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Cracker Packer exhibition

Cracker Packer exhibition

11 January 2018/Categories: News, Residents, Council, Business, Breaking news

Carlisle City Council has received £9,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards a project to explore the history and heritage of the McVitie’s Biscuit Factory and its female workforce known as the ‘Cracker Packers’.

Made possible by money raised by players of the National Lottery, the project will include the creation of a static exhibition and touring exhibition which will be displayed in various venues in Carlisle.

Commenting on the award, Carlisle City Cllr Anne Quilter, Portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Leisure, said:

“We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery players. The funding will allow us to explore the stories of the Cracker Packers and will support the unveiling of Hazel Reeves’ Cracker Packer statue in March this year.”

Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery is key to the project and will carry out the research with former and current Carr’s/McVities workers. Workshops will be held resulting in oral histories, research and an exhibition developed.

Alex Farthing, Deputy Director of Tullie House said:

“We are delighted to be able to contribute to this celebration of the Cracker Packers. We are working hard to ensure the mix of historical research, testimonies from the factory’s female workforce, and artefacts from Tullie House Museum’s collection will add to our understanding of this part of Carlisle’s story.”  

Hazel Reeves, an award-winning artist and an elected member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, is set to create a ‘Cracker Packer’ statue in Carlisle - depicting two women McVitie’s factory workers. This will be unveiled on International Women’s Day, Thursday 8 March 2018.

The Caldewgate art installation will have strong connections to McVitie’s and will be based close to the biscuit factory. Privately funded, the bronze statue will depict two women workers - one from past times and one from the modern day dressed in their respective factory uniforms. The two ‘Cracker Packers’ – the name given to workers at the (then-named) Carr’s biscuit factory - will be situated next to Paddy’s Market car park on John Street, Carlisle. They will be standing atop a bronze Carr’s Table Water biscuit, with the distinctive Carr’s signature logo embossed into it.

pladis, the company that owns the McVitie’s factory in Carlisle, will have a close involvement in the art installation. In addition to a financial contribution towards the statue, pladis will also work with its staff - from past and present - to engage them in the story behind the artwork.



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Mike Heaney, factory general manager, Carlisle, said:

“We are proud that our factory is part of the fabric of the local community, and this commission reflects and celebrates a key element of Carlisle’s distinctive social and industrial history. This public art work will help honour those who have helped shaped our town’s history, and we can’t wait for the unveiling next year.”

The statue is privately funded, including a contribution from pladi, £65,000 from Sainsbury’s (as part of their development of a Caldewgate new superstore) and £5,000 from author Hunter Davies, who has a keen interest in the history of the McVitie’s site. He wrote “The Biscuit Girls"; stories of six so called Cracker Packers working in the Carr’s Biscuit factory.

Hazel Reeves MRBS SWA FRSA is an award-winning figurative sculptor specialising in figures and portraits. She is passionate about people and their stories, with figure and portrait commissions in bronze a speciality. To find out more about Hazel Reeves’ work, visit

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.


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