Scope marks 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act

PHM has been working with Scope to collect campaigning material relating to the campaign for the Disability Discrimination Act. Here their Campaign Officer, Tom Hayes, writes about the success of the project so far.

Nelson Mandela is known the world over for his impressive fight against racial segregation in South Africa.  Helped by a recent blockbuster film, Britain’s women’s suffrage movement is better known among people today. Whether projected onto big screens or taught in classrooms, similar civil rights fights from Selma to Stonewall are well-known.

Other equality campaigns have been wholly forgotten, however. Twenty years ago this month, Parliament finally passed a law to ban discrimination against disabled people. This change would never have happened without the fierce campaigning of disabled people.

Rights Now! rally, Trafalgar Square.jpg

Rights Now! rally, Trafalgar Square. Copyright Scope

In their thousands, disabled people gridlocked cities up and down the country, throwing themselves from their wheelchairs and chaining themselves to buses. Their message was clear: activists wanted rights. Not tomorrow or in a year, but, as their campaign’s name demonstrated: Rights Now!

For the first time, disabled people joined together, discovered they were not isolated and alone, and decisively smashed society’s flawed view of disability as something requiring pity not rights.

The law passed twenty years ago – the Disability Discrimination Act – fell short of the civil rights Act that so many disabled people campaigned for. But the campaign itself was life-changing for so many and challenged society’s stereotypes and negative attitudes.

Many of the leading disabled campaigners drew inspiration from the fights against Apartheid and for the vote for women.

The suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst is the only person that one of today’s leading disabled campaigners and a civil rights veteran, Baroness Jane Campbell, says she would be if she could travel back in time.

Many Rights Now! members moved into disability rights campaigning  from the anti-Apartheid movement because they despised the injustice of segregation wherever they saw it.

However, in sharp distinction to the equality campaigners who inspired them, Baroness Campbell and others have a hidden history of campaigning. The campaign which took so much of the media spotlight in 1994 and 1995 has been entirely forgotten today.

Young disabled people – even those who campaign for change in their communities today –have been shocked to find their rights have not always been there and needed a fight to bring about.

That’s why Scope has been celebrating the civil rights activists who fought for equality and brought about the change that happened twenty years ago this month.  We’re proud to be working closely with the People’s History Museum to preserve a past in danger of disappearing. Together we have appealed to campaigners to rummage through their attics and find mementoes.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of the treasures that leading campaigners have shared with us as a direct result of our joint public appeal for donations. Until that time we will be sharing some stories of the civil rights campaign, as told by the leading activists themselves.

The campaigns which inspired disabled activists twenty years ago are honoured every day by the People’s History Museum in the galleries that are seen annually by tens of thousands of visitors.

Together we want as many people to see disabled people’s campaigning, right alongside better-known movements, so that their campaigning can inspire today’s activists as much as others do.

Disabled people’s campaigning has been central to our national march towards equality. Scope can have no better partner to honour this campaign than the People’s History Museum – the nation’s own museum of democracy and equality.

Redisplaying equality

Over the past few months during our Play Your Part project we have been working on growing our collection of material relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and other gender and sexuality minority groups and refreshing the objects we have on display. Previously labelled ‘Gay rights’, our new ‘LGBT+ rights’ section in Main Gallery Two is now more representative and up to date.

Original equality case

Original equality case

One of the key findings from our initial consultation was that the ‘Gay Rights’ panel in contained incorrect detail. Whilst it was installed in 2010, the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act had rendered it out of date. We therefore wanted to update the information and use the opportunity to refresh the objects in our Equality Case with new material collected during PYP Year One.

It's OK to be GAY! leaflet

It’s OK to be GAY! leaflet

We began with visitor consultation during our Work in Progress exhibition. We displayed objects from our collection and asked visitors to vote for objects they would like us to include and to suggest objects we were missing. The most popular objects were our badges, followed by the It’s OK to be Gay! leaflet, which is now included in the updated display.

We also ran five consultation workshops with LGBT+ groups to help us with the project and trial the LGBT History Tour we were also developing. We particularly wanted to work with trans* groups as we had identified this as an area that was not represented at all in our collections, display or tour. The feedback from the workshops was invaluable in developing the tour and ensuring that our display and collections represents a range of LGBT+ voices.

We asked each group their opinions on the current display, what they would like to see, what objects from our collection we should include, what gaps are there in our collection, what we need to acquire to fill these gaps and if they are willing to help by donating objects.

The key responses were:

  • Current display case is not representative and needs improvement
  • Make clear the difference between sexual orientation and gender diversity
  • Include more examples of L, B & T
  • Include examples of non-binary gender
  • Include references to contemporary campaigns
  • Include legislation such as the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and 2010 Equalities Act
  • Liked structure of tour and how it contextualised history
  • Define language used
  • All groups wanted the case to be bigger (sadly impossible!)
  • Use flags to explain definitions of different groups
  • During the tours the groups contributed specific examples of LGBT History they thought we should include, which have now been incorporated into the tour.

