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Demon drink? - Temperance and the working class

Temperance provides the theme of the current exhibition at the People’s History Museum, Manchester.

The Temperance Movement, in which people took the pledge not to drink alcohol, effectively began in the North West of England and temperance played an important part in the lives of many people in the region.  Despite this, it is a little remembered aspect of our history.

The exhibition, Demon Drink? has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of a research project led by Dr Annemarie McAllister from University of Central Lancashire’s School of Education and Social Science, who is working in partnership with the museum.

The exhibition focuses on the everyday experiences and concerns of working people and their families regarding drink and abstinence. It provides an opportunity to showcase some of the museum’s temperance collections and the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) Livesey Collection, as well as drawing on local and national collections to uncover this history.

The project brings back to life a largely forgotten public movement which, the organizers say, still influences our lives today. The displays combine unique historical artefacts such as Joseph Livesey’s rattle, archive film footage of temperance processions and oral histories collected from local communities whose families were involved in the movement.


Thematic displays explore the perceived need for the Temperance Movement, how society viewed it, its key messages and how people were encouraged to join. The exhibition highlights the importance of children and social activities in promoting the movement’s message. It looks at alternatives to the public house such as temperance sporting events, parades, lessons, games, quizzes and children’s entertainments.

Visitors are able to take part in a whole host of activities, play on a human-scale temperance-related snakes and ladders game and tell their own families’ stories. A range of public events accompany the exhibition. These include illustrated talks, themed City Centre Trails, craft and family activities and a Magic Lantern Show.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a virtual exhibition that is available for the public to access via the internet at

The exhibition runs until 24 February 2013