Labour’s Voice in Europe, by James Darby, Project Archivist

I have just finished cataloguing four archive collections relating to the Labour Party in Europe. These include the papers of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and the personal papers of David Candler, Ron Leighton and Colin Beever; three politicians linked with the pro and anti Common Market wings of the party during the 1970s and 80s.

Labour Movement for Europe report

Funding for the cataloguing of these collections has been gratefully received from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, a grant scheme made available by several funding trusts and administered by The National Archives. The project began in April 2016 and involved the box listing of 109 boxes from the EPLP collection, 18 from the Candler collection, 16 from Colin Beevor and 9 from Ron Leighton.

EPLP boxes

EPLP boxes in strongroom

Once box listed the collection had to be placed into suitable series and following this the rather long and arduous task of reboxing all the material in the correct order.

These collections include correspondence and reports of the British Labour Group in Europe and material relating to pro and anti-EEC organisations such as the Labour Movement for Europe and Common Market Safeguards Campaign. Researchers can view the catalogues on the museum’s website and use the collections by booking an appointment in the archive reading room.

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PHM at Manchester Pride

A guest blog by Jenny White, a Community Curator for our Never Going Underground  exhibition

If you’re watching Manchester Pride Parade on Saturday give us a wave. Staff and volunteers from People’s History Museum are out on the streets serving LGBT+ heritage realness.

The Never Going Underground exhibition has a number of items exploring Pride’s journey from political activism to a corporate sponsor’s dream. Leaflets, banners and photos highlight ongoing issues around diversity, accessibility, and inclusion; and contrasting attitudes to police and the armed forces taking part in parades. We also bagged an interview with Peter Tatchell who as a member of the Gay Liberation Front helped organise the first London pride back in 1972.

LGBT+ people are drawn from wildly different backgrounds and there can be a real clash of aims and priorities over Pride season. 

1979 Wages Due Lesbian leaflet

How Gay is Gay? flyer, LSE Library’s collections

This Wages Due Lesbians leaflet from 1979 questions who Gay Pride and the ‘gay’ scene is for. It’s a question still very relevant today with racism, sexism and transphobia very much alive and kicking within LGBT+ communities. Over the past few months activist Chardine Taylor Stone has continued to challenge the programming of blackface artists at LGBT+ prides across the country. It’s fantastic that this year there has finally been a positive outcome to Rainbow Noir’s call for Manchester Pride to be a Queens of Pop free zone.

knitted pluses

Also on display in the Never Going Underground exhibition are a set of @aceknitaholic’s craftivist pluses. They’re used to yarnbomb community stalls at Pride events that miss the ‘+’ from LGBT+ and to start a dialogue with stall holders to promote inclusion and recognition of other sexual and gender minorities outside the ‘LGBT’ spectrum.

There are photos and flyers from the first Peckham Pride organised in 2016 by Movement for Justice and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. We recorded an interview with one of the organisers, Karen Doyle, who tells us about the aim to promote solidarity between LGBT+ people and migrants, and to celebrate local resistance against immigration raids and detention centres.

We’ve a Campbell’s soup costume which was worn at London Pride 2008. Activists were calling for a boycott of Heinz products after the firm pulled a gay themed advert instead of holding their ground against complaints.

Everyone has an opinion on the involvement of big business in Pride. Some people hate corporations using rainbow imagery and messages about ‘freedom’ to market goods. Others think it’s no bad thing that big corporations are spreading tolerance, making LGBT employees feel valued, and making a positive contribution – Asda’s LGBT network for example organises family friendly areas at a number of Prides. Personally I think if it annoys the bigots it must be doing some good:

homophobes starving

Each summer disgruntled cisgender heterosexuals take to social media asking ‘why do the gays need pride?’, ‘why can’t we have a straight pride?’. But it’s a no brainer.

Vile homophobic and transphobic attacks in Manchester are still all too common. In February I gave a talk at an LGBT+ History Month event in Bournemouth, where Christian activists sat in on the whole day’s talks in protest at us spreading gay propaganda. Last year a teaching assistant successfully took legal action against her school after they criticised her for expressing homophobic views to pupils. Conservative activists are currently voicing opposition to updating the humiliating and outdated process transgender people currently have to undergo to change their legal gender. A spokesperson for Grassroots Conservatives labelled transgender people “deeply troubled”, and compared gender dysphoria with anorexia “it’s not actually respectful or loving to affirm that person in a belief that is false, that doesn’t tie up with reality.” Meanwhile in July a Labour councillor branded gay pride marchers paedophiles.

