Grafters: Industrial Society in Image and Word is a new exhibition which will open on 6th February at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

People's History Museum

Capturing scenes of industrial life in 19th, 20th and 21st century Britain, the new display will be curated by artist and photographer, Ian Beesley. 

Representing the heroes of the Industrial Revolution

Grafters will depict the role of industrial workers and how they change from objects to subjects. Visitors will be able to see figures representing units of scale as well as how heroes are portrayed in photographs from the industrial period.

The most recent workers in the images have become the photographers themselves, directing and shooting pictures of their own lives, seen through their own lens.

Selected from photographic archives across the north of England, many of the photographs that will be presented are unknown or unnamed and will have never been exhibited before.  

A voice for the people

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to experience more than the collection of images, in the form of words.

The museum has commissioned a series of new poems from the ‘Bard of Barnsley’, writer, poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan, who has created a voice for the unknown people featured in the photographs as they go about their daily work.

Ian Beesley’s inspiration

After leaving school, the exhibition curator Ian Beesley worked in a mill, a foundry and eventually a sewage works during the early 1970s.

Whilst still working in industry he became interested in photography and started by photographing his work colleagues and the environment in which he was working.

Speaking about what inspired this new exhibition, Ian said, “I became aware that the majority of contemporary and historical photographs of industry I saw bore little or no resemblance to my experience of industry.

Grafters is an attempt to understand the history and development of this troubled relationship, from its beginnings in the 1840s through to the present day.”

Grafters: Industrial Society in Image and Word is free to enter. Group travel organisers can find out more information by visiting

Pictured: The Miner by Harold White. (Photo credit: National Coal Mining Museum for England).