In the run up to the General Election, the People’s History History Museum in Manchester is hosting a ground-breaking exhibition, Election! Britain Votes.

On launch night, the director of the museum, Katie Ashton, explained that the exhibition is “to understand the nature of the 2015 election covering the visual life of an election and the history of elections”.

The exhibition is split into two sections. Upon entering, the left hand side is an innovative explanation of how our voting system works, starting with why we vote all the way through to campaigning, standing for parliament, how our votes are counted and how parliament is formed.

Election! Britain Votes

Alex Gardner, the artist in residence, has done a remarkable job transforming what many may see as a dry subject into an exciting piece of art that can teach everyone a lesson or two. There are shocking facts, including the revelation that 18 million eligible voters didn’t bother to exercise their democratic right in 2001, as well as interactive elements on who can and can’t vote. There are also questions to ponder as you make your way around. At the end of the exhibition, there is a ballot booth where you can cast your vote on each question.

The other half of the space is devoted to the history of elections from the start of the 20th century to modern times. It’s fascinating to see how election literature has changed over the years in terms of the technology and the issues of the day.

There are coloured boards highlighting the political party who won power for each election. Take a moment to stand back and take it in, it’s fascinating to see how the balance of power has shifted from one election to the next over the course of a century. Also, who can resist a game of Politician Guess Who? Yes, really.

Last week the official opening duties fell to Channel 4 news anchorman Jon Snow who described the exhibition as a “thrilling experience”.

He highlighted that in the 100 years since women have been given the vote there have only been 358 female MPs and, regardless what we are told, the class war has still prevailed.

Snow laughed about the ridiculous things they do in the House of Commons, such as being two sword-lengths apart, but stressed that it is time to start running the country more efficiently. He believes that democracy needs local power, as everything in the UK is too centralised and that really “we are living in the Country of London with various bits attached”.

He also suggested that we shouldn’t have an adversarial chamber but instead have people working together.

Northern Soul caught up with Snow and asked his thoughts about the exhibition. “It answers every question. Alex Gardner has worked hard to achieve this.”

When asked about his feelings on democracy Snow told us that: “It was Churchill who said democracy isn’t perfect but it is the best we’ve got, but I feel it can be made better.” He added: “The most exciting voting experience was the Scottish referendum. Eighty five percent of the nation voted, that is exciting”.

Regardless of whether you are an old hand at elections or new to the system, there is something for everyone at this exhibition but, perhaps most importantly, the voters of the future should visit to learn about the system that governs our country.

By Chris Park


What: Election! Britain Votes 

Where: People’s History Museum, Manchester

When: until June 28, 2015

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