event.  As a public historian she has appeared on shows including BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? and Secrets of the Museum, Channel 5’s In Colour series, and BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives.  Her first book, First in the Fight: Twenty Women Who Made Manchester was published in 2019.

Marzia Babakarkhail came to the UK in 2008 after being forced to flee her home first in Afghanistan, where she worked as a judge in a family court, and then Pakistan.  In Afghanistan, as a reaction to the injustice she saw around her and a desire to empower women, she set up Afghan Women Social and Cultural Organisation.  Marzia was also a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the women’s committee at the Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau (ANCB).  In 1997 she fled for Pakistan after her life came under threat from the Taliban.  Here she established a school for Afghan refugee boys and girls and continued to fight for Afghan women’s rights.  Again an attempt was made on her life by the Taliban, which this time left her in hospital for six months.

In 2008 she came to the UK as a refugee and started her life again, first by learning English, and in 2016 was granted British citizenship.  Marzia works with Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and lobbies and campaigns for Afghan women and especially for Afghan female judges to be resettled in safe countries, because they face the greatest risk from the Taliban.  Marzia is also their voice in the international media.

Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst uses her voice on the international, national, and local stage to champion women’s rights.  She is an academic, international development worker, author, and speaker, and in Manchester the convenor of GM4Women2028, which is seeking to make Greater Manchester a better place for girls and women, in all their diversity, to live, work and prosper.

In 2018, to mark the centenary of the first women getting the right to vote, Helen established the Centenary Action Group (CAG), a cross-party coalition of over 100 activists, politicians and women’s rights organisations campaigning to end barriers to women’s political participation.  Helen published Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights – Then and Now in 2018.

First in the Fight tickets are £20, with all the money raised going to support the work of People’s History Museum, and can be booked here. The event is suitable for ages 16+.

The Manchester suffragette banner is on display at PHM from Wednesday 21 June until Sunday 7 January 2024, with accompanying trails and tours for visitors of all ages to participate in. People’s History Museum’s opening hours are 10.00am to 5.00pm, every day except Tuesdays.  Entry is free, with most visitors donating £10.  To find out about visiting PHM, its full exhibitions and events programme visit, and you can keep up to date with the latest news by signing up to receive PHM’s e-newsletter, or following the museum on social media on Twitter @PHMMcr, Facebook @PHMMcr, and Instagram @phmmcr.



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Notes to editors:

About People’s History Museum (PHM)
People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester is the UK’s national museum of democracy and a leading activist museum.  It shares stories about the struggle for equality and equity, explores the vital role that democracy plays, and celebrates the radical history of people coming together to demand change in order to create a fairer society.  These ground-breaking stories include the fights for universal suffrage, workers’ rights, votes for women and more recently LGBTQI+ rights.  The museum and collection have never been more relevant.  PHM helps people to discover that they have the power to make change.

PHM co-creates programmes with communities, ensuring that lived experience shapes the authentic and challenging content; 2018 looked at representation, 2019 focused on protest to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, 2020-2021 explored migration as a human experience and 2022-2023 is led by the landmark exhibition Nothing About Us Without Us which explores disabled people’s rights and activism.

About Arts Council England (ACE)
PHM is an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).  The work of PHM is supported using public funding by ACE, the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives.  ACE support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.  Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us.  In short, it makes life better.  Between 2018 and 2022, ACE has invested £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from The National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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