The main challenge was to acquire objects representing bisexual and trans* experiences as these were absent from both our collections and displays. I made a short film about our LGBT collections to encourage donations, however the main source of objects was via the consultation workshops. One woman very generously donated her Gender Recognition Certificate and Action for Trans* Health suggested a list of objects that we could purchase cheaply via Etsy. I also attended a meeting of bisexual support group BiPhoria who also donated material.

In January 2015 I visited the April Ashley: Portrait of a Lady exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool and The Gang: Photographs by Catherine Opie at the Walker Art Gallery to investigate how other museums have displayed trans* experiences. Both were excellent examples of best practice, and I found the timeline of trans* history in the April Ashley exhibition particularly useful.

New LGBT+ rights section in Main Gallery Two

New LGBT+ rights section in Main Gallery Two

The final objects selected for display include badges representing the pride flags of bisexual, pansexual, asexual, intersex and trans* people, a non-binary gender patch and pronoun badges alongside leaflets, photographs and other objects from our collection displaying a broad range of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and other gender and sexuality issues. We hope that people will continue to donate their material, and that we continue to build on our LGBT+ collections.

New equality case

New equality case

A note on terminology

One of the most challenging decisions was our use of terminology, specifically the language we would use on the permanent text panel. From consultation and research we found that some people didn’t think that ‘LGBT’ was inclusive and we had alternative suggestions including ‘LGBTQ+ rights’ and ‘Gender and Sexuality rights’. We wanted to use a term that is simple for visitors to understand (including visitors who do not have English as a first language) and a term that will have longevity (because it’s unlikely we can replace the panel easily). I contacted representatives from the groups we had consulted with and organisations and individuals we had worked with on this part of the project. As expected, they offered a range of conflicting opinions, however it generated a very interesting debate. After considering all the responses, we decided on ‘LGBT+ Rights’ for the following reasons:

  • Throughout the development of the project we’ve referred to ‘LGBT’. This has mainly been because it’s the term that’s in common usage (eg LGBT History Month).
  • We want to be consistent with the terminology we’ve previously used, but also take into account that this term does not reflect all Gender and Sexual Minorities
  • We don’t want to exclude anyone, yet we didn’t want to confuse visitors with a long acronym
  • We’ve used the objects on display to explain different terms, and include a broad range of issues (in a very limited amount of space!).  It’s easier for us to change an object (or object label) than the permanent text panel, so it’s the term on there that needs to be the most ‘futureproof’.
  • Therefore ‘LGBT+’ seems to be the best compromise of inclusivity and understandability.

Whilst we understand that not everyone will be happy with this decision, we have clear reasons for it and have been honest and open about the process.

We’d like to thank University of Manchester LGBTQ Society, Action for Trans* Health, LGBT Youth North West, Transforum and Lancashire LGBT for their invaluable feedback, object suggestions and support.

Better together or going it alone? Scottish Referendum display at the PHM.


Today Scotland votes to decide on whether they will be an independent country.  Last year Harriet Richardson wrote this blog post about our collections related to this issue.  Please note that this was originally published on 19 September 2013.  You can see how our visitors voted here.

Yesterday marked one year to go until Scotland will vote to decide the future of their country…are they better staying within the UK or will they decide to become independent and go it alone? In honour of this momentous question, which will inevitably affect all living in the UK today and most people have an opinion on, we decided to search through our collections and review the history of this debate, while presenting material from both contemporary campaigns; Better Together and YES Scotland.

The first stop was our very own Archive and Study Centre to look at material surrounding the history of this story. Since the Act of Union in 1707, groups within Scotland have advocated for a separate Scottish Parliament, known as devolution, or complete independence from the United Kingdom. The first vote on devolution was held in 1979. Despite a majority of people voting ‘yes’ the act required 40% of all people in Scotland to do so, as this did not occur nothing changed. The second vote for devolution took place in 1997and this time Scotland did vote yes. Devolution brought a Scottish parliament with powers to legislate over health, education and housing, but not economic policy, defence or foreign affairs.

We were able to piece together pamphlets, leaflets and photographs from the archive and theIMG_2933 Working Class Movement Library and create a case which charted the long history which will result in the referendum next year.  My personal favourite is this photograph of a lady campaigning for a Scottish Assembly in 1987- she looks to be there for the long haul, despite the bad weather!

To bring the display right up to the present day, the very helpful people at both YES Scotland and Better Together sent us some campaign material including badges, posters, balloons, pens, leaflets and even a bottle opener/ key IMG_2927ring- always something to keep handy! These items were displayed in a separate case and the posters were stuck up on the wall bringing contemporary debate inside our museum setting.

