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New exhibition celebrates Carlisle’s ‘Cracker Packers’

A 1937 worker packing Coronation biscuits at Carr’s factory

‘The Spirit of the Cracker Packers:  In Our Own Words’ is a touring exhibition that tells the stories of female workers of Carr’s biscuit factory affectionately known as the ‘Cracker Packers’.  The exhibition celebrates the unveiling of Hazel Reeves’ sculpture to the Cracker Packers that will stand next to Paddy’s Market carpark in Caldewgate, Carlisle.

It has been 150 years since the Cracker Packers stepped onto the production line at Jonathan Dodgson Carr’s biscuit factory founded in 1837.  These women have helped produce some of the nation’s best loved biscuit brands, which are still made in Caldewgate by McVitie’s Carlisle, pladis UK.

Listen to the audio stories from women who have worked at the factory between the 1910s and the present day and explore how the past meets the present in shared experiences between the generations.

This is a truly Carlisle story told by Carlisle women, from one of the city’s iconic local industries- the home of biscuits.

The tour launches on Thursday 8 March at the Old Fire Station to mark the unveiling of the sculpture on International Women’s Day 2018.

A 1908 worker poses with Carr’s iconic Table Water Biscuits

The exhibition, with extended use of historic artefacts and displays, continues at Tullie House Museum from Saturday 10 March 2018 until Sunday 15 April 2018.  The exhibition will then go on tour around Carlisle’s community venues.

The exhibition will form an integral part of the ‘Women of Cumbria’ centenary celebrations taking place across the county.

The Tullie House opening coincides with the ‘Woman Up’ event, a day of talks and discussions celebrating the roles and lives of women in Cumbria.  Artist Hazel Reeves will also speak about her role in commemorating the Cracker Packers, and her other projects in this centenary year of votes for women.

It is hoped that the exhibition tour will reach as many people in the community as possible, sharing the stories of these women and their role in making biscuits, and friends along the way.

This exhibition is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in a partnership between Carlisle City Council and Tullie House Museum.

Project lead Claire Sleightholm said “We’re delighted to be able to bring the stories of the Cracker Packers to the fore.  With the help of retirees from the McVitie’s we’ve put together an exhibition that brings together historic artefacts and research along with new oral testimonies from former workers.  We’re hoping that this mix will tell a compelling story of what life was really like in an iconic Carlisle factory.”

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