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.

Election! Britain Votes: Results round one

Work experience student Sylvie Copley has analysed the first wave of responses to questions asked in our current changing exhibition Election! Britain Votes. 

Election_Lock-UpElection! Britain Votes opened on Saturday. As well finding out more about how elections work, visitors can share their opinion on our electoral system. We’ve already had 116 responses to our ballot paper questions.

  1. Would having an elected House of Lords make our democracy more representative, and therefore fairer?
  2. – 84% Yes and 16% No.
  3. In order to increase the number of female MPs should parties have to meet quotas for female candidates?
  4. – 52% Yes and 48% No.
  5. Should we lower the voting age to 16 years old?
  6. – 48% Yes and 52% No.
  7. Should we allow prisoners to vote?
  8. – 32% Yes, 30% Yes, but only some, dependent on their crime and 38% No.
  9. Should the UK adopt a different voting system?
  10. – 50% Yes, proportional representation, 23% Yes, alternative voting and 27% No, keep first past the post.
  11. Should the queen still play a part in the political process?
  12. – 39% Yes and 61% No.

ImageSome visitors gave a dissenting opinion on the ballot papers such as ‘This is a protest vote, it’s all a load of rubbish’. One conspiracy theorist even went as far as saying the government are ‘trying to reduce population by poisoning us e.g. cancer.’

Others gave responses for their votes. ‘It’s patronising’ one respondent said, ‘to suggest women can only win if male competition is removed.’ Although as shown above, the rest of the voters did not see this as clear cut. The most surprising response was the majority vote opting for proportional representation instead of our current system – even though in 2010 when a referendum was held, the nation declined the change.

Come and have your say. Election! Britain Votes is on display until the 28 June 2015.

‘Let’s stay on the road to a stronger economy’…and other slogans that are too long

It’s here. The election campaign has arrived proper. Arriving at my desk this morning following the festive fun, all prepared to begin the finishing touches on our next exhibition – Election! Britain Votes – the political parties have this weekend launched their campaigns. And the parties’ weapon of choice to begin the battle is the poster, an object central to electioneering in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. Let's Stay on the Road to a Stronger EconomyDespite the poster’s venerable traditions commentators have been pretty scathing of the two most recent examples. The Independent’s Zachary Davies Boren thought the Tory’s ‘Let’s stay on the road to a stronger economy’, ‘about as poor a start to a general election campaign as you can get’. Labour’s ‘The Tories want to cut spending on public service back to the levels of the 1930s, when there was no NHS’ which used a five year old image of David Cameron ‘not much better’. The road on the Conservative example is apparently German, generating significant complaints, one wonders who really cares. The trope of drawing the eye to a brighter future somewhere over the horizon is pretty common in the election imagery of both left and right. More usually a rising sun is involved. Useful are suns in campaigning, the recognisable image of a new dawn. A 1929 Labour Greet the Dawnexample on our galleries shows a family staring towards the horizon and a brighter future. From my point of view it’s not that the road pictured is German, or that Labour used an image from 5 years ago. It’s that the slogans of both are so long and so clunky. Even in 1970 people who devised slogans had to justify if they moved beyond a few words. Here in the archives at PHM we have material relating to the production of Labour posters from the 1970 General Election. Then Labour’s advertising devised the slogan ‘Now Britain’s strong let’s make it great to live in’ When it comes down to it aren’t Labour’s ideals yours as well? The advertising executives stated that the party should not be afraid of long slogans. After all, they were ‘asking people to think about things’. People need to think but surely they also need to remember? The Conservatives 1979 ‘Labour isn’t working’ or Labour’s ‘Because Britain Deserves Better’ from 1997 live longer in the memory than the current efforts. However, my view doesn’t really matter. When Election! opens on the 14 February there will be a section of the gallery dedicated to the 2015 campaign. Ever changing, it will reflect what the parties say and what the visitor thinks. Before that we’ve put up ‘Let’s stay on the road to a stronger economy’ in the museum to see what people think – it’s a PHM focus group. And we’ll report back any thought- provoking comments. Election! Britain Votes opens on the 14 February 2015.

People Make Their Own History

The museum is delighted to be hosting more WEA courses in the spring of 2015. You can find out more about the People Make Their Own History course, in this guest blog from WEA tutor Mark Krantz, who is leading the course.

Peterloo image from Ed Hall RMT banner exhibited at PHMHalf the population of Manchester took to the streets in August 1819. They were joined by protesters from the towns of Oldham, Middleton, Stockport and beyond. Sixty thousand people came to hear the greatest ‘orator’ in the land, Henry Hunt.

Their demands were that towns like Manchester should have a representative in parliament – and that working people should have the vote. They were brutally attacked. Peaceful protesters were cut down by the Yeomanry Guard, armed with sharpened sabres. 18 were killed and over six hundred injured. What became known across the world as the Peterloo Massacre was the first protest movement, the dawn of the working class movement. Those that marched that day ‘made their own history’.Henry Hunt jug displayed at  PHM gallery

Protesters today stand in a long tradition of struggle that started at Peterloo.

The ten week course People Make Their Own History is a learning experience from Workers’ Educational Association in association with the People’s History Museum. Actors perform as Living History characters in the PHM galleries to bring people like the Chartist William Cuffay and the Suffragette Hannah Mitchell to life.

Examine the archives at the PHM  (2)Visits to the Labour History Archive & Study Centre enable students to examine original documents and artefacts. We will cover Peterloo and the Chartists; the struggles over jobs, against Fascism, and for access the countryside in the 1930s; fighting Section 28 and for LGBT rights in the 1980s; to Stop the War, and the struggle against the Bedroom Tax today. You can find more details about the WEA course on the People’s History Museum’s website. To enrol go to the WEA website. This course runs for ten weeks, starting Thursday 15 January 2015, 1.00pm – 3.00pm.Print

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 catherine.odonnell@phm.org.uk 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!

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 catherine.odonnell@phm.org.uk.

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 wyuan2013@gmail.com

 

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