The ‘Yes’ Scotland campaign argues that a future under a social union will result in a much more equal society, because Scotland will be able to prioritise on matters most important to them. While the ‘Better Together’ campaign argue that were Scotland to become independent the country would be worse off economically, politically and socially.

Unless you live in Scotland, you won’t get to vote in the 2014 referendum, although a ‘yes’ voteIMG_2923 would radically alter what it means to be British. We thought therefore that it would be a great idea to use one of our new perspex ballot boxes, and offer our visitors the chance to ‘play their part’ and cast their vote. Visitors are asked the question which will be used next year; ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ and are asked to tick a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ box. So far we have had loads of votes, and the display has only been up one day! We’ll tweet what the majority of our visitors have decided to vote for in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for our very own PHM poll.

Share your stories of Migration, Protest and Workers’ Rights

Sashwati Mira Sengupta & Jaydev MistryWe are delighted that we will be hosting the Microresidency of Sashwati Mira Sengupta and Jaydev Mistry at the People’s History Museum from Fri 25 July – Tues 29 July 2014 as part of our Work in Progress exhibition.  Sashwati and Jaydev will use their residency to focus on the migrant communities that have changed the course of UK workers’ rights.  They will explore the museum’s archives, creating an original music composition and visual piece on this theme.  Visitors will be encouraged to share their experiences of migration, protest and workers’ rights, which will be included in the composition.

If you have any stories, memories or experiences that you’d like to share then we’d love to hear them! Just pop in to the museum between Fri 25 July – Tues 29 July and share your story.  If you can’t make those dates and would like to contribute then get in touch with Catherine O’Donnell on 0161 838 9190 or

Can you help? Participants wanted for tuition fees documentary

A guest post today from a student looking for contributors for a documentary. Please get in touch directly with Miah if you can help. 

This is Miah Wang from Cardiff University, Journalism School. I am working on my documentary film about tuition fees increase and student loans across the UK and looking for my contributors. It is a good chance to be a character in a short documentary for you!


Basically, I am looking for my BRITISH contributors in the UK. They could be high school/ college students who are wavering about attending uni, current undergraduates who have student loans or complain about tuition fees, or professionals who attended uni and have student loans to pay/ did not go to uni/ do not think a degree is necessary and so on. I just would like to know how people think about higher education’s value these days and how student loans/ tuition fees increase affect people’s life.


If you are or know some one who are like above, please do not hesitate to contact me!


My email address is


Appreciate it! I am looking forward to listening to your stories!

New acquisition: Blackburn Youth Service girls’ group, International Women’s Day banner

International Women's Day banner 2 copyWe are delighted have been donated a beautiful new banner for our collection. The International Women’s Day banner was created in 1988 by Blackburn Youth Service girls’ group. Paula Kaniuk, who kindly donated the banner, explained that the unusual shape of the banner was inspired by the idea of the globe, with two women’s hands joining across the globe.

Banner maker Sarah Jay, from Action Factory Community Arts worked with a group of young women including young mothers, women excluded from school and sex workers to create the banner. It was made at the Trades’ Club in Blackburn, where Jack Straw’s office was. It was created as part of a political education programme to inspire the young women to be politicised and give them self confidence. The programme included other art and theatre projects and a trip to the Free Nelson Mandela concert.

The banner was taken out on the streets, with willows around it and a brass band playing. International Women's Day bannerIt then went on display in a youth club called the Fuse Box, which was an old electricity station. It was displayed until 2011 when the building was pulled down and came back to Paula.

Paula also donated a set of Target London photomontage posters by Peter Kennard, and a number of CND exhibition posters.

Paula donated the objects in response to our contemporary collecting campaign, and we are thrilled to have them in our collection.

PHM tour: the next few stops…

Our Play Your Part Assistant, Zofia, has been busy organising our next few stops on the PHM tour of AGMA. In this blog, she reveals where we’re off to next…

Play Your PartRegular readers of our blog will have seen that the People’s History Museum has been planning a tour and we are excited to announce our next stop… Rochdale! On Sat 8th February 2014 come and find us – rain or shine – at the bottom of Yorkshire Street in Rochdale between 10:30am and 12pm. We will be joining the Rochdale and Litttleborough Peace Group at their regular stall and want you to come and get involved in our exciting Play Your Part project.

Following this, join us in Oldham on Sat 8 March in the foyer of Gallery Oldham where we will be showcasing a few rarely seen items from our stores.

A key part of the project is to collect contemporary material from campaigns and demonstrations, so that visitors of the future can learn about what’s happening now.  This could be anything from posters, placards and banners to ticket stubs, badges or anything you feel represents involvement with your area!  So come along and join us to share your memories and experiences of campaigns and protests you have been involved in! These can be anything from living memory or something that happened today.

See you there!