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Demon Drink? Temperance and the Working Class at the PHM

Venue : People's History Museum
Start date: 30th June 2012
End date : 24th February 2013
Visit date : 17th July, 2012
Mr Monkey looking at a poster exhorting workers to go to the Post Office instead of the pub
Mr Monkey scampered into Manchester to see the latest exhibition at the People's History Museum, Demon Drink? Temperance and the Working Class.

Mr Monkey looking at a recreation of a temperance bar
Mr Monkey looking at a poster showing the arms of the Independent Order of Rechabites Salford Unity
Mr Monkey wasn't surprised to find that the exhibition was about teetotalism, but he was mildly surprised to find out that the temperance movement began in the north west.

The 1830 Beer Act allowed surplus crops to be used for brewing and let people open a beer house simply by buying a 2 guinea license. The Act was supposed to wean people off gin, but also led to vast numbers of beershops opening and, somehow, to beer being cheaper than bread. More beer and cheaper beer led to more drunkeness.

In 1833 the term teetotalism was used for the first time; in 1835 the British Temperance League was founded in Manchester.

One wall of the gallery is taken up with a timeline charting the history of the temperance movement from the Beer Act to the present day. Mr Monkey studied this, then scampered around the gallery looking at the other exhibits.

The main body of the exhibition is an array of maps showing how many places people could get drunk, posters encouraging them to stay sober, medals, ribbons and certificates awarded to members of temperance societies, and photos and film of temperance parades.

Mr Monkey was impressed by the variety of ways in which temperance was promoted, ranging from the threat of 'drinking leads to being hanged for murder' to the promises of 'a sober man can buy his wife a bicycle', and by the exuburance of some of the temperance certificates. He did, however, feel that the exhibition didn't tell him much about the other side - he'd have liked to know how many workers weren't teetotal as well as how many were, but that's just him being awkward.

Mr Monkey also enjoyed doing a magnetic jigsaw to create the crest of the Rechabites (a temperance group named after a famously sober Tribe of Israel), but gave up on the giant snakes and ladders game because he kept succumbing to temptation (or landing on a snake) and refused to take part in a temperance lesson because there was chalk involved. He became unreasonably peeved to find that all the bottles in the recreated Temperance Bar were empty and that he couldn't stand his humans a round of blackcurrant and liquorice cordial, though he was pleased to find out later that full bottles of cordial were on sale in the gift shop.

Overall, Mr Monkey thinks that Demon Drink? is an interesting exhibition with a variety of intriguing items on display.
Demon Drink? runs until 24th February 2013.
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