Protest Stickers: Egham 2

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Protest stickers at the main entrance to Royal Holloway, University of London (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 16/11/16).

Around the time I was putting together the first Protest Stickers: Egham blog post, person or persons unknown went on a protest stickering spree on and around the Royal Holloway campus. I can’t know for certain that they were all put up at the same time by the same person (or people), but I suspect that they were. The next time I was back on campus two weeks later, quite a few had been peeled or scratched off, so I think that I just happened to be at Royal Holloway just after they were all put up. All of the photos in this post were taken on one of these two days, the 16th and the 30th of November.  Most of the stickers were anti-fascist, which is a very common topic for protest stickers, and also another reason why I think that they were all put up at the same time.

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This is the only sticker that explicitly mentions a campaign group. Anti-fascist groups often put up stickers when they travel to other places, and it appears that the London Anti-Fascists  are no exception (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Harvest Road, 16/11/16).

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I like the powerful visual imagery of this sticker, which I found at the traffic lights at the top of Egham Hill, close to the Royal Holloway campus (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Egham Hill, 30/11/16).

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This sticker uses the same image as the last one, but the wording is slightly different (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Harvest Road, 16/11/16).

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My Dad is not a big fan of board games, and whenever we force him to play Monopoly he always sabotages the game by adopting this approach, and refusing to buy anything. I’m pretty certain this sticker isn’t referring to my Dad’s Monopoly style though (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Royal Holloway Campus, 16/11/16).

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This sticker was located at the main entrance to Royal Holloway, making its message all the more meaningful. Someone took exception to it however, as when I went back two weeks later it had been completely removed (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Royal Holloway Campus, 16/11/16 and 30/11/16).

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This sticker was on the other side of Royal Holloway’s main entrance. It was also removed by the time I went back, but not quite as effectively. I wonder if it was the same person who scratched both of them off (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Royal Holloway Campus, 16/11/16 and 30/11/16).

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This sticker is also at the traffic lights at the top of Egham Hill. It has also been scratched away, but because of its location nest to a pedestrian crossing, I am inclined to suspect it was more to do with boredom whilst waiting for the lights to change than a strong opposition to the sticker’s message (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Egham Hill, 30/11/6).

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This is the same sticker, on the road between the traffic lights and Englefield Green, a village even smaller than Egham. It has not been defaced, so the sticker’s message is clear (Photo: Hannah Awcock, St. Jude Road’s, 30/11/16).

 

On This Day: The Coldbath Fields Riots, 13th May 1833

In a previous On This Day post, I wrote about the death of PC Keith Blakelock in the Broadwater Farm Riots in 1985. He was the first police officer to be killed in a British riot since 1833. The officer killed in 1833 was PC Robert Culley, who was stabbed in the chest during the Coldbath Field Riots over 150 years before. The response of the public to the two deaths was vastly different, demonstrating just how much the Metropolitan Police’s reputation with Londoners has improved since its foundation in 1829.

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A poster advertising the protest that would become the Coldbath Fields Riots.

The Coldbath Fields Riots on the 13th of May 1833 was the first major clash between radicals and the young Metropolitan Police. The National Union of the Working Classes (NUWC) organised a demonstration in Coldbath Fields against the 1832 Reform Act. The Reform Act increased the number of men allowed to vote, but only by a small amount, and it didn’t go far enough for the NUWC. The Home Secretary, Lord Melbourne, declared the meeting illegal, but it went ahead anyway. On the afternoon of the 13th of May a large crowd had gathered, listening to speeches given from the back of open wagons.

After a while, a large detachment of police arrived and began to clear the crowd. The high number of police officers raised tensions, leading to shouted insults. The police trapped some of the protesters in nearby Calthorpe Street, who then attempted to fight their way out. In the ensuing chaos, three police officers were stabbed; Sergeant John Brooks, PC Henry Redwood and PC Robert Culley. Brooks and Redwood both survived, but Culley only made it to the nearby Calthorpe Arms before he died.

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An engraving of the Coldbath Field Riots by J. Prater (Sources: Mary Evans Picture Library).