Pride is a celebration of difference, an opportunity to confront homophobia, bi-phobia transphobia, as well as a chance to party. 

If you haven’t checked out the Heritage Lottery Funded Never Going Underground exhibition, get your skates on – the final day is Sunday 3 September.

Fighting for Justice Together: Peter Roscoe and Geoff Hardy

Both individually and as a couple Geoff and Peter have been tirelessly fighting for equal rights and against injustices.  Their activism first brought them together on a bus in London in 1978. Peter was travelling to an Anti-Nazi League meeting and was wearing a ‘Gays Against Fascism’ badge. Geoff, a teacher, was travelling to a parents’ meeting. Geoff went up to Peter and said, ‘I like your badge and I like you!’. Serendipitously, they met again during a march against the National Front, but again lost contact. In 1980, Geoff and Peter finally reunited when they met at The Castle, a gay pub in Lewisham.  They have been together ever since, and in 2005, they were the first couple in Shropshire to obtain a Civil Partnership.

newspaper cover Geoff and Pete

Peter and Geoff’s activism continued in their professional lives as well. As a teacher, Geoff was active in the Gay Teachers Group and helped with the first publication of the Schools Out book. Peter worked as a Social Worker at a gay counselling organisation and went on to practise law. The couple have also worked on numerous committees such as the London Lesbian and Gay Centre and Gay Rights Working Party. Together Peter and Geoff helped establish the Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival, now in its 11th year.

In honour of our current changing exhibition Never Going Underground: The Fight for LGBT+ Rights exhibition, the couple has generously shared a few items from their involvement in past campaigns. The items document the decades of activism and involvement in the LGBT+ movement. Examples include badges from previous campaigns such as for Gay Liberation Front, Campaign for Homosexual Equality, Safe Aging No Discrimination, and Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.

Peter and Geoff's badgesToday Peter and Geoff continue their political involvement. They are retired and involved with ‘Back in Time’: The National Festival of LGBT History/Shrewsbury Hub, Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival, and FRESh (Fairness, Respect, Equality Shropshire). They celebrated their 37th anniversary on 23 March 2017.

Aid for Spanish Civil War banners!

I recently had the pleasure of treating a set of Six Spanish Civil War banners in the Textile Conservation Studio the project was undertaken for the Marx Memorial Library in order for the banners to go on display at an exhibition at Islington Museum and was funded by the Textile Society and GFTU educational trust Most of the banners were made from cotton canvas with a ground layer and water based paint, they were used by the Communist Party Hammersmith to raise funds to help civilians fleeing the conflict. I spent between 5 and 15 hours on each banner depending on what each one required. Two of the more complicated banners are featured in this post and demonstrate quite different conservation problems.

Arms & Justice for Spain during conservation People's History Museum

Arms & Justice for Spain banner during conservation

The first banner I want to highlight is entitled Arms and Justice for Spain it is very striking image featuring the recognisable symbol of unity in a handshake between three men in this case. The style is reminiscent of Picasso with the expressive figures drawn in profile. Water-based paint has been used and it was well bonded to the canvas ground in most places apart from the area of upper text which had become cracked along fold lines from previous storage. This required a stabilisation treatment to ensure that no more paint was lost using an adhesive which had a matt appearance to match the quality of the paint. I undertook a series of tests to find a suitable adhesive using samples to experiment with before treating the object. Isinglass (fish glue) was found to be the best choice in this instance because the bond strength was good and it did not appear shiny when applied to the paint.

Arms & Justice for Spain after conservation People's History Museum

Arms & Justice for Spain banner after conservation

The second banner is different to the rest of the group as it was made with oil paint it is entitled International Brigade and features the single figure of a Republican solider against a background of swirling flames. The image is a little difficult to read because a lot of the paint is loose and in some areas it has been lost completely. It was also clear on first inspection that there was a ghost image of text underneath the top layer of paint. Further investigation revealed that the banner had been once used as a book shop sign and then recycled as a banner and it is likely that a weak bond between the old and new paint is what caused much of the current damage.

Underlying text Peoples History Museum.jpg

International Brigade banner highlighting the underlying text

Due to the extent of the damage most areas on the banner required treatment to prevent further loss occurring. This time I used an adhesive called Beva which is safe for oil paints and provides a strong bond to secure the loose paint. We aim to preserve what remains of the original material rather than trying re-touch/re-paint areas of loss, so the banner does not look like new but the paint is much more stable, it is able to hang safely and is more accessible for visitors and researchers.

