New community engagement programme

17th December 2018
in Events, news

New community engagement programme explores the Life of Victorian servants at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is delighted to be working on a new collaborative project with the award-winning community arts organisation enJOY arts after being successful in their application to Arts Council England.

This exciting new project follows on from the success of the recent exhibition ‘Household Commotion; Elizabeth Gaskell and the ‘awful treasure’ of her servants, 1832-1865’, and will see the creation of a new servant-themed community musical, a programme of a creative writing workshops and a programme of interactive children’s activities during the school holidays.

Members of the Herizon Women’s Group work will work with professional singer-songwriter Claire Mooney and theatre practitioners enJOY arts to produce a musical performance themed around the servant’s stories featured in the exhibition, and which will be performed to the public at the end of April for four performances. Claire Mooney:

“We are are looking forward to giving voices to the often-unheard people who worked as servants in Victorian Manchester. This will be a celebration of their stories and lives.”

A new monthly creative writing workshop will start in January, led by poet Rachel Sills, which will focus on different styles of writing inspired by the servant exhibition including, flash fiction, poetry and a monologue that will be performed at the House in the summer. For more details click here

Families will also be encouraged to take part in the project during the school holidays when there will be activities such as Servant School with servants Hearn and Margaret. Children will be encouraged try their hand at being a servant to earn their servant school certificate.

House Manager of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Sally Jastrzebski-Lloyd: “The Household Commotion exhibition has uncovered so many fascinating stories. It is great that this project will give us the opportunity to explore these lives further as well as creating a lasting legacy for the House.”

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England,  The Granada Foundation and The Duchy of Lancaster.


This project has been funded using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, The Granada Foundation and The Duchy of Lancaster.

The Creative Writing Workshop will be start on 23 January 2019, 7-9pm and will costs £5 per session. See for more information

The Horizon women’s group meets weekly at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is free to attend. Contact for more information.

Details of the family activities and events are on the website –

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, at 84 Plymouth Grove is a Grade II* listed property, was built around 1835-1841 and is a rare surviving example of a suburban villa. The Manchester author lived in the House with her family from 1860 until her death in 1865. Her two daughters lived at the house until 1913.The Manchester Historic Buildings Trust was established in 1998 with the primary aim of saving Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. The House opened to the public in October 2014 with support and funding from The Bowland Charitable Trust, Cross Street Chapel, English Heritage, The Foyle Foundation, The Gaskell Society, J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund, Manchester City Council, Oglesby Charitable Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, and The Wolfson Foundation.

enJOY arts is an award-winning community arts organisation based at Eilzabeth Gaskell’s House and work across the North West. They specialise in creating performances with community groups and have a track record of success in engaging those who may be marginalised or considered ‘hard to reach’. Taking a participant-led approach, they have particular expertise in supporting those who might not normally consider themselves performers to create dynamic and engaging promenade theatre in heritage venues. Such performances include Tales of Manchester Life (2015), Gaskell: The Musical! (2016), Legends of Lyme (National Trust’s Lyme, 2017), In the Driving Seat (Museum of Transport 2017), Top of the Bill (Greater Manchester Police Museum, 2017) and Turning Tides: First in the Fight (Victoria Baths, 2018).

Rachel Sills is the author of two books: Endless/Nameless, with Richard Barrett (Red Ceilings Press, 2015), and Two Hundred Houses (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2015).  She has a PhD on the poetry of Frank O’Hara, and has taught English and American literature, and creative writing at university.

Claire Mooney is a professional singer-songwriter and an experienced community musician, working with a variety of groups over the past 25+ years. Claire has been a professional music creator since the release of her first album ‘Rocking the Boat’ (Big World) in 1989 (8/10 NME). Her songs have received airplay from Denmark to Japan as well as in the UK.

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