Award-Winning Design Team Appointed

The museum has appointed Citizens Design Bureau (CDB) as the architects for its major development project. The lead architect will be CDB founder, Katy Marks, who was a Project Architect for the Stirling Prize winning ‘Liverpool Everyman Theatre’ and was recently nominated as emerging Woman Architect of the Year 2015. Working alongside Katy will be architect Ursula McGeoch, who previously worked on the Jewish Museum London. CDB will be leading a design team consortium, comprising BuroHappold, an award winning Structural and Services engineering company, and Bristow Johnson, an experienced company of Chartered Quantity Surveyors. This newly appointed team will progress the museum’s development plans thanks to the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund who last year awarded the museum a development grant of £426,900. The project will result in a major museum extension with new galleries and new learning and event spaces. The museum’s Grade II* listed synagogue building will also be fully restored.

The museum has also appointed exhibition designers All Things Studio to design new galleries telling the story of Manchester’s Jewish community. Led by Matt Schwab, All Things specialise in creating compelling and distinctive visitor experiences and have designed permanent and temporary exhibition spaces at institutions such as the Science Museum and Museum of London. The team also includes interpretation consultant Catherine Morton, graphic designers Kellenberger–White, lighting designers DHA Designs and Digital designers Clay Interactive.

Museum CEO, Max Dunbar, commented: “We’re delighted to announce the appointment of our design team. We’ve selected a creative team of architects and designers with valuable experience working on major cultural projects, both nationally and internationally. We’re particularly excited by this combination of creativity and experience and are confident this team will help us realise our vision to create a celebratory, vibrant and inspirational museum, bringing people of all faiths, backgrounds and ages together.”

Katy Marks, Director of CDB, commented: “We’re really looking forward to working on such a fascinating project – engaging imaginatively with issues of immigration, innovation and respectful diversity. By creating a new building as well as renovating the existing Grade II* Listed synagogue, there is enormous scope for a really special destination on the Manchester cultural scene. Credit also to the clients for selecting the team based on our approach rather than asking for completed designs up front.”

Matt Schwab, Director of All Things Studio, commented: “We are thrilled to be working with the Manchester Jewish Museum and Citizens Design Bureau on this unique project. There is huge potential in the museum’s historic Synagogue and collections and we will work with the team and local communities to create a world-class contemporary museum for the people of Manchester and beyond”.

About the Design Team

Citizens Design Bureau (CDB) was established by Katy Marks as a co-operative company of architects. CDB aims to make good design accessible, humane and sensitively sustainable and their work covers a range of scales from public buildings to products and digital interfaces.

Lead architect, Katy Marks, studied at Glasgow School of Art, ETSA Madrid and Cambridge and has a Masters in Environmental Design. Katy was a founder of Somoho – an arts, culture and environment centre in Soweto, South Africa before returning to London as co-founder of the ImpactHub network. She then joined Haworth Tompkins architects where she was a project architect for the refurbishment of the National Theatre Studios as well the Young Vic Theatre and the Everyman Theatre. Katy established Citizens Design Bureau in 2012, working on community housing, creative workspace, theatre and arts buildings. Katy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and sits on the Hackney Design Review Panel.

All Things is a London-based studio focused on the planning and design of museum and exhibition spaces. All Things specialise in 3D narrative design and collaborate with leading graphic and lighting designers to deliver clear, compelling and distinctively designed visitor experiences. The studio was founded in 2014 by Matt Schwab, a designer with many years’ experience leading international projects for well-known design studios in the UK and Europe. Matt is also Associate Lecturer in the Interior and Spatial Design Program at Chelsea College of Arts in London.

Working alongside Matt will be interpretation consultant, Catherine Morton, who has over 17 years’ experience developing exhibitions and interpretation that engage audiences in relevant, fresh and compelling ways. Catherine has worked on numerous exhibition and interpretation projects at institutions including the Natural History Museum, Horniman Museum and National Museums of Scotland.

