“Incoming” Image by Yvonne Wright.

Learning Curator
Jan – Dec 2015

The Samuel Morley Programme
BACKLIT Gallery, Studios & Projects Nottingham, UK.

Who is Samuel Morley?
He was a Victorian textile manufacturer who was the youngest son of successful hosier, John Morley, whose business, I&R Morley, was based on selling the textiles produced by home workers in the Nottingham area. Samuel Morley commissioned Alfred House, Sneinton, Backlit’s current premises, the site once home to one of I&R Morley’s thriving factories.

Morley described as “Merchant, Philanthropist, Member of Parliament, Friend of Children, Social Reformer, Christian Citizen” he funded one of the first adult education centre specifically aimed at the working classes in the 1880’s Morley College (London). This included “Penny lectures” or 1p talks and lectures with guest speakers for students. Morley also funded many organisations across the city of Nottingham and was a main funder for The Old Vic Theatre in London.

Samuel Morley, was involved in the anti-slavery movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He campaigned for better working conditions for his employees, making him a model employer.

Why is he relevant today?
Samuel Morley was a man ahead of his time and his radical approach to social activism is still relevant, particularly with some of the issues we still face today.

The state of British politics
With mass demonstrations against the government’s plans for more budget cuts that will affect millions of people, it is no surprise that we have little faith in politicians. However, Samuel Morley was respected by the public during his time as a Member of Parliament and was described as “Political, Radical and Liberal”

Due to the current unstable economic climate, the very idea of “a job for life” is slowly being eroded, with low wages, short term, part-time and zero hour contracts. We seem to have no rights or security as employees anymore. Morley valued his workers and was considered a model employer, working for him their entire lives.

The right to free or low cost education
The ongoing rise in tuition fees for higher education continues to exclude thousands of potential students from all backgrounds from attending College and University. The Morley College, London is a thriving college with 11,000 adult learners and continues to support Morley’s ethos of providing life long learning for all.

Morley Learning Programme 2015.
Developed in collaboration with local residents and community groups from St Anns, a large council estate and Sneinton. Including SATRA Central (The St Ann’s Tenants & Residents Association), The Renewal Trust, Sneinton Alchemy, and ROOTS UP Nottingham. Both areas are predominantly working class and ethnically diverse.

Morley Fashion Show! Skirt detail. Image by Tim Chesney.

Morley Fashion Show! Skirt detail. Image by Tim Chesney

Morley Fashion Show. Image by Tim Chesney.

Morley Fashion Show. Image by Tim Chesney.

Morley Fashion Project & Catwalk Show!
Mondays: 1st June to 27th July -Fashion show!
Times: 4.30pm to 6.30pm
Ages: 11 – 18+
Working with Frances Heap, Maria Luisa Olmos & Beccy Williams from Costumologists – a creative costuming partnership.
Young people from St Ann’s will design their own tights, clothing and accessories and stage a MORLEY inspired fashion show at the Fashion Hub. A eight-week intergenerational project, based at Ivy Kenton’s Urban Fashion Hub, 23 Robin Hood Chase, Nottingham, NG3 4EZ.

Unlocking the door to social change. Image by Clare Barton

Unlocking the door to social change. Image by Clare Barton Finding Samuel Morley Project.

“…and did those feet” Photo by Helen Kennedy

Finding Samuel Morley
Fridays: 5th to 26th June  
10am to 2:30pm
Backlit and sites around the city
Led by Human Camera
A photography project (a selection of images above), led by Human Camera, suitable for anyone at any level. Participants will gain an insight into Morley’s contributions to the city through, discussion and documentation of historical sites and buildings related to the Morley legacy.

The group have decided to continue to meet and research into Samuel Morley. They call themselves “The Morley Union” and have set up their own Finding Samuel Morley Facebook page, featuring incredible photographs and wonderful comments.  Click here to join their page!


Penny Sessions bookmaking. Image by Phiona Richards.

“Penny Sessions” Project 1
Mondays & Wednesdays: 22nd July to 12th August
Times: 10am to 1pm and 1pm to 4pm
Location: Backlit
Group: Nature in Mind – Framework (Aged 18+)
All “Penny Sessions” Led by artist Phiona Richards & Gina Mollett (Volunteer)
Poetry – Using the poem Ode to Poor Susan by William Wordsworth that references Wood Street London, where I & R Morley were based. The group explored Haiku poetry as a way of taking them to a place in time.

A medal for Samuel – Designing an award for Morley and his achievements, in lieu of the fact that he refused a peerage.

Routes to work – bookmaking and stitch. Using a map of Sneinton and St Ann’s the group discussed the routes people who worked in the factory would perhaps take.

Glove making – pattern cutting
Using their sketched designs each of the group started to embellish their gloves with embroidery.

Bookmaking – I&R Morley Threads company magazine
The group were shown how to produce a contemporary book structure to incorporate a kaleidoscope of images taken from the Threads company magazine.


Knit and stitch group St Anns Library. Image by Phiona Richards.

“Penny Sessions” Project 2
Thursdays: 6th August to 1st October
Times: 1pm to 3pm
Location: St Ann’s Valley Library
Group: Knit and stitch group (aged 30 to 75)

“Penny Sessions” Project 3
Mondays: 10th August to 14th September
Times: 10am to 12pm
Location: Backlit & St Ann’s Valley Library
Group: Women’s Aid Integrated Services



Community Ambassadors
Morley Learning recruited an amazing team of Community Ambassadors (18+) from St Ann’s and Sneinton to assist with collecting material and stories for the archive.

The programme included:
Free oral history training (Friday 26th June) – led by Colin Hyde from East Midlands Oral History Archive, University of Leicester and Helena Tomlin, Morley Archive Consultant.

Input into the development of the “People’s” Archive –  Visiting local residents with the Digital Technician to film and interview people who have a connection to Samuel Morley.
Staffing the Morley Memories Day (public contributing to the Morley Archive) on Saturday 8th August at Backlit.

“Morley Union” Community Ambassadors visited The Morley College London in November to meet staff, see more archival material and discuss their experiences of being part of the project.

The Samuel Morley Programme is Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery

Morley Threads Digital Archive

Morley Learning