From Worktown to Cottonopolis

Posted on Wednesday 26th February 2014

Pictured: The 1930s Mass Observation captures Bolton people waiting on the platform for a train Reproduced by kind Courtesy of Bolton Council

Calling all history fans! Be part of a Mass Observation event – making history 21st century style.

Bolton is famous for being the centre of a 1930s Mass Observation project, seeking to capture the world of Worktown – their name for Bolton. Celebrated photographer Humphrey Spender and his colleagues attended football matches, trips to Blackpool and even voting in elections as part of their mission to capture everyday life in Bolton.

On Saturday 29 March 2014 the University’s Centre for Worktown Studies has a family event planned. There is a morning of 15-minute talks on themes such as Mass Observation, Worktown and Humphrey Spender’s photographs as well as a Worktown exhibition. This will be followed by an opportunity to follow in Spender’s footsteps.

Joining the University will be award-winning cartoonist Tony Husband who will be documenting the day in his own style. Tony’s work is regularly featured in The Times and Express newspapers and he’s the author and illustrator of many books.

Everyone taking part will travel to Manchester – whether by bus or train or car – taking photographs and making observations about the journey and the talks. People taking part can make notes and use a camera or use a tablet or mobile and tweet their pictures and comments. The Twitter hashtag for the event will be #MOBolton2014.

The final destination is Manchester to take part in other at the Manchester Histories Festival’s Celebration Day. The Manchester Histories Festival attracts more than 10,000 visitors and runs from the 21–30 March 2014.

The event is organised by Dr Bob Snape, Director of the Centre for Worktown studies and MA Photography Programme Leader, Ian Beesley.

Said Bob Snape: ‘We’re delighted to be bringing Worktown to what was once called Cottonopolis, celebrating Manchester’s role as the centre of the cotton trade back in the 1930s.

‘This is the first time we have been part of the Manchester Histories Festival or attempted to create our own Mass Observation experience. We expect it to be informative, but a lot of fun.’

The event starts at 9.30am at Senate House, University of Bolton, with a series of talks before refreshments will be served at 11am. At 11.30am everyone sets off for Manchester, beginning to make their observations.

Everyone will make their way to Manchester Town Hall to join the Manchester Histories Festival main event.

Anyone wanting to take part can contact Bethan Atkins on