Robert Culley was one of the first men to join the Metropolitan Police, aged 23, when it was founded. Although the murderer wasn’t caught, the inquest into Culley’s death began two days later, in an upstairs room of the same pub where he died. The 17 men of the jury returned a verdict of Justifiable Homicide, arguing that the police had provoked the crowd with their violent approach to policing the protest. The men of the jury were local shopkeepers and householders, not radicals, and their verdict reflected the extensive mistrust and disregard that most Londoners felt for the Metropolitan Police at the time. Many resented the state intervention that the new force represented, and the jury became local heroes. The following month, a riverboat trip was arranged for them and their families to Twickenham, and crowds lined the river to cheer them on, despite heavy rain. In a similar way, George Fursey, the man who stabbed the other two police officers, was acquitted in his trial at the Old Bailey in July.

The public outcry and widespread condemnation after the death of PC Blakelock during the Broadwater Farm Riots could hardly seem more different to the reaction to the death of PC Culley 150 years before. The Metropolitan Police is not universally liked today, but it is hard to imagine the death of an officer during a protest receiving such a callous response. For better or worse, the police force has become part of the fabric of modern London in a way that might surprise an onlooker from the early nineteenth-century.

Sources and Further Reading

Moult, Tom. “The Metropolitan Police in Nineteenth-Century London: A Brief Introduction.” New Histories 3, no. 5 (2012). Available at  http://newhistories.group.shef.ac.uk/wordpress/wordpress/the-metropolitan-police-in-nineteenth-century-london-a-brief-introduction/

Rowland, David. “The Murder of Police Constable Robert Culley.” Old Police Cells Museum. Last modified 18th October 2015, accessed 28 April 2017. Available at  http://www.oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk/page/the_murder_of_police_constable_robert_culley

Webb, Simon. Bombers, Rioters and Police Killers: Violent Crime and Disorder in Victorian Britain. Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2015. 

London’s Protest Stickers: Anti-Fascism 2, History and Geography

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An anti-fascist sticker in front of the Cable Street mural (Photo: Hannah Awcock, St. George’s Gardens, 09/10/16).

Apart from anarchists, anti-fascist groups may be the most prolific sticker-ers that I have ever come across. So much so that they’ve provided me with enough material for a second blog post (the first post can be found here). In this post, I am focusing on the ways in which anti-fascist groups interact with, and make use of, history and geography. For many activists and social movements, the memory of past protests and events is an important source of inspiration and morale. This process is demonstrated by stickers that refer to significant moments in the history of anti-fascism. Geography also seems to be significant to anti-fascists, as many stickers refer to particular locations or local groups. It seems like anti-fascists might be as pre-occupied by time and space as geographers are!

The location of all the stickers featured in this post and others are marked here, on the Turbulent London Map.

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Based on the background of this sticker, I assume it is referring to the holocaust, a powerful reminder of the atrocious acts committed because of fascism. This sticker is one of those that appeared on Cable Street around the 80th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Cable Street, a significant moment in anti-fascist history (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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This sticker directly refers to the Battle of Cable Street, making a connection between past anti-fascist movements and present ones. I found this sticker in Cable Street itself, so the connection between past and present is even stronger (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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Using the same text and layout as the sticker above connects the Battle of Lewisham into this narrative of anti-fascism in London. On the 13th of August 1977, a National Front march in East London was met by counter-demonstrations, leading to violent clashes between the two groups and the police. There are striking similarities with the Battle of Cable Street (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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This sticker is also using the past to inspire modern-day anti-fascism, this time the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The Polish resistance timed the uprising in occupied Warsaw to coincide with the advance of the Soviet Army, but the Russians halted their advance, leaving the resistance to face the German Army alone. They held out for 63 days before they were defeated (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Cable Street, 09/10/16).

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This sticker is not making a direct connection between past and present ant-fascism, but it is referring to a victory in anti-fascist history. In July 1936 a military coup in Barcelona was thwarted by forces loyal to the government and members of an anarchist union. It was one of the events that contributed to the start of the Spanish Civil War (Photo: Hannah Awcock, New Cross Road, 20/03/16).

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If history is important to anti-fascists, then so is geography. Anti-fascist groups often make stickers with their name and location on, placing them in their local area and when they travel to different towns and cities. This sticker was put up by the London Anti-fascists on their home turf, Euston Road (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 03/09/15).

