INFLUENTIAL Oxford University historian Selena Todd has spoken of the importance of the Mass Observation archive held in Bolton.

She was they keynote speaker at the University of Bolton’s Recording Leisure Lives (RRL) Conference 2014 where the theme this year was “Leisure in Worktowns in 20th Century Britain”.

Dr Todd’s paper was called Politics at the Palais: Leisure, Protest and the Everyday in the 1930s.

It examined the relationship between the popular dance halls of the time and the picket line politics many faced in their working lives.

She said: “This conference and the Mass Observation archive are massively important.

“The museum and university have a truly unique historical resource that documents every day working life in a distinctive way.”

The Mass Observation, with many pictures taken by renowned photography Humphrey Spender, was a large-scale investigation into the habits and customs of the people of Britain that began in Bolton in 1937.

The Worktown Archive is now held at the Bolton Museum, which jointly organised the conference.

Dr Todd, a Fellow of St Hilda’s College who has just published her second book, added: “Such a resource could and should play an increasingly important role for policy makers because it documents how people lived their lives and their lifestyles, not just their living and working conditions.

“This is increasingly important, nationally and internationally, because things such as people’s wellbeing are now major political issues.”

This is the sixth year the conference has been held. Photographer Keith Wood was also at the conference and talked about the football memorabilia and pictures he has taken which he uses in lectures, including a 1939 Blackburn and District Football Combination Year Book.

Dr Bob Snape is the principal organiser of the conference at the university and works closely with Julie Spencer, head of Bolton Library and Museum Services.

Dr Snape said: “This year’s conference maintained the high standards we have become accustom to at the conference. We have again had some excellent and highly reputable speakers.

“The conference continues to go from strength to strength and I look forward to what next year’s will bring.”