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Peterloo and Protest: New banner display at People’s History Museum

a composite picture showing six preotes banners from the collection of the People's History Museum

@ People’s History Museum

New year means new (old) banners at the People’s History Museum – we head into the conservation room for a sneak preview

Launching a year of exhibitions and events to commemorate 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre (16 August 1819), People’s History Museum in Manchester is opening 2019 with a new exhibition of historic and contemporary banners that reflect themes of protest.

Each of the 25 banners has been carefully selected by the team curating the 2019 programme, picking out key moments of protest from the museum’s world renowned collection of over 400 political and trade union banners.

These are banners that have been a part of, and have witnessed, a range of different protest campaigns.  Their diverse images, vivid colours and powerful words give life to campaigns in a unique way, with visitors able to explore the stories they reveal throughout the museum’s galleries.

From temperance campaigns to poll tax protests, the banners represent disruptive flashpoints and the different actions taken to achieve change.  Those featured represent UK-wide protests, with a particular emphasis on Greater Manchester as a reflection of the region’s radical roots, which link back to the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester.

The Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen, Greenwich Branch no 13 Cardinal Manning Lodge

a banner with an image of a bishop at its centre

The Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen, Greenwich Branch no 13 Cardinal Manning Lodge banner, 1889 @ People’s History Museum

The Great Dock Strike of 1889 was a pivotal moment in the history of protest, with the call for workers’ rights seen as a key development in the emergence of the modern trade union movement. The Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen, Greenwich Branch no 13 Cardinal Manning Lodge banner pays tribute to Cardinal Henry Manning who supported social reform, appealed for unemployment relief and campaigned for decent housing for the poor.

This banner has undergone four years of expert conservation in The Conservation Studio at People’s History Museum, before going on display as part of the 2019 banner display for the first time since the work was carried out.

Grunwick Strike Committee

a banner based on the black white and red designs of Russian Constructivism

Grunwick Strike Committee banner @ People’s History Museum

This designer evidently knew their Russian Constructivist heritage, and the banner they produced for the Grunwick Strike Committee, tells the story of a dispute that took place at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories in Willesden, north west London. In August 1976, over a quarter of the workforce joined a trade union and went on strike to protest about their appalling working conditions. The dispute is particularly remembered for the Asian migrant women such as Jayaben Desai, who led the strike.

Ipswich Dockers Union

classic union banner with scrolled name and central pictyre of two working men sat on a dockside

Ipswich Dockers Union banner, 1889 @ People’s History Museum

This banner was made for the Ipswich branch of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labourers’ Union, formed after the Great Dock Strike of 1889. The painted image on one side of the banner shows how important trade within the British Empire was for the United Kingdom’s economy. The other side depicts a worker and an employer shaking hands. This plea for unity was in conflict with the policy of the union’s militant leadership.

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

a banner made up of small

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) © People’s History Museum

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) symbol dates back to 1958 when a protest march took place from London to the site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Berkshire. This banner from the early 1980s represents the Greater Manchester areas’ involvement in the campaign, with different local community CND groups making the different patchwork squares.

Great Britain Labour Party League of Youth

a red banner with a central motif of tow young people - a healthy looking boy and girl holding a red flag

Great Britain Labour Party League of Youth banner, 1938 @ People’s History Museum

The Labour League of Youth was formed in 1924 and ran until 1955, pausing briefly during World War II. The league aimed to recruit young people aged 16 to 25 and educate them in socialism and Labour politics. The museum’s research suggests this banner may have been the league’s national banner.

The People’s March for Jobs

a yellow banner with the words People's March for Jobs

People’s March for Jobs banner @ People’s History Museum

The People’s March for Jobs began in April 1983 as a reaction to high unemployment. The protest took 42 days with protesters walking from Glasgow to London. It was a highly organised event, with 500 marchers representing a cross section of the unemployed and up to 20,000 people attending a rally held in Hyde Park in London at its conclusion.

Withington Against the Poll Tax

a patchwork banner with the words Withington against the Poll Tax

Withington Against the Poll Tax banner @ People’s History Museum

The ‘Poll Tax’ is often remembered as Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government’s most unpopular policy. The Withington Against the Poll Tax banner was made by Ruth Abrahams in Withington, south Manchester, and was carried on 31 March 1990 at a rally attended by 70,000 people in Trafalgar Square, London. At the height of the demonstrations 70% of people in Manchester refused to pay the tax.

Dockers Union Export Branch

a classic Union banner of the late 19th century featuring scroll work and a man wrestling a serpent

Dockers Union Export Branch banner, 1889 @ People’s History Museum

During the Great Dock Strike of 1889, the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers’ Union of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. They were known as the ‘Dockers Union’ and the design of their banner uses words from the speeches of Cardinal Manning, who was mediator for the dockers during the 1889 strike. The image is inspired by artist Walter Crane’s 1892 drawing of Hercules and the banner was designed by renowned banner makers, Tutill & Co of London.

Queers Against the Cuts

a pink banner with the words Queers Against the Cuts

Queers Against the Cuts banner @ People’s History Museum

Queer Resistance is an LGBT+ collective that formed to protest against government cuts. This banner was used by Queer Resistance North West between 2008 and 2012 on numerous anti-austerity demonstrations. This vibrant banner features gold sequins and pink feathers.

Past, Present and Future of Protest, the 2019 banner display, opens at People’s History Museum from Saturday January 19 2019 @PHMMcr


People's History Museum

Manchester, Greater Manchester

There have always been ideas worth fighting for. Join a march through time at the People's History Museum following Britain’s struggle for democracy over two centuries. Meet the revolutionaries, reformers, workers, voters and citizens who fought our battle for the ballot. Gather amongst their magnificent banners and discover how time…

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