Join MSL to create an immersive museum experience of working-class lives.

MSL’s new digital arts and heritage project, Tressell’s Children, is a new, ground-breaking project inspired by working-class experiences in Hastings. 

Over the summer of 2023, the people of Hastings will turn detective and delve into the towns’ archives to unearth details of everyday lives. 

 Workshop participants will explore the largely unknown lives of working-class people – alongside professional artists and historians. They will explore new ways of telling these stories and give old voices new life in the form of writing, graphic and digital art.


Queen Elizabeth II puppet at Hastings Old Town Carnival, MSL
Queen Elizabeth II puppet at Hastings Old Town Carnival, MSL

Archive images courtesy of Hastings Museum

Rooted in an oral history project that was conducted in Hastings in the 1980s, drawing links between the stories of life in the interwar period and the earlier work of Robert Tressell (author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which was written in Hastings in the early 1900s), we will use our findings as the basis for new creative work that will form an immersive digital museum experience for Coastal Currents Festival 2023.

We will ask participants to become history detectives, to make the links between present and past. The result will be to shift the narrative about what constitutes heritage, revealing that it is the real-life stories of ordinary men, women, and children that make up what we call history.

Creation of new works will encourage ourselves and our audiences to realise that the substance of our lives today forms the heritage of tomorrow.

In Hastings we are seeking to work with those who may be familiar with the name of Robert Tressell from the blue plaques on local buildings, but not know the importance of his work nationally, or his contribution to the understanding of the lives of working people.

The second half of the 20th century saw a burst of interest in collecting community oral history. Participants will explore transcripts of a 1980s oral history project, now boxed and locked away, to investigate the working lives of local people between the wars whilst also making links to Robert Tressell’s book.

Using his work as a basis for exploration, and then investigating the stories told by the “children” of the next generation which have lain dormant in the local archives for many years, we will shine a light on the overlooked stories that form an important part of our local and national heritage.

The initial workshops will be led by our research lead, Sarah French. Sarah is a PhD researcher and freelance arts and cultural heritage professional, specialising in photography, museums and collections.

A sister project in Medway will start with the stories from recent immigrants and link these to the waves of previous immigrants and the achievements all have made to the UK. It is likely that our starting points will be small heritage legacies – photographs, newspaper accounts, and mementoes. 

We will explore ‘migration’ as a theme for interrogation with Medway’s historic role as a gateway for waves of people coming to this country in the forefront, from the historic – Huguenots, through Jewish, non-conformist – to the present-day Afghan and Ukrainian immigrants, many of whom passed through the docks to London and elsewhere in the UK. We will seek to link the present-day live issues to the historic, to find and reveal the lost stories.

In Chatham, there will be two Scan the Street! photogrammetry workshops with Electric Medway. We will uncover the migration stories found in the buildings of Chatham Intra and Chatham Luton. We will exhibit the creative work made in the workshops at Electric Medway in October 2023.

We will be announcing more workshops in Medway soon.


Queen Elizabeth II puppet at Hastings Old Town Carnival, MSL
Queen Elizabeth II puppet at Hastings Old Town Carnival, MSL
Queen Elizabeth II puppet at Hastings Old Town Carnival, MSL
Queen Elizabeth II puppet at Hastings Old Town Carnival, MSL
Queen Elizabeth II puppet at Hastings Old Town Carnival, MSL

Meet Scarlett and Sophie Rickard – creators of the graphic novel adaptation of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Join us on Thursday 8th June for our first event – an evening of Robert Tressell, art, graphic novels and working class history, in a chat with Sophie and Scarlett Rickard, the writer and illustrator of the graphic novelisation of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

In 2020, sisters Sophie and Scarlett Rickard published a visual adaptation that proved that – even 100 years later – the story still holds a fiery relevance.

Held in the atmospheric surroundings of Hastings Museum, we will explore the resonance of the book and delve into the sisters’ creative processes in making the book.

 Ticket price: £6

Concessions: £4.50

Thursday 8th June.

Event 6-7.30pm with book signing until 7.50pm.

Book your tickets here 

A digital drawing and comics workshop with Scarlett and Sophie Rickard

Friday 9th June

10 –1pm

Venue: Hastings Museum

Participants will use the format of a three-panel strip to create a short graphic story inspired by historical objects in Hastings Museum. The workshop will also teach skills in using iPads to produce digital artwork using the Procreate app.

Participants must be over 18 unless accompanied by a parent.

Find out more about the Rickard sisters here.

Booking essential.

Please book here

A creative writing workshop with Michelle Porter

Tuesday 13th June


Venue: Hastings Museum

Inspired by 1980s oral histories of working people and objects and photographs in the museum. Participants will use games and other activities to get their creative juices flowing and write short pieces inspired by objects and photographs in Hastings Museum and Art Gallery.

Over 18s only

Find out more about Michelle here

Booking essential.

Please book here

This project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Thanks to money raised by #NationalLottery players.

Additional support from Localgiving’s Magic Little Grants Fund (supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery).

Work with us.

We create our projects with real people and places in mind. We like to work with our clients, our partners, our participants to develop original and distinctive work.

Give us a call to get started.