International Bridage during conservation People's History Museum.JPG

International Brigade banner during conservation

Each banner was also fitted with a white cotton sleeve for display which provides even weight distribution when suspended from a pole. The banners will be on display from the 5th of May to the 8th of July 2017. Spanish Civil War Exhibition A5 leaflet

International Brigade after conservation.jpg

International Brigade banner after conservation

 

Pride @ PHM – call for events

To help celebrate Manchester Pride 2017 the People’s History Museum would like to invite you to hold an event or events at the museum during the week of Monday 21 August – Monday 28 August. This is a great opportunity to use the museum’s iconic spaces to celebrate the diverse culture of LGBT+ communities. Your event would coincide with Pride celebrations and run alongside the museum’s three LGBT+ focussed exhibitions which will be on show at the time. Never Going Underground: The Fight for LGBT+ Rights explores the past, present and future of LGBT+ activism;  Continuum: Framing Trans Lives in 21st Century Britain will showcase a diverse range of art by trans individuals; and Queer Noise: The History of LGBT+ Music & Club Culture in Manchester is a community exhibition focussed on how the LGBT+ Manchester music scene helped shape attitudes towards sexuality.

Spaces available:

  • Coal Store – capacity 60 lecture style/40 workshop style – suitable for talks, discussions, drama workshops, etc.
  • Learning Studio – capacity 25 – suitable for workshops and messy craft sessions

The spaces are free to use but events must be free and open to the public. In addition, we would require that all events are set up and cleared away within the Museum’s opening hours of 10.00am-5.00pm, therefore we would suggest that events start no earlier than 11.00am and finish no later than 4.00pm. Any materials would be provided by you. The museum has a small budget available to cover artist fees for groups with limited resources. Please indicate on your proposal form if you wish to apply for this funding.

If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, please can you return the Proposal Form to nevergoingunderground@phm.org.uk as soon as possible. Spaces will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

If you have any questions, please contact Catherine O’Donnell on 0161 838 9190.

 

What would Genghis Khan do?

A blog post by Andy Hoyle, Learning Officer

While recently carrying out research for an upcoming event on the topic of fake news, I stumbled across a very interesting piece in the 19 June 1987 edition of Labour Weekly. ‘FLEET STREET TRUE TO FORM’ was the headline. The article touched on various media portrayals of that year’s general election and bestowed fictional prizes for categories such as best newspaper coverage (The Independent), most biased coverage (The Guardian), the most misleading leader award (The Guardian again) and the environmental press award for services to recycling (The Sun, which apparently ran an ‘exclusive’ that had been published “in some cases, word for word” two years previously).

It is the award for creative journalism that is perhaps the most memorable. The winner again goes to The Sun which ran an article entitled, “Why I’m backing Kinnock by Stalin.”

Why I'm Backing Kinnock By Lenin

According to this ‘genuine exclusive’ the newspaper contacted a spiritualist medium who interviewed famous leaders from beyond the grave. These included Josef Stalin (who went for Kinnock) as well as Winston Churchill (he backed Thatcher), James Keir Hardie, Boudicea and Genghis Khan.  As only a small portion of the actual article is pictured in the Labour Weekly we can but guess the political affiliation of the twelfth-century Mongol emperor.

Having read this bizarre piece, I have tried to compile a list of potential beyond-the-grave voters for our upcoming 2017 general election.  Examining the various party websites, I have plumped for famous individuals who I feel would choose to make their mark in the polling booths for each party. This is, of course, a satirical blog post. The contents do not represent the wider views of the museum as an institution. So…here it goes.

The Conservative Party – Theresa May recently stated that the country needs a ‘strong and stable leadership in the national interest’ and that ‘we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world.’ With this in mind, a strong nationalist seems a sensible call. Although I don’t have the powers of a spiritualist medium, I feel that my instincts on this one are quite strong.  Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) is my pick for the Conservative party.

Queen Elizabeth I

Good Queen Bess oversaw periods of tension – both economic and military – but generally helped to stabilise the nation both internally and in Europe. These are themes that are often talked about in Conservative party broadcasts. She was notably engaged in a serious confrontation with the Spanish navy (don’t mention Gibraltar!) She also had problems regarding Scotland – similarly to the current Conservative government. I feel that if the virgin queen were to enter her polling station in June 2017, the Conservative party would get her vote. Try as I might, she couldn’t be reached for a quote.

The Green Party – The Green Party of England and Wales currently have one MP in the House of Commons and are jointly led by Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley. Their website says that the party supports an economy that gives everyone their fare share. Although dwarfed by other larger parties, their confidence and self-portrayal as a real alternative has the potential to fare well against the odds. That’s why Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) would vote Green.

