What we’ve been up to while our front door has had to be shut

We’ve hugely missed the usual buzz of library activity since we closed our doors on 18 March.  But the staff have worked throughout, and here’s a flavour of what we’ve been up to…

We were thrilled to get money from the Arts Council emergency fund pot for a podcast project, Begin the World Over Again.  Working with Salford outdoor arts organisation Walk the Plank we have commissioned six artists, each with a member of the Bones of Paine writing group, to make a podcast episode about significant aspects of the Library’s collection and the thinking behind them, exploring parallels with our contemporary situation and what the future might look like. We’ve learned a lot about podcasting, and about social media, along the way, and the results have been terrific, hope you agree – you can listen to the podcasts here, and browse more about the themes and the project in general here.

We have also been delighted to present 26 free live-streamed talks so far since lockdown, on a really wide range of topics.   Attendance has been higher than our ‘traditional’ annexe audiences, and of course with a wider geographical spread (plus good figures for later views on YouTube).  It’s also easier to invite long-distance speakers, such as Maria Bloshteyn  who tuned in from Toronto to talk about Russian poetry from the Great Patriotic War.  We have also received kind donations from people who have enjoyed the talks.   The talks will start up again in February 2021 and you can find out more by keeping an eye on  – or by signing up to our free weekly ebulletin here, if you don’t get it already.

Over 200 people watched the third annual Engels Memorial Lecture, which we co-hosted with Marx Memorial Library last month, and this is also available now to watch on YouTube here.  You can also relive on YouTube our online fundraiser Radical Sounds – many folk joined us from the comfort of their living rooms on August Bank Holiday Monday for a fantastic mixture of music and readings, curated by our very own Maxine Peake.


We have selected and digitised some interesting material from:

* The Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945. This was used not only on our own social media but also was blown up large (see picture, left) to feature in the windows of the old Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall, now an MMU building and where the Congress took place.

* The Communist Party, which was presented online as part of the CP centenary celebration on 1 August.

* The Manchester and Salford Film Society (the oldest film society in the UK, whose archive we hold) to mark its 90th anniversary in November (, and

* The pages of our quirky Engels in Manchester scrapbook to mark Engels’s 200th birthday (

We have lent our Lancashire Women Against Pit Closures banner to the Museum of Wigan Life, along with two suffragette badges, for their protest exhibition which is due to run for a year. The banner looks terrific as it is hung so that both sides can be viewed.

So far, so virtual…  We were excited to be able to reopen the library to a maximum of two real life readers per day on 16 September, and until we had to close again on 4 November we were ‘full’ nearly every day.  A lot of effort was required to get just two people into the building, but all were very appreciative to be back. We are planning to re-reopen on Tuesday 5 January, again to two readers per day by prior appointment, so do get in touch if you’d like to book a place…

In the meantime take care, in solidarity, all the very best for the festive season and for 2021 from all at WCML

Petition launches to get COVID tests for all education staff

Petition launches to get COVID tests for all education staff

UNISON has launched an emergency petition calling on Matt Hancock for all education workers to be included as one of the groups named for priority COVID-19 testing.

It takes a whole team to keep schools, nurseries, colleges and universities running, but when the health secretary announced the list of workers that will be eligible for priority testing in England, in education, only ‘teaching staff’ were mentioned.

This completely ignores the fact that over half of the staff in education aren’t teachers.

Please sign – and share – the petition

Open University Pilot Courses Offered to Members

Open University Pilot Courses Offered to Members

National Office have set dates to pilot some of The OU courses online as listed below:

  • Managing Challenging behaviour: 17th September 9:30am – 13:00pm with a break half way
  • Autism Awareness: 24th September 9:30am – 13:00pm with a break half way
  • Dementia Awareness: 24th September 9:30am – 13:00pm with a break half way

Please feel free to promote these courses with members.  To book onto these courses please use the link below:-

Please note these courses are likely to fill up fast as they have been offered to all regions.


Northern College Micro Courses

These free online courses are open to anyone and are designed to introduce you to a range of subjects through an e-learning experience before committing to one of our longer traditional courses.