Kellenberger–White specialises in the creation of identity and visual language, delivered across all points of communication – digital, print and environmental. Established in 2009, Kellenberger–White was jointly founded by Eva Kellenberger and Sebastian White after graduating from the Royal College of Art. Recent projects include: the graphic identity for public organisations such as Bonner Kunstverein, Glasgow International, Create and Open School East; way-finding and signage for Turner Contemporary; books for MIT Press; as well as identity schemes for major exhibitions at the Design Museum, British Library, and Science Museum.

Dha Designs is a UK-based lighting design consultancy who work internationally, and specialise in museum and architectural lighting. They are lighting consultants to the British Museum and V&A, and have previously designed the Jewish Museum, London and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

BuroHappold is an international, integrated engineering consultancy operating in 23 locations worldwide, with over 50 partners and 1,500 staff including some of the world’s leading consulting engineers. For 40 years BuroHappold has been delivering creative, value led building and city solutions for an ever changing world.

In 2016 BurroHappold helped the Whitworth Art Gallery secure the prestigious Museum of the Year award, achieved through it’s innovative “slow conservation” design, utilising passive and mixed mode ventilation to ensure perfect conditions for art without the conventional energy demand of conditioned spaces.

Bristow Johnson are a team of Quantity Surveyors experienced working on capital and refurbishment projects. Clients include Battersea Arts Centre, English National Opera and the Royal National Theatre Studios.


Cheetham Hill Road: A People Panorama

Cheetham Hill Road in North Manchester is, according to data from the 2011 census, the most diverse street in Britain. Almost half of the people who live and work along this 8-mile stretch of road speak English as a second or other language and the area has been the first port of call for new Mancunians arriving from all over the globe for well over a hundred years.

One of the most impressive surviving buildings on this road is the former Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue which opened in 1874 and is now home to Manchester Jewish Museum where I am employed as Learning Manager. One of the things I love most about my job is being able to work closely with such a diverse community in order to ensure that we are living up to our commitment to be a museum for everyone and to help people appreciate our multicultural world. The museum is currently involved in a major development project to renovate the synagogue building and to build a new museum alongside it.

With this in mind I have been working with a local photographer called Jan Chlebik on the museum’s most recent exhibition – Cheetham Hill Road: A People Panorama. The exhibition is centred around twenty-nine enormous panoramic photographs which showcase the incredible diversity found along the road. Groups featured range from those which you might expect; such as schools, shops and places of worship right through to more unexpected hidden gems like climbing centres, trampolining clubs and even a cage-fighting gym.

The first stage of the project involved drawing up a “most wanted” list of groups we felt would make a great picture and really show off the diversity of the area. Once we had this list I set about the task of approaching people and inviting them to take part. Incredibly, every single group that we approached said yes and we actually ended up taking more pictures than we had planned as we kept meeting people who we felt we couldn’t possibly leave out.

The most difficult part of this project proved to be finding the right location for each picture. You need A LOT of space for each one. Every person in every picture is exactly 18-feet from the camera. So for the largest gatherings of people, which involved shooting a full 360-degree image, we needed at least a 36-foot circular area to work with. When you combine the fact that many of the venues we visited are what you might call “cosey” and the fact that most of the pictures had to be taken in the dead of winter, so outdoor shoots weren’t always an option, you can imagine that things didn’t always go to plan and there was a fair bit of creative thinking required to ensure we captured an image that both ourselves and the participants would be proud of.

The most rewarding part of this project for myself and Jan has been meeting the people that make up this amazing community. Without exception we were met with a warmth and affection that we had not expected at the start of the project. The best thing of all was getting to sample foods from all over the world, from the most amazing Ukrainian comfort food to the best onion bhajis you have ever tasted.

The idea behind the exhibition is a simple one but the fact that each person is given the opportunity to be seen clearly and nobody is given higher importance than anybody else makes it the perfect way to encapsulate the greatest lesson I think we can take from this most diverse of communities. Every single one of the 1500 people featured in the exhibition is unique, we met some incredible characters covering every faith, culture, age and background, but in every way that really matters they are the same. They told us they just want to get on with their lives and get on with their neighbours.

Since we took the photographs there are two messages which have stayed with me and will continue to shape my work at the museum. They are the mottos of schools featured in the exhibition (Abraham Moss Community School and Temple Primary School) and they put into words what I have learned from this project far better than I can. “Strength comes from diversity” and “All different. All equal.”

