On 22 June 2021 we are hosting a short performance of ‘The Factory Muses: Live from Home’ in conjunction with Stanley Mills and New Lanark. The programme is here:

Factory Muses 22 June programme


From summer 2019, the first two parts of the ‘Piston, Pen & Press’ touring exhibition launched. Part I ‘Literature in the Factories & Mills’, was hosted at the Jute Museum @Verdant Works from 17 August 2019. It moved to Dundee Central Library in November. The Dundee exhibition was a collaboration between the library and museum, and featured some fantastic archival materials combined with our exhibition banners. In January 2020 the exhibition moved to New Lanark, where it had to close prematurely due to the COVID-19 crisis. In the meantime, you can download a free booklet featuring poets used in our exhibition from the ‘Poetry Anthologies’ page. 

Part II ‘Literature in the Mines’ opened at North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre in Motherwell from 30 August 2019. It was combined with a great exhibition on local Lanarkshire writers, ‘Rhyme and Reason’. You can also download our mining poetry exhibition booklet from the ‘Poetry Anthologies’ page. 

Update, May 2021:

The ‘Literature in the Mines’ exhibition that was scheduled to begin at the Scottish National Mining Museum in April 2020 will now be there in spring 2022. ‘Literature in the Factories & Mills’ at Stanley Mills from April 2020 is currently on hold until re-opening. In 2021, this exhibition is in the schoolroom at New Lanark, and in 2022 it will be at Quarry Bank Mill. We hope to re-schedule in the not-too-distant future, and will update you on plans to re-start our exhibitions as we have them.


These exhibitions were accompanied by talks and musical performances by our partners. Gillian Frame, Findlay Napier and Jennifer Reid performed ‘The Factory Muse: Songs from the Victorian Mills’ at Verdant Works in summer 2019, and in Glasgow in autumn 2019.  At North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre, an audience saw the first reading of a new play about Lanarkshire miners, by playwright and project partner Martin Travers, ‘A Daurk Maiter’, in September 2019. Please follow us on Twitter for up-to-date announcements about these events, and we will also post updates here. 

FutureLearn courses

In spring-summer 2019 we worked on creating three free online courses, led by the University of Strathclyde and hosted on FutureLearn. These ‘Working Lives’ MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) explore the history of railway workers, coal miners, and textile factory workers in the long nineteenth century. We filmed at the National Railway Museum, the Scottish National Mining Museum, the National Coal-Mining Museum for England, the Big Pit National Mining Museum in South Wales, Quarry Bank Mill, New Lanark, Stanley Mills and Verdant Works, including in sections of these museums not open to the public. Over 11,000 learners took our courses in 2019-2020, and we ran them again in spring-summer 2021. 

For those of you looking for fun and informative things to do, there is always a lively discussion on the FutureLearn courses. Sign-up is free, and available through the Future Learn website. If the courses are not currently scheduled, you can join a waiting list and be informed when the next run starts.


Members of the project team presented our findings as a panel at BAVS 2019 at the University of Dundee, and NAVSA 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. Some of us also performed at the salon hosted by the Victorian Poetry Caucus. We were very happy by the audience response to the project and to be able to discuss its findings with people in the wider field. 

Previous events


Organised by the Piston, Pen & Press research project and the Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Tampere.

Date: Friday June 7th, 2019

Venue: Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Tampere.

This one-day workshop featured speakers from across Europe, the UK, and the US, and featured lively discussion and comparison of workers’ cultures across different nations. We also heard a performance from project partner Jennifer Reid, and enjoyed the hospitality of the Labour Museum and the Lenin Museum and the sunny weather in Tampere. A PDF of the programme is below. 

Tampere programme


On 4-5 October, we co-hosted an international symposium with the Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Texas, celebrating 175 years since ‘The Cry of the Children’ appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. At our end, the Strathclyde Humanities and Social Sciences IT team helped to record Mike Sanders and Jennifer Reid’s ‘100 in 100’ performance, to be shown as part of the opening event at the ABL – a 15 minute extract is available on the conference website. We also held a lively workshop on ‘Recovering Working-Class Writing for the Digital Age’, featuring Francesca Benatti from the Reading Experience Database, Helen Rogers from the Archive of Working-Class Writing, and Simon Rennie discussing the Poetry of the Cotton Famine project. Short videos of Francesca, Helen and Simon discussing their projects are available here. This was followed by a digital annotation workshop on ‘The Cry of the Children’ using COVE. Our Strathclyde group proved to have so much to say about EBB’s poem that after the first 30 minutes of our workshop, we hadn’t finished with the first stanza. We’ll be working with an international team of scholars to reduce our many annotations and comments to a more manageable format and finalize a digital edition of the poem. We closed the day by participating remotely in an ABL session, and were able to listen and respond to Marjorie Stone and Florence Boos.

As part of our contribution to ‘Rhyme and Reform’, Mike and I supplied some early project findings, including poems by millworkers and miners, to a digital exhibition. We’re delighted to have worked with the ABL on this and with their production of a great resource for students and scholars of EBB, and those with broader interests in working-class Victorian literature. As we continue our archival research, we’re looking out for more working-class writers referencing EBB’s poem or discussing women and child labourers from their own perspectives.