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.


Ideas worth fighting for – Claire Curtin’s Microresidency

Claire CurtinDo you have an idea worth fighting for?

Do you want to spread the word creatively?

Claire Curtin is here to help!

Our second Microresidency starts on Saturday.  Claire Curtin will use her residency to make a series of protest works with our visitors, which will be paraded at the end of the residency in a public demonstration.  You can take part in the demo and highlight issues you’ve been fighting for, make placards and satirical collages, write letters and more…

Claire’s residency runs from Saturday 9 August – Friday 15 August.  Throughout the week you can pop into her studio and help her to create protest artworks, including placards, badges and letters. Claire will be holding two screenprinting workshops on Saturday 9 August and Thursday 14 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm.  Pop along for free family friendly fun!

The residency will culminate in a procession on Friday 15 August.  Bring a placard and meet at the PHM at 5.00pm.  We’ll march down to Lincoln Square at 5.15pm, where we’ll gather for our Democratic Demonstration, with speeches and music. Grab the megaphone and promote your idea worth fighting for! Everyone’s welcome, and please let us know that you’re coming by emailing or call 0161 838 9190.

It goes without saying that we won’t promote any ideas that are in any way offensive (eg racist, sexist, homophobic, etc).

Please note that Claire will be out of the studio on 10 & 11 August, but there’ll still be lots to do!

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!

What if… banners were never used as part of campaigns and demonstrations?

On Thursday 15 May, the PHM will explore alternative histories for Museums at Night. Join our hypothetical tour guides as they weave tall tales and ask you to imagine infinite possibilities of what might have been.  In a series of blog posts before the event we’ll be featuring questions so you can swot up on your hypothetical history and add your own alternatives.  On the night we’ll subvert our timeline with your suggestions. In this blog, our Director, Katy Archer asks What if… banners were never used as part of campaigns and demonstrations?

Liverpool Tinplate Workers' bannerOur museum is full of fantastic, beautiful and colourful banners. From the Liverpool Tinplate Workers banner from 1821 through to the Mansfield Labour Party Women’s Section in 1988, we are very proud and privileged to be the custodians of such an essential part of the history of the development of democracy in our country.

As the ‘home of ideas worth fighting for’ we showcase a wide range of campaigns from a wide range of organisations and groups who have fought for a cause… and who have all used banners as an effective tool and technique in their campaigns.

Our banners to me are works of art, they are full of meaning and messages. They show how people came together united by a common cause – and were, and still are, objects of great pride.

When you see each of our banners on display individually or collectively, they are not easily forgotten. They provide a lasting legacy (through the work of our amazing conservation team!) of the ideas that people have fought for… equality, democracy, peace, reform, co-operation and many more.

Banners on a marchAnd they’re still current and contemporary too – look at any images of footage of recent protests and marches and you’ll see great numbers of banners still being used today.

Brixton Bomb banner by Ed HallAnd they are still being made today as well – our recent exhibition with Ed Hall displaying the work of a contemporary banner maker still using the traditional tool and technique to give voice to current campaigns.

  • But what if… banners had never been part of the campaigning tradition?
  • Or what if… the tradition died out years ago to be replaced by digital alternatives with no ‘real’ substance?
  • What if… none of the banners in our collection had survived to be seen by our visitors today?
  • How would we know and see what people have fought for and still fight for today?
  • How would people today be connected to past campaigns in a way that creates such an emotional response? And which moves people to fight for something that they believe in today?
  • What else would have had such dramatic impact?
    • Mascots? Cheerleaders? Dancing Elephants?

Add your answers below and come along to our Museums at Night: What if…? event on Thursday 15 May, 5.00pm – 8.00pm to see our beautiful banners for yourself and have your say about what if… they never existed!?


Why Bureaucracy Broke our Hearts on 14 February 2014

Guest blog by Ian Morgan (Manchester Centre President of the Association of Revenue & Customs)

Hello – I’m Ian and I’m a committed trade union campaigner.  The members of my union (Association of Revenue & Customs or “ARC”) are all senior professionals working in HM Revenue & Customs.  We’re not faceless bureaucrats but real people striving every day to secure the funds which build schools, hospitals, libraries and playgrounds.  Our work knits the social fabric of the UK and delivers for the nation.

#ARC14FebOn February 14 2014, with sterling support from our sister unions, we took our first independent strike action against HMRC in an effort to do our jobs free from the tangle of bureaucracy.  Our dispute stemmed from the Civil Service Reform plan, specifically our new performance appraisal system, and review of our employee terms and conditions.  Both elements were imposed by our employer, refusing arbitration by ACAS, and despite our serious concerns about issues like:

  • link to pay and dismissal
  • no independent appeal process
  • cost and level of bureaucracy when resources are limited
  • greater risk for staff with protected characteristics
  • longer working hours in London, and less sick pay and annual leave nationally, for all new staff and (bizarrely) when existing staff are promoted.

Just under 2300 eligible ARC members were balloted between Dec 2013 -Jan 2014, commanding a respectable turnout of 48%.  This reflected a comprehensive campaign by trade union activists, both nationally and at local branch level.  Of those members exercising their ballot vote, 58% were in favour of strike action and 78% voted for work to rule.

#ARC14Feb 2ARC chose February 14 to launch our strike action, with a strong “broken heart” theme branded across placards, stickers and Valentine’s Day postcards.  They illustrated our sadness and frustration, not just that the new systems are unfair and unjustified for HMRC employees, but because they are also a massive distraction from our work in closing the UK tax gap and helping defeat the deficit – so vital to the UK in these times of austerity.  Last year we delivered an extra £20.7 billion into Exchequer coffers, enough to fund the cost of primary healthcare for the whole of the UK, and the lion’s share of that came from ARC members.  That’s why we think we deserve a fair performance system and a fair deal.

