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History inspires success in Burnley

5 July 2019

Image of Happy and Proud project banners and bags, designed and made by project participants on display at Burnley Mechanics and the National Trust’s Gawthorpe Hall ©Participation Works NW
Image of Happy and Proud project banner, 2019. Created by project participants and local women © Participation Works NW
Image of Press photo at an event where local women were invited to share their personal stories about working in Burnley © Participation Works NW

#OnThisDay in 1909 suffragette Marion Wallace Dunlop went on hunger strike whilst imprisoned for militancy.  She became one of the first and most well known to do so and her tactics were to inspire the likes of Ghandi.  We asked Lynne Blackburn, Director & Project Manager at Participation Works NW to share a recent project which saw a group of girls from Burnley inspired for their futures by struggles that women in the past faced.

History inspires success in Burnley

‘I have learnt to appreciate what women fought so hard for in the past.’ Happy and Proud project participant

‘The Happy and Proud project uses the stories and heritage of northern women such as Marion Wallace Dunlop to raise the aspirations of girls living across Burnley communities.  Our young women of the future have researched the struggles that women in the past faced and overcame to achieve their goals in life.  They have recorded their findings through textiles, film, art, photography and design.

The Happy and Proud project girls have not only learned a range of new skills as part of the project; they have also overcome their own personal barriers to achieving their aspirations for the future.  This project has supported them to find a new direction and purpose – to find happiness and pride in becoming Burnley’s young talent of the future.

The original idea for the project came from a piece of work at neighbourhood level with a group of girls who were in danger of disengaging from the education system.  They felt that there was a lack of opportunity in Burnley, nothing good had come from the area and that at the first opportunity it would be good to ‘escape’.  On the flip side of this, local business growth in Burnley is above the national average and local employers were saying it was difficult to find local, young people who wanted to be a part of their success.

The girls research into the women of the past included a visit to People’s History Museum (PHM).  Alongside this research they were also given the opportunity to meet and find out more about inspirational women living and working in Burnley today.  Included within this part of the project the girls worked with local international designer, Becca Who.  Becca took the time to lead the girls through a design process which allowed them to produce their own fabrics which contained inspirational messages.  Their fabrics were then used as a background for some of the beautiful banners they went on to produce.

‘Interesting things happen in Burnley not just big cities.’ Happy and Proud project participant

The girls also made a visit to John Spencer (Textiles) with Managing Director Debbie Catterall.  Debbie helped the girls to see the vital role that women are still playing in the production of British textiles in the 21st century.

‘We have met some amazing people and got the chance to work with some really talented artists.’ Happy and Proud project participant

Happy and Proud project, the girls receiving the Northern Housing awards trophy in Manchester 23rd May 2019The girls’ work has been well received in exhibitions at both Burnley Mechanics and the National Trust property, Gawthorpe Hall.  This in itself is a real accomplishment and the project has also gone on to win the Best Resident Support Initiative in the 2019 Northern Housing Awards and the girls attended a red carpet ceremony to receive their award.  These successes are far surpassed by the outcomes for the individual girls.

‘We’ve loved every minute of the project; we feel so proud of what we have achieved.’ Happy and Proud project participant

‘I have created something I am proud of.’ Happy and Proud project participant

They have gone from the uncertainty of whether they would stay in school to be on target to achieve seven or eight GCSEs.  One girl is now head girl and two are prefects at their schools.  They all report increased wellbeing scores and have had the offer of job opportunities as a result of being a part of this project – they have truly become Happy and Proud which is exactly what we set out to achieve.’

Happy and Proud is a successful partnership project between Calico Homes, Participation Works and artist Sue Reddish.  The project is funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Guest blogs are not curated by PHM but feature voices on topics relevant to the museum’s collection.  Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of PHM.

At PHM we offer an engaging Learning Programme, providing opportunities for early years, schools, colleges, universities, adult and community groups, and families to learn about, be inspired by and get involved in ideas worth fighting for; ideas such as equality, social justice, co-operation, and a fair world for all.

Visit the Learn section of the museum’s website for all the information you need to arrange a visit, or  please contact the Learning Team on,uk or call 0161 838 9190.

2019 Banner Display until Sunday 5 January 2020
The majority of banners on display at PHM change annually, revamping a quarter of the museum’s main galleries.  Visit 2019’s selection of historic and contemporary banners – some on public display for the first time, all specially conserved by the museum’s expert Conservation Team.


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