Worried that working class history is being erased and that all we are left with is ghosts?  Well who ya gonna call? Call Ghost-Lab Barnsley!


A new community research project Ghost Lab Barnsley got off to an exciting start at the Miners’ Offices in Barnsley this week (see photos of participants’ hands holding their personal ‘haunted’ objects above). With involvement from Unite Community, the project is part of a larger study called Working with Social Haunting, and also includes the Rochdale Pioneers Museum in Rochdale, Lancashire, home of the Co-op movement.

Overall, the project focuses on how past social and political upheavals and conflicts continue to show themselves in the world in many different ways, even when those in power prefer to argue that ‘they are over and done with’ and are ‘best forgotten’. In South Yorkshire, the end of the mining industry and the defeat of the 1984-85 miners’ strike are obvious, but not the only, examples of what we can call a social haunting.

Ghost Lab Barnsley will bring together Unite Community members with a small group of artists and specialists to investigate social ghosts, both in their positive aspect – memories of solidarity and humour, say – and their negative guise, such as the traumatic shock of policing during the strike. Social ghosts are also among us in less obvious ways too: in the landscape, as roads that don’t go anywhere, as journeys to work that nobody makes anymore, as grassed over pit tips that call themselves ‘country parks’, as zero hours work in call centres that carry the names of pits that were renowned as centres of high wages won after 200 years of collective action.

Anyway, if these matters get you going, you now know who to call – call Ghost-Lab Barnsley (well, email Geoff Bright at G.Bright@mmu.ac.uk ) and get involved in shaping the research work, participating in the planned poetry, mapping, comic strip and sound art workshops (dates to be confirmed), or just simply tell your story. What social ghosts can you see? And what is it that they are trying to tell us?