Words: Gareth Redston

Cheetham Hill: A People Panorama is open to view from 21st March 2016.




Heritage Lottery to Fund Museum Development Project

It was announced today that the museum will receive initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a major development project. The project will result in a new museum extension that will house new galleries, learning and event spaces. The museum’s historic synagogue building will also be fully restored.

Development funding of £426,900 has also been awarded to help the museum progress their plans to apply for a full grant of £2.8million at a later date.

The museum plans to create a new visitor experience, exploring themes in its collection, such as immigration, integration and identity. New galleries will tell the story of Manchester’s Jewish community, including a dedicated gallery about the many Holocaust survivors that settled in Manchester. Volunteers will help catalogue and digitise the museum’s collection in a new archive room and new spaces will be developed with local Cheetham Hill communities to explore and celebrate Manchester’s diverse cultural heritage.

The museum is housed inside a former synagogue building – the oldest synagogue in Manchester. Built in 1874 by wealthy Jewish textile merchants, the museum now plans to fully restore the building’s architectural splendour to create a stunning new visitor experience.

Commenting on the award, Museum Chief Executive Max Dunbar said:

“We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. Over the past 30 years we’ve welcomed thousands of visitors, educating them about Jewish faith, heritage and culture. With today’s announcement, we can now build on this to create a new 21st Century Jewish Museum, showcasing more of our collections, educating more people and working with more communities to ensure Manchester’s Jewish heritage is preserved for generations to come”.

Explaining the importance of the HLF support, Head of HLF North West Sara Hilton said:

“With a collection of national significance and set in a city celebrated for its cultural diversity, the Manchester Jewish Museum is uniquely placed to bring to life the story of one of our country’s oldest communities for people from a huge range of backgrounds. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we’re delighted to offer our support to the next exciting chapter in the story of the Manchester Jewish Museum and we look forward to seeing the plans develop”.



On Holocaust Memorial Day we launched new Holocaust workshop for Secondary Schools

Tuesday 27th January was Holocaust Memorial Day and 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. It was heartening to see so much media coverage of the commemorative events which took place both here and in Europe. David Cameron announced that there will be a National Memorial to remember the Holocaust and a Holocaust Learning Centre in London.
At Manchester Jewish Museum we have been teaching about the Holocaust for many years. Our Learning Officer recently developed a new workshop session for pupils in secondary schools. The session is based on the stories of four Holocaust survivors who settled in Manchester after the war.
We decided to launch the new session on Holocaust Memorial Day itself and were very pleased to have pupils from different faiths with us for the session. Twenty pupils came from King David High School and ten came from Abraham Moss Community School.
During the workshop pupils find out about the different stories of survival of Chaim Ferster, Peter Kurer, Gina Bauer and Helen Taichner. They work together in groups completing activities based on resources relating to each individual. They could be listening to a survivor interview on an ipad, unpacking an old suitcase filled with family photos, reading an old diary or discussing the responsibility of ordinary Austrian people for the fate of one of the survivors. During this particular session pupils were privileged to be able to talk to the daughter of Helen Taichner.
Within no time pupils from both schools were getting to know each other as they got involved with the activities. All the pupils approached the workshop with a positive attitude, determined to get as much out of the session as they could. There were plenty of staff and volunteers from the schools and the museum around to help them, whenever they needed some extra input.
At the end of the session to mark Holocaust Memorial Day we invited one pupil from each school to light together a commemorative candle provided by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. A museum volunteer read out the Kaddish prayer in memory of all those who perished during the Holocaust.
Everyone involved was very satisfied with how the launch had gone. We will probably tweak and polish the session a little here and there. Schools who want to make a booking for the workshop can do so on schools working with resources


Internationally renowned professor will visit us to talk about illustrated religious Hebrew books.

schrijver 1 webAsk the average Jewish person to name a religious Jewish text printed in Hebrew and with illustrations and they will probably mention the Haggadah. This is the book used on the first two nights of Passover to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

But you can also find illustrated versions of the Book of Esther which is read aloud on the festival of Purim and many illustrated marriage contracts (ketubahs).