Joan of Arc

From humble seeds, mighty oaks do grow! Joan was born into a life of peasantry in north eastern France before going on to support the uncrowned Dauphine of France. She subsequently lifted the siege of Orleans and aided in the victory over the English – notably at the battle of Patay – which led to the coronation of Charles VII. Her swift victories and unbridled momentous support led to the overthrow of the existing order. The ‘maid of Orleans’ would see herself in the Green Party of England and Wales. That’s why they would get her vote. Saint Joan for the win!

Close Second – Saint Francis of Assisi

The Labour Party – The Labour Party’s website calls to ‘rebuild and transform Britain, for the many not the few.’ Jeremy Corbyn has fought off many internal wars to remain the party leader and goes into the general election campaign as an underdog. Thus, my pick of historical figures that would chose to vote Labour goes to Alfred the Great (849 – 899).

Alfred the GreatHailed as the King of Anglo Saxons, I feel Alfred would agree with Labour’s pledges. The ninth century warlord overhauled the tax system, levying huge amounts of money from the most productive landholdings throughout his kingdom. A ‘progressive tax system’ is central to the Labour Party’s appeal. Alfred, as well as being an advocate for education, oversaw turbulence within his kingdom, notably leading nine battles in one year. Ever the underdog, ‘the wise elf’ would, in my opinion, root for the Labour Party. He also has some lovely facial hair!

 

The Liberal Democrats – Led by Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrats are tipped to do better than their poor 2015 outing. Their strong pro-EU stance will appeal to many potential voters, including the late Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck (1815 – 1898).

Otto von Bismarck

During his time in political office, Bismarck saw the creation of a united German nation and, once achieved, kept the peace in Europe for decades. He developed strong relationships across the European continent and was a shrewd tactician when it came to diplomacy, often allying with different parties when necessary. The Liberal Democrats have shown that they also can work in coalitions and their position may be similar come June. The party claim on their website that they are ‘forward-looking’ and that they ‘will always put the interests of the whole country first.’ This is why ‘the iron chancellor’ would throw his lot in with the Liberal Democrats.

Plaid Cymru – Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru currently hold 3 seats in the UK Parliament. Although the party has existed for close to a hundred years, their recent statistics perhaps hint at a gathering of momentum. They have claimed over 10% of the votes cast in Wales in every general election since 2001 and with support for the traditional parties looking tentative, maybe their anti-establishment message will grow stronger. The father of Welsh nationalism Owain Glyndŵr would vote Plaid.

Owain GlyndŵrThe fourteenth century strongman spent decades battling his English rivals. Upset by a dominant England, he was crowned Prince of Wales in 1404 and oversaw the creation of a Welsh Parliament. Glyndŵr held great respect amongst his supporters who rebelled against the punitive Penal Laws against Wales. Seen as a Welsh nationalist hero with anti-establishment credentials to boot, the well-educated polyglot wouldn’t hesitate to put a cross next to his local Plaid Cymru candidate.

Special Mentions – Richard Burton

The Scottish National Party – Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP have made huge gains north of the border but may come under threat on the 8th June. Their vision of an independent country free from Westminster interference has gained traction, yet not quite enough to return a positive result in their 2014 referendum. Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329) is my choice on this one.

The Bruce fought battles both internally and against Rober the BruceEnglish armies, notably defeating a far larger force under Edward II at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. A talented diplomat, Robert the Bruce made alliances across Europe. He successfully secured Scotland’s position as a sovereign nation and would be an obvious SNP voter had he still be alive today – at the ripe old age of 742.

Runners Up – Robert Burns, William Wallace

 

UKIP – The UK Independence Party have perhaps done more than any other to set themselves as the anti-establishment party. Their desire to leave the European Union defines their outlook as strong nationalists on the right of the political compass. Often considered one of the top 10 greatest Britons of all time, Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805) would choose team purple.

A very popular figure – particularly amongst the men who served under him – Nelson was able to utilise his personable popularity alongside his Horatio Nelsonunorthodox skill to secure great victories for himself and the Royal Navy. His unconventional tactics in his role as Vice-Admiral at the battle of Trafalgar were the main factor explaining the British victory against superior numbers. UKIP’s leader Paul Nuttall states on the party website that he ‘welcomes the opportunity to take UKIP’s positive message to the country’. Ever-confident, Viscount Nelson would put a cross next to the UKIP candidate, provided he could hold a pencil with his left hand.

Also Ran – Davy Crockett

 

Whilst all attempts to reach the deceased individuals were tried, ultimately my endeavours proved fruitless. As such, none of those listed above were available for comment.