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.


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


Who are your LGBT+ activist heroes and heroines?

A guest blog by Community Curator, Jenny White

Picture blog post 1

I’m one of 11 volunteer Community Curators helping to create a fabulous new exhibition at People’s History Museum exploring the fight for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people. Never Going Underground will run from February to August 2017 alongside a programme of workshops, talks and family friendly events.

  • What is ‘LGBT+ activism’?
  • Who are your LGBT+ activist heroes and heroines?
  • Who are the people and organisations which have helped shaped LGBT+ equality?
  • What are the events which marked a turning point in the fight for LGBT+ rights?
  • What are the current issues still to fight for – how far do we still have to go?

We’ve been pondering these questions and more as we start planning for the exhibition. We’d love your input and ideas and we’ll be delivering a number of community workshops over the next few months to help shape the exhibition contents.

The scope of the Never Going Underground exhibition is huge, and it’s great to be involved in this project to tell this remarkable story.

LGBT+ rights have come a long way in a relatively short time. We’ve gone from Radclyffe Hall’s plea for acceptance of ‘inverts’ in her 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness, to Prince William offering a royal seal of approval to LGBT people on the cover of this month’s Attitude magazine; from lesbians denied custody of their children to full adoption rights; from police arrests for cottaging and raids on gay book stores to two policemen proposing to their partners during the 2016 London Pride parade.

The fight for LGBT+ rights has included political goals – changing laws and policies – as well as cultural goals – challenging society’s views on LGBT+ people and gaining wider community acceptance. Activism has taken many forms: from the direct action of the Gay Liberation Front and Outrage!, to the lobbying tactics of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and Stonewall, to Boy George’s No Clause 28 single and Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company shows.

There’s also inter-LGBT+ community activism – there are issues with racism, transphobia, different approaches to what Pride events should be about.

Then there are so many issues still to be tackled: marriage equality in Northern Ireland; recognition of non-binary people; self-declaration of gender; and the 75+ countries which currently outlaw homosexuality to name but a few.

Picture 2 blog post 1

We’d love to hear any suggestions on what we should include in the exhibition. Also if you have banners, badges, papers stories relating to the fight for LGBT+ equality that you would be willing to share, then please do get in touch by emailing For twitter users our project hashtag is #NGU2017

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.

Black Radical Hero: Viv Anderson

For Black History Month this October our Black Radicals Season will celebrate the lives of some of our 100 Radical Heroes, the men and women who believed in ideas worth fighting for.  They dared to challenge convention and believed in the spirit of fairness, co-operation and people power.  They were pioneers who changed history and made life better for ordinary working people. This series of blog posts will highlight their achievements.  We also invite you to nominate your own Black Radical Hero to add to our list.  Tweet us @PHMMcr using the hashtag #blackradicalhero.

Rebecca Lomas concludes the series with Viv Anderson.

15 October 2015, Radical Hero An Audience with Viv Anderson @ People's History MuseumViv Anderson, the first black footballer to play for England, was born in Nottingham in 1956. He made his debut for England in a match against Czechoslovakia, which England won 1-0, aged 22 in 1978, and his shirt from that historic match was loaned to the museum, where it was displayed in our main galleries, in 2011. This was the first of a total of 30 caps for England, the final being during a 1-1 draw against Columbia in 1988. He played for Nottingham Forest, Arsenal, Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday during his football career, being Alex Ferguson’s first signing for Manchester United in 1987. He also managed Barnsley and assistant managed Middlesbrough.

Racism has been a problem in football that was around during Anderson’s career and has continued until the present day, for example during a 2012 match played by the England under-21s in Serbia, when racist abuse was shouted. Anderson has described the shirt worn during his first match for England as a symbol of ‘how people in general were starting to react to black workers and footballers succeeding right across the community at a time of a big cultural shift.’ Speaking of his own experience of racism at an event at the museum on 15 October 2015, Anderson described his determination to succeed, stating “I thought whatever it takes, I am not going to let these people dictate to me.”  Though progress has been made for black footballers, the 2012 incident shows that more is needed.

Anderson has recently talked of the need for more black football managers, “There’s lots of black kids up and down this country playing football – and they need to see role models that not just play football, but that they can go on to managerial roles and become successful managers.”  Speaking at the museum, Anderson said that this was down to a “perception that they (people of colour) are very good players but not good managers” pointing out that there have been less that 10 black managers in the past 15-20 years. Anderson was the second of these and in our eyes this is one of the reasons he is a role model to many and this is one of the reasons he is one of our radical heroes.

Black Radical Hero: Jayaben Desai

For Black History Month this October our Black Radicals Season will celebrate the lives of some of our 100 Radical Heroes, the men and women who believed in ideas worth fighting for.  They dared to challenge convention and believed in the spirit of fairness, co-operation and people power.  They were pioneers who changed history and made life better for ordinary working people. This series of blog posts will highlight their achievements.  We also invite you to nominate your own Black Radical Hero to add to our list.  Tweet us @PHMMcr using the hashtag #blackradicalhero.

Caitlin LaPorte continues with strike leader Jayaben Desai

NMLH.2001.12(low)Jayaben Desai was the leader behind the Grunwick Dispute that took place in London from 1976 to 1978. Originally from India, Desai had moved to Britain in 1967 with her husband and children. Desai was a low paid worker, first as a sewing machinist and then as a film processor at Grunwick Factory. Working conditions within the company were less than desirable, and eventually caused Desai to become the driving force behind a strike that consisted of mainly female employees of an ethnic minority.

The strikers were protesting pay inequality and the institutionalised racism that was experienced in the factory. There was also the hope of being recognised as a unionised workforce by the managers at the factory. Unfortunately, despite receiving a large amount of support, this did not happen and the strikers were not reinstated.

The Grunwick dispute did however, result in an increased respect for female, immigrant workers. This would not have been possible without the courageous and determined Desai as leader. Jayaben Desai inspired the actions that resulted in the largest support for fewer than 200 strikers in British labour movement history.

1992.791People’s History Museum is in possession of several items from during the time of the Grunwick Dispute. One particularly significant item is a poster that was hand printed for the Grunwick Strike Committee campaign. The poster is one of only two or three thousand made and features not only the faces of several of the strikers, but of Jayaben Desai as well.

Black Radicals Events

29 October 2015, Living History - No Bed of Roses @ People's History MuseumThurs 29 October
Living History performance: No Bed of Roses – From the Caribbean to Manchester
Meet Gabrielle and help with her life-changing decision to move from the Caribbean to Manchester in the 1950s.  To celebrate Black History Month.
Family Friendly activity, suitable for over 7s to adults
Booking required via Eventbrite
In order to keep our events programme affordable to everyone, please make a donation.  Suggested donation £3
1.15pm – 2.00pm