Like our fellow members throughout the UK, on February 14s Day of action.  ARC received some fantastic coverage in the national press, including sympathetic articles in tax publications, and members of the public up and down the country stopped to chat with the pickets or went on their way sporting our broken heart stickers!

Many more ARC members supported the strike quietly at home or with their families.  Each and every one of them were stars – we all know that industrial action is never easy but is proof positive of our commitment, both to our union and to our duties as public servants.  As a union we are small in number, but we do have a voice and hopefully a strong one.

The Manchester picketers were pleased to reconvene later in the day on 14 February in the much warmer surroundings of the Left Bank cafe bar at the People’s History Museum, always our preferred planning HQ.  Our Twitter photo was taken on its doorstep and I’m now proud to post my guest blog here, as a more detailed record of our campaign.  I hope that readers agree it connects with the museum’s story of ideas worth fighting for, during its Play Your Part project.

Protests on our doorstep: No Bedroom Tax

Today a group of campaigners gathered outside Manchester Civil Justice Centre to protest against the Bedroom Tax.  According to their flyer, ‘over 15,429 households in Manchester are worse off under the Bedroom Tax regime – around 43% of social tenants… We can’t let this carry on! Even if we’re not being hit by the Bedroom Tax, our community is!’No Bedroom Tax protest

We went over to say hello, took some snaps of the protest and asked the group if they’d like to donate any of their placards to the museum’s collection so that future generations would have a record of their campaign.  After the protest, they popped in for a brew and very kindly donated three placards to the PHM.No Bedroom Tax placards

Our Play Your Part project aims to make the museum more relevant to today’s audiences, by responding to current events, linking them to campaigns of the past, with the hope of inspiring activists of the future.  A key part of the project is to collect contemporary material, so that visitors of the future can learn about what was happening now.  The museum is keen to collect objects from campaigns and demonstrations within living memory.  This could be anything from posters, placards and banners to ticket stubs, badges and anything else! 

We’re specifically looking at getting our extensive Peace Collection up to date.  If you would like any further information or have any objects that you’d like to donate to the museum then please get in touch with Catherine O’Donnell on 0161 838 9190 or email

A Peaceful season…

On Tuesday 10 December a group of peace activists gathered at the People’s History Museum.  They worked with artist David Perkins to explore our peace collections and create the installation Another gentle season.  You can find out more about the installation on our website, and view images of the workshop on our flickr site.

This guest post by volunteer Katy Haldenby explains why we wanted to focus on our peace collections for this latest Play Your Part pop up.

Recently, an article looking at the lenient sentencing of a group of six anti-drone protestors came to our attention. The article has strong ties between both our collection and the Snapshot on Greenham Common which ran in our Archive and Study Centre on Monday 2 December. The article described how protestors, made up from the activist groups Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Drone Campaign Network and War on Want, broke into RAF Waddington in June of this year and walked around for close to an hour distributing leaflets and planting a peace garden. RAF Waddington is the first unmanned drones base in the United Kingdom. Reaper aircrafts, stationed in Afghanistan are operated from this base. Such aircrafts carry laser guided bombs and missiles. The group of six individuals protesting against these Womens section004drones were fined just £100 for various damage and compensation costs, which a member of the protest group, Anglican Pastor Keith Hebden, saw as an encouragement for others to carry out similar anti-drone activism. The judge issuing the fine commended the individuals on being ‘dutiful people’ and made note of his ‘heavy heart’ as he declared the sentence.

In Main Gallery Two, there is an area devoted to groups that have in the past protested against war, in favour of peace. Our photograph collection also documents a variety of such group demonstrations. This image from our collection is of a CND March from 26 October 1980.

In Main Gallery Two we have many campaign posters such as this, again produced by the CND in the 1980s, protesting IMG_4617for Jobs Not Bombs and emphasising the international nature of the peace movement.

In this same gallery there are also posters from another group connected to the RAF Waddington anti-drone protest, IMG_4618Stop the War Coalition. This Troops Out poster was produced to oppose Britain and the United States’ War on Terror in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This poster was tied to railings opposite Downing Street on 27 June 2007 when Tony Blair left office.

Further information on the groups whose members were involved in the RAF Waddington anti-drone protest:

–          Stop the War Coalition

Stop the War Coalition was founded in September 2001, shortly after 9/11 when George W Bush announced the War on Terror. Since this time the group has been set on ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, bringing troops home and forcing the British Government to change foreign policies. The group have initiated many campaigns around these issues and are committed to opposing sanctions and military attacks on Iran, supporting Palestinian rights, opposing racism and defending civil liberties. Stop the War Coalition has organised around 40 national demonstrations. (

–          CND

CND campaigns non-violently to achieve British nuclear disarmament and to rid the world of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The group are also working to secure an International Nuclear Weapons Convention, which will ban nuclear weapons globally. CND’s other campaigns include opposition to NATO and its nuclear policies, and the prevention and cessation of wars in which nuclear weapons may be used. (

–          The Drone Campaign Network

The Drone Campaign Network is a UK based network of organisations, academics and individuals working together to share information and coordinate collective action in relation to military drones. (

–          War on Want

War on Want fight poverty in developing countries in partnership with people affected by globalisation. The group campaign for human rights and against the root causes of global poverty, inequality and injustice. War on Want work with groups from around the world who are fighting for change. (


Do you agree with the lenient sentencing of this protest group? Do you think, like Anglican Pastor Keith Hebden that this sentence will encourage others to carry out similar demonstrations?

If you would like to find out more about our peace collections, or see our new temporary installation which was inspired by the museum’s Peace collection and called Another gentle season, have a break from your Christmas shopping and pop in to the museum!