  • Employability skills – Whether you’re looking for your first job, have been out of work for a while or are even looking for a change in career, this bundle of resources will help you kick start your job search.
  • Digital literacy skills – Digital literacy skills are a must-have in a world which is increasingly becoming online and virtual. This course is an introduction to the skills required for those taking their initial steps in using ICT and the internet and is a starting point for further study.
  • Numeracy skills – Ideal for learners working at Entry Level 3, who might have some gaps in their maths knowledge and/or skills. This course will give you confidence to take a more formal and accredited course at this level.
  • Maths – Level 2 refresh – Good maths skills are an essential part of everyday life and this course will assist learners working at Level 2 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. It has been split into 3 separate areas; fractions and percentage, number and BIDMAS, perimeter, area and volume.
  • English skills (part 1) – This micro course has been designed as the first part of a two part offer, and it will assist learners working at Entry Level 3 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. Once completed you can continue-on to part 2.
  • English skills (part 2) – This micro course is the second of a two part offer to assist learners working at Entry Level 3 who might have some gaps in their knowledge and/or skills. This course should improve your skills and confidence to take a more formal and accredited course at this level.
  • English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) – Good language skills are important, and this micro course covers some of the essentials needed to develop English language skills at a basic level.  It presents you with an ideal opportunity to improve your skills and your confidence before studying in a more formal manner.
  • Covid-19 and safer workplaces – a guide for UNISON members – Covid-19 and the lockdown has left UNISON members feeling concerned, anxious, even stressed. This Micro Course has been designed to help plan what steps you will need to take, and how you can ensure you and your members are being as safe and risk aware as possible.

If you are interested in any of these courses, please visit Northern College website at:-

For more information about UNISON online courses for members and activists, please visit our website at:-


By Ana Yousaf

I attended the Higher Education Service Group Conference as a first time delegate  on Thursday 16th January 2020. This is when all University UNISON branches get together and discuss/agree any motions put forward by either our Service Group Executive Committee or branches such as ours around the UK. This will often decide the campaigns we want the union as a whole in Higher Education to pick up and a strategy around our pay claim within Higher Education, which we can take forward for 2020/21.

I travelled down to Milton Keynes (where the conference was held) with my colleague Lucinda Wakefield on the afternoon before. Having someone to travel down with was really appreciated as we had to catch another train from Birmingham New street to Milton Keynes which was a bit chaotic.  It was good to get down there on time too, as it meant I could ensure I was prepared and had my delegate registration and conference pack.  I also had put a photo onto my credential badge ready to wear at all times in the conference hall.

My experience of the conference was enjoyable and satisfying, especially being with another delegate from the branch who had attended before, so knew what to do and expect.  They were able to show me the ropes and I had company.  On the first evening we met several  delegates from different branches within Higher Education, some of whom were part of the Higher Education Service Group Committee.

We got to the conference hall early to ensure that we had seats in the right area assigned by our region (South Yorkshire).

From the day, one motion fell (this means it was not heard at conference) due to the branch who were due to speak on it not being in attendance. Otherwise all the motions put forward were passed and as a first time delegate I did speak on two of the motions. These were:

  • Motion 5 – ‘Positively Promoting Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace’
  • Motion 11 – ‘ Raising the profile of Black activists in Higher Education’

Speaking at the conference for the first time was quite  daunting as my heart was beating rapidly when I made the move to walk up to the rostrum to speak. However, I did it and on the flipside, it was a satisfying experience for me and made me feel part of the debate – I was proud to represent the branch in this way. I have been enthused  to do more within our branch here at Sheffield Hallam University – especially as I was passionate about the motions I had spoken to and supported.

The morning of the conference was quite slow with very few (if any speakers) from the floor and several motions being passed without debate. I was very proud that as delegates from the branch myself and Lucinda did speak on several of the motions throughout the day and gave our branches perspective throughout.

However, the afternoon came alive when we got to motion 9. – ‘Industrial action ballot tactics for 2020-21 pay campaign and beyond’. There were hardly any seats left on either the ‘for or ‘against’ seated areas as delegates queued up to be part of this lively debate.  The discussion was around if and what we can achieve from going for a disaggregate ballot this year without losing our collective bargaining (a tactic that UCU lecturers union seem to be taking).  When it came to the vote and the show of hands it was too tight to call so the bell was rung for a paper vote. This is when all doors are closed in the hall and each branch has to write their decision (for or against) using the number of members they have in their branch. This is then posted  into a ballot box to be counted whilst the conference then resumes its duties.  The result came back later in the afternoon passing the motion, with 8303 for and just over  6000 against.

We both did also manage to take the opportunity in the breaks and at lunch to do some networking, making new contacts nationwide.  I had lunch with a first time delegate and explained to them how they could speak – which they did in the afternoon session.

I would recommend anyone who attends a UNISON conference for the first time to watch the ‘UNISON new delegates film’ at the link here.

Once the motions and amendments have been finalised we will make them available for members.

UNISON Return to Learn & Women’s Lives Taster Workshops

Return to Learn Taster Workshop – Monday 12 August 2019

at Commerce House, Leeds

Cost to Branches: FREE

Women’s Lives Taster Workshop – Friday 16 August 2019

at Commerce House, Leeds

Cost to Branches: FREE

Both sessions run from 10am – 3pm with lunch

There is no charge to the branch for these Workshops.  The cost of the workshop will be paid by our National Officeand on this occasion the Region has agreed to cover any travel expenses.

 The course is designed for members who want to ease themselves back into learning.  We are offering members the opportunity to attend a one day taster workshop to find out more about the courses, boost your confidence and engage with exciting and fun activities