I found this out while reading up on the renowned Professor Emile Schrijver who will be giving a fascinating talk here at the museum on Thursday 15 Jan at 7pm.
Professor Schrijver works at the University of Amsterdam where he is Professor of Jewish Book History and curator of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana. He is also one of the curators of the private Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books in Zurich, Switzerland.

For his talk Professor Schrijver has selected a range of examples from the 15th to the 19th century. He will tell his audience the stories behind the creation of these books and documents and about the lives of the artists who created them.
Incidentally, Judaism generally disapproves of the presentation of the human form in art – it could be considered a form of idolatry! However in practice, it is considered acceptable on a small scale such as in a book illustration, but large scale presentations such as sculptures are best avoided.

You can book for this talk by phoning 0161 834 9879.  Tickets are £5.


Bright lights of Chanukah

The Jewish community are getting ready to celebrate the festival of Chanukah.

This year Chanukah begins on the night of Tuesday 16th December and finishes on the night of Wednesday 24th December ……(just as Christmas begins.)
What is Chanukah all about? It’s a festival of light and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and of spirituality over materialism. For eight consecutive days Jewish people light flames on a Chanukiah (like a candelabra with nine branches) – one on the first night, two on the second night etc.

This commemorates the time when the Greeks were driven out of the Holy Temple by the Jewish Maccabees. When the Jews wanted to relight the Menorah in the Temple with pure olive oil, (so that the Temple could be rededicated to the service of God) they could only find enough uncontaminated oil to last for one night but miraculously it lasted for eight nights.





Chanukiahs come in all shapes and sizes but you can see this one in our Home life display cabinet as part of our social history exhibition. This permanent exhibition tells the stories of 5 individuals who were part of the Jewish community in Manchester around 100 years ago. The Home Life cabinet illustrates the life of Cheena Livshin a young widow whose husband died on the Titanic.
Come and enjoy the “Jewish Manchester in 1912” tour of this exhibition at 11am, 1pm and 3pm Sundays to Thursdays and Fridays 11am only.


Remembrance Day and a very special Yartzeit Candle

yartzeit candleGoldsmith


This Yartzeit candle originally belonged to the Manchester Great Synagogue. Its purpose was to honour “soldier members of the synagogue who fell in the Great War”.
A few months ago the museum sent it off for some much needed conservation work and we were delighted when it was returned last Friday just in time for Remembrance Day.

Each of the 14 candles honours a different soldier. There is a plaque under each candle holder with the name and rank of a soldier and the date of his death according to the Hebrew calendar. A candle would be lit each year to honour each soldier on the anniversary of the date of his death.
This Yartzeit candle memorial will now be on display for the duration of the Centenary commemorations.


Catering for the Jewish Community


Did Filson’s cater your bar mitzvah or wedding?  I was thinking about this yesterday during a reminiscence training day organised by Age Exchange UK for staff and volunteers of Manchester Jewish Museum and The Fed.

MJM in partnership with The Fed have created themed reminiscence boxes using objects and photos from the museum’s collections for the “Sharing Stories” project. Now  staff and volunteers are being trained to take them out and run reminiscence sessions in care homes and day centres. 

At the workshop we were encouraged to do a bit of reminiscing ourselves.  When I started to tell a story connected with my grandparents who ran Filson’s Catering there were murmurs of recognition around the room.  One volunteer remembered that my grandparents had catered her wedding.

The session made me remember a funny incident at my grandparents’ home.  They lived and ran the business from a big old house in Broughton Park.  The living quarters were in a flat on the first floor. On the ground floor was the ballroom and in the cellars they had huge kitchens where food for simchas was prepared. I went to primary school in the building next door which meant that some days I could go straight there after school.  

On one particular day I ran out of school as the bell rang, raced over to their house, through the back door which was always open and dived down the stairs to the cellar/kitchens where I knew my grandma, grandpa and uncle would be busy preparing for the next “do”. Before I reached the bottom step I stopped dead at the sight of two large cows tongues waiting to be pickled. I was horrified and disgusted. I spun round and flew back up the stairs.  It was only then that I realised that the delicacy that I had regularly enjoyed known as “tongue” was actually made from real cow tongue and not just something with a similar sounding name.

