A small number of Humphrey Spender’s written observations have survived in the Mass-Observation Archive. These texts really bring the photographs to life giving both factual information and an insight into Spender’s experiences photographing in Bolton. The observation below was made at the Conservative Club Rooms, in Farnworth on January 24th 1938 where volunteers were helping with canvassing for the Farnworth by-election . Can you guess which women he is describing in the accompanying photographs?
“One of the women asks another where she comes from. Replies Lowestoft. Ah then you know all about the fish (there has been reference to the fishing industry before) that night.
The woman from Lowestoft is definitely ‘refined’ to the point of being of being almost arty. Long yellow hair, to an unbecoming length, neat dress, patronising air: slightly embarrassed by my presence.
Eventually a Miss Johnson, over-bearing, efficient, and baggy-faced, for whose permission I have been waiting, comes in and after fixing up the elderly canvasser turns her attention on me. She is worried at the idea that the photos are being taken while there are no Farnworth people actually in the room. (all the workers seem to be outsiders) and wants me to wait but is satisfied when I tell her that the photographs are not likely to be seen by anyone in Bolton and are only for pictorial reportage of electioneering irrespective of any specific election.”