History Makers – Annie Besant and Jayaben Desai: History Makers on Strike

AIM Biffa Award History Makers

Annie Besant & Jayaben Desai: History Makers on Strike – People’s History Museum

What is your project about?

PHM has introduced two new immersive experiences in the main galleries to tell the stories of The Match Girls Strike of 1888 and Grunwick Strike 1976. Both tell of workers uniting and standing up for their rights, and both were led by women; Annie Besant and Jayaben Desai.

What has the AIM Biffa Award funding been used for?

Visitors learn about the conditions in the Bryant and May match factory through an arcade style game where players’ progress is hampered by unfair fines and sickness. The events of the Grunwick Strike, which unlike previous disputes involving black and Asian workers received trade union support and that of thousands of workers from around the country, are the focus of a new app. Visitors can explore 3D digital scans of objects from PHM’s collection using augmented reality and meet those involved, including Jayaben Desai.

How has the AIM Biffa Award funding positively impacted your organisation?

  • PHM have been able to refresh the main galleries, enhancing the visitor offer
  • PHM have been able to test and invest in new digital technologies
  • PHM’s profile has been raised through marketing and PR work as a result of the project
  • PHM are shortlisted for a Digital Leaders Award for the project.

How has the AIM Biffa Award funding added value to what your organisation does? 

We have received powerful feedback from visitors demonstrating the strength of the experiences now on offer, and the inspiration they can bring to both adults and children alike. We have developed a collaborative partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University; hopefully the start of many more digital projects at PHM, helping enhance the visitor experience further.

Please give us 3 top tips for other AIM members on how to best manage AIM Biffa Award History Makers funded projects: 

  1. Create a project plan with SMART objectives
  2. Think creatively about who you might collaborate with
  3. It’s never too early to start planning the marketing campaign

Please share any lessons learnt from managing your AIM Biffa Award funding?

PHM have learnt that our preferred method of co-creating exhibition content is not always as realistic when working within a short timeframe. This meant we were able to consult with audiences to inform the design, but within 12 months we would struggle to co-create a project meaningfully and in keeping with the principles of the Co-Creating Change Network.

Katy Ashton, Director of People’s History Museum, says:

“Our 10th birthday gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the important role that we play as the national museum of democracy. No other museum tells the stories that we do in the way that we do. We are incredibly proud to have been able to raise the profile of Annie Besant and Jayaben Desai, with support from AIM Biffa Award History Makers. We are driven to keep pushing boundaries and a desire to inspire more people with our work and to work with partners and communities to share ideas worth fighting for.”