After that I refused to touch tongue and would only go down to the cellars when they were baking cakes and desserts!




What kind of person wakes up one morning and decides to cover their kitchen worktops in plastic, their oven hobs in tinfoil and kitchen shelves with paper? Are they following a crazy new trend in interior design?  No, like me they’re preparing for the Jewish festival of Passover.

During the 8 days of Passover Jewish people must not eat bread or have bread in their houses or any products that might have come into contact with bread.  We can eat matzo which is a kind of flat bread. 

Preparing for Passover

·         To make absolutely sure that there is no bread in the house we check every nook and cranny for traces of it.  This is a good excuse for a bit of spring cleaning and most people start about a month before the festival.  In the kitchen where the food is prepared for Passover we have to be even more particular.  That is why even after cleaning, we’ll cover our worktops, oven hobs and shelving.  

·         At the same time as the cleaning, there is the Passover shopping frenzy.  Owners of shops serving the Jewish community have to create special bread free sections.  All the processed food we buy has to be certified “Kosher for Pesach”.  We need to stock up on meat, chicken, fish and fruit and vegetables as there will be very little opportunity to shop or cook during the festival. The Jewish shops are heaving as the entire community stocks up for the week.

·         When the shopping is done and the kitchen is ready it’s time to cook.  I’ve booked days off work so I can fill my freezer with” Pesadich” dishes for my family.

Why is this night different?

It’s very satisfying and exhausting but once the cleaning, shopping and cooking is done I can think about enjoying the festival.

On the first two nights, families gather together around the table to retell the story of the Exodus. This is called a Seder. We want the children to be able to pass the story on to the next generation.  At my Seder there will be several grandchildren. We keep them interested by doing everything a bit differently.  We tell the story while eating symbolic food to represent various stages of the story. We encourage the children to ask questions.  At many Seders each plague is represented by appropriate toys. Children are sent on a treasure hunt around the house to look for a piece of matzo.  In the middle of all this we eat a really tasty Passover meal.

Each year I see Passover as a huge mountain to climb but once I get started I start to enjoy it.  There is a sense of the whole community doing the same thing at the same time.  There is camaraderie among the shoppers negotiating trolleys up and down the narrow aisles in local shops.  We are all heading for the same goal.  We want to make Pesach an enriching experience for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.


Names from the past: The Laski Family


I’ve been racking my brains this week trying to remember why a certain name rings a bell with me. It all started when the Curator at MJM said she was about to retrieve some portraits of important Jewish Mancunians from GMCRO where they are stored. The family name Laski occurred twice in her list of portraits. As a child I heard this name often and had some vague idea that it was associated with communal leaders from the past. The internet is a great tool and it didn’t take me long to do a bit of research on the Laski family of Manchester.

This is what I found out:

·         NATHAN LASKI (1863–1941:  long before my time!) was a businessman and communal leader. Born in Russia and brought up in Middlesbrough, he settled in Manchester establishing himself as a successful cotton merchant with extensive connections in India. In 1906 he became a city magistrate. At various periods he was president of the Manchester Great Synagogue, Jewish Board of Guardians, Jewish Hospital, and Council of Manchester and Salford Jews. He was honorary president of the local Zionist Central Council and for a time treasurer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He became recognized as the head of the Manchester Jewish community. (So that’s why I’ve heard of him but he died long before I was born!)

·         His wife, SARAH (1869–1948), was a member of the Manchester city council for many years.

·         NEVILLE JONAS LASKI (1890–1969: I’ll admit I was around in the 50’s and 60’s) son of Nathan and Sarah achieved distinction as a lawyer. He became successively recorder of Burnley, judge of appeal in the Isle of Man, and recorder and judge of the crown court of Liverpool. Within the Jewish community he held many offices, rising to greatest prominence as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (1933–39). This meant he was president of the Board during the dark years of ascendant Nazi power and has been criticized for being insufficiently pro-Zionist.

Anyone else know anything interesting about the Laski family and their association with Manchester Jewish community?