On one of the first warm days of the year (20th April), a delegation of intrepid Mancunians set off on a road trip to visit the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in London. This was the second museum (first was to the Museum of Science and Industry) visit for All Our Stories, and the first activity outside of Manchester.

Manchester at the V&A
The V&A is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, with a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. Its founding principle was to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. After moving location (Somerset House, Marlborough House) several times to house the growing collection, a final home was selected in South Kensington in 1854.

The V&A outing took place more than half way through the Ghosts of St. Pauls project, and it was great that the attendees were a mixture of previous and new faces. The previous participants were able to further their journey into industrial heritage of Manchester, seeing the impact of the manufacturing North on the rest of the country. The wealth generated from the industries of raw materials and processed goods led to a burgeoning middle class, who had more time and money to spend on leisure. We’ve explored the idea of entertainment for the working class previously with the Penny Theatre, but the gap between the haves and havenots were drastically clear from the British collection at the V&A.

Long time Manchester resident Suhail was impressed with the actual building and architecture of the V&A. He thought it was interesting to understand “why it was built and what it has delivered to grow Britains profile within the industrial world.”

Salford University design student Mimi gravitated to the furniture, particularly ones influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. She drew parallels between the design revolution in the 1800s to similar changes going on in her homeland in China. She said “based on my design background and project I am researching this semester, this trip extended my horizons of thinking about the design industry, education and policies comparison between UK and China.” This was her first time visiting the V&A, and she plans to use what she’s discovered on this trip in her master dissertation.

University student Heather made a strong connection with the fashion of the times, going so far as to try out a corset and crinoline dress, getting a breathtaking feel for what women of that age under went for vanity. Take a look at this interview with her.

Overall the trip was well received by all, with requests to plan further outings to other museums.

Perhaps there this is the beginning of another group at MadLab?

This event was part of ‘The Ghosts of St Pauls’, a series of MadLab events about the history of the Northern Quarter, supported by an ‘All Our Stories’ grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). All Our Stories is a brand new small grant programme, launched earlier this year in support of BBC Two’s The Great British Story – and is designed as an opportunity for everyone to get involved in their heritage. With HLF fundingand support, community groups are carrying out activities that help people explore, share and celebrate their local heritage.