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I found this sticker, produced by the Merseyside Anti-Fascist Network, in front of the Cable Street Mural after the 80th anniversary march of the Battle of Cable Street. I suspect that someone from the Network came to London for the anniversary, but didn’t want to leave without leaving their mark (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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Some anti-fascist groups come from even further afield. This sticker is produced by the 161 Crew, a Polish group (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Elephant and Castle, 15/07/16).

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Most anti-fascist groups have a location, but the No-Fixed Abode Anti-Fascists are unusual. They are a group of squatters, travellers, and homeless people, focusing particularly on bailiffs (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Tavistock Square, 09/02/16).

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Anti-fascist groups can sometimes be quite territorial, using stickers to declare certain areas ‘Anti-fascist zones’ or simply by making their presence known, as in this sticker (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 12/03/15).

 

Book Review: The English Rebel- One Thousand Years of Trouble-making from the Normans to the Nineties

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The English Rebel by David Horspool.

David Horspool. The English Rebel: One Thousand Years of Trouble-making from the Normans to the Nineties. London: Penguin, 2010. RRP £12.99 paperback.

I have read several books about the history of protest in London, but I recently realised that I haven’t read much about the national history of protest. The English Rebel: One Thousand Years of Trouble-making from the Normans to the Nineties is a good place to start for anyone interested in how dissent has shaped the history of England. It is well-written, well-paced, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

David Horspool sets out to disprove the stereotype that the English are peaceful and submissive by demonstrating that “from Cornwall to Norfolk, from Sussex to Northumbria, England is crisscrossed with the ghosts of rebels marching, meeting, and fighting” (p xvi). The book is arranged chronologically, starting with opposition to the Norman invasion in 1066. Contrary to popular belief, the English did not just roll over and submit after the Battle of Hastings. Horspool then traces the history of rebellion in England featuring well known examples, such as the Peasant’s Revolt (1381) and the English Civil Wars (1642-51), as well as more obscure events, such as the Revolt of the Earls in 1075 and an uprising in Norfolk led by Robert Kett in 1549. I don’t pretend to know everything about the history of protest (far from it!), but I have been studying it for more than four years now, and there was quite a bit in there that was new to me.

The English rebel may only rarely be a triumphant or even a particularly likeable character. But he and she are as much a part of the fabric of English history as the monarchs, law-makers and political leaders they defied. They serve as inspiration, as warning, and sometimes simply as example.

Horspool, 2010; p. xxiii

In his Introduction, Horspool is very clear about the parameters of The English Rebel. He defines a rebel as a political opponent who risks their life or their liberty. Their opposition does not have to be aimed at government or the state, nor does it have to be violent or left-wing. The decision to focus only on England was also a deliberate one; Horspool argued that rebellions in a British or imperial context tend to have different objectives from English ones. It can be easy to criticise a project for leaving things out (I see it quite often in academia), and by explaining his decisions about what to include, Horspool fends off such criticism before its even made.

Rebels are drawn towards centres of power so the content of the book is inevitably skewed towards London and the south east, but Horspool does his best to balance it out. My biggest complaint about The English Rebel is a pet hate of mine–putting all the images together in the middle, then not mentioning them in the main text, so they feel rather detached and unnecessary. This is only a minor gripe however.

The English Rebel is an engaging read, which I would highly recommend for those with a general interest in history, as well as those with a more specific interest in protest and dissent. Horspool makes a convincing case that the English are much more rebellious than the stereotypes make out. I’ve always seen myself as British rather than English, but I feel just a bit more proud of my Anglo-Saxon heritage after reading The English Rebel.

How to Write a Good PhD Introduction: Collected Resources

I recently collected together all the help I found and advice I was given for writing my thesis conclusion, so I thought I would do the same for the Introduction. Below is a list of all the blog posts I found helpful, but if you were only going to take on one bit of advice I would say make it this: Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write your introduction. It may be the shortest chapter in your thesis, but it isn’t easy and it’s important to get it right- first impressions matter! With that in mind, below are the links to some blog posts I found useful:

PhD Life: Your Thesis Introduction. This blog about doing a PhD is run by the Research Exchange at the University of Warwick. This blog post has some very helpful ideas about things you can do to get started on your introduction, and it makes the whole thing feel a bit less intimidating.

Explorations of Style: Introductions  is a general post about how to write and structure introductions. Structuring a Thesis Introduction applies these principles specifically to writing up a PhD, which is a very particular form of writing. Explorations of Style is written by Rachael Cayley, an associate professor in the school of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto.

Patter: The Thesis Introduction. I found this blog post helpful for explaining why my research matters, something I have been grappling with for quite a while!

James Hayton PhD: Leaving Your Thesis Introduction Until Last? It Could Be A Mistake… I found this post a little bit to late to follow Hayton’s main piece of advice- I had written everything else by the time I started to think seriously about my introduction. It might not be too late for you though!

Doctoral Writing SIG: How Long is a Thesis Introduction? Changing Thesis Structures. This post considers the importance of following accepted guidelines when it comes to writing a thesis introduction. Every thesis is different, but it can be a risk stepping too far outside of what is considered normal.

We Are The Lions Exhibition, Willesden Library

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The ‘We are the Lions’ Exhibition was at the Willesden Library in Brent from the 19th October 2016 until the 26th March 2017 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The 20th of August 2016 marked the 40th anniversary of the start of the Grunwick strike, a 2-year dispute that was an important turning point in the history of trade unions and solidarity. Workers at the Grunwick photograph processing factory in Willesden, northwest London, walked out after an employee was fired for working too slowly. To celebrate the anniversary, a group called Grunwick 40 organised an exhibition about the strike at Willesden Library in Brent, which ran from the 19th October 2016, to the 26th March 2017. The exhibition was called ‘We are the Lions,’ taken from a quote by Jayaben Desai, one of the leaders of the strike. I finally managed to visit the exhibition in its last week, and I’m really glad I made the effort.

The exhibition was well balanced; it mentioned that Jayaben Desai was a leader of the strike, but didn’t devote too much attention to her. In fact, it didn’t spend much time on the leaders of the strike at all, which I thought was good; it is very easy to get distracted by charismatic leaders. Instead, the exhibition focuses on trade union politics and solidarity, detailing how the strikers won solidarity from a wide spectrum of workers. The factory owners refused to back down, however, and as the dispute dragged on the strikers were abandoned by union leaders, a sadly familiar story. The strike eventually failed, but it remained significant because it was the first time that migrant workers received widespread solidarity from British workers.

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A banner designed by Jayandi and painted with Vipin Magdani for the Grunwick strikers in 1976 (Photo: People’s History Museum).

The exhibition draws aesthetic inspiration from a distinctive banner produced for the strikers in 1976. It is owned by the People’s History Museum in Manchester, but it took centre stage at this exhibition. It was also part of the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the V&A museum in late 2014 and early 2015, so it might be familiar to some. There weren’t many objects in the exhibition; images of people, events, and texts were relied on heavily to illustrate the narrative. You do tend to expect objects when you visit a museum, but I realised that protests don’t often leave a lot of things behind, and what there is (banners, placards,clothing, flyers etc.) is ephemeral, and not intended to be kept or preserved. This must present a challenge for museums wanting to represent dissent.

The exhibition was firmly grounded in the local community, past, present, and future. There was a case of items putting the strike into the context of other radical events in Willesden’s history. There was a series of events associated with the exhibition, and its location in the local library made it quite accessible, although there are no guarantees that visitors to the library also went to the exhibition. There are also plans to produce a mural commemorating the strike, which will serve as a lasting legacy, long after the exhibition has been deconstructed.

Unfortunately, this post comes too late for me to encourage you to visit the exhibition. What I can do is congratulate the organisers for putting together such a brilliant exhibition. The Grunwick Strike was a key moment in the history of trade unions and solidarity. It often feels to me that solidarity is not something that we do so well anymore in modern society. We are the Lions was an timely reminder of how powerful it can be.

Turbulent Londoners: Mary Macarthur, 1880-1921

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past, with a particular focus of women, whose contribution to history is often overlooked. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. The next Turbulent Londoner is Mary MacArthur, a suffragist and trade unionist.


Mary Macarthur

Mary Reid Macarthur was a suffragist, trade unionist, and