A Community Kept Alive through Memory: Preserving the Essence of the British Working-Men’s Club

Paul Wilson, Patrick McEntaggart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Formed in the United Kingdom in 1862 the Working-Men’s Club (WMC) movement served a purpose initiated by industrialisation, creating spaces for socialisation for the newly emerging working-class. However, due to changing attitudes towards leisure and the economic transformation (and subsequent decline) of the communities who would once look to the club for their entertainment, membership is dwindling and the club movement is predicted to be extinct by 2025. The club stands as the last representation of a tradition and practice of community and leisure: a valuable but unravelling strand in the fabric of British culture facilitating what Jan Assman has termed ‘communicative memory.’ What is lost with their disappearance is a valuable repository and significant cultural mechanism for sharing and disseminating collective memory. These everyday memories form a significant element within a culture and class whose industrial roots no longer exist - where explicit links between past and present act as a means of location and self-realisation. The paper describes an ongoing project that looks to digitally document and preserve the individual and collective memories of club members. Issues regarding representation, mediation and the role of the documentary-practitioner/designer will be discussed: themes bound and contextualised by a failing institution that is largely misunderstood by the wider population of non-members. What, for instance, are the consequences of decoupling these memories from the landscape that created them? How might they be ‘re-located’ within a digital environment through which they are to be experienced? The archive being collated through the project is intended to celebrate and give value to a movement and community whose potential extinction might otherwise pass unnoticed. Alongside this, the project is not just one of documentation and historical preservation but also of activism, where memory becomes a focus around which a renewal might take place.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNavigating Landscapes of Mediated Memory
EditorsPaul Wilson, Patrick McEntaggart
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781848880900
ISBN (Print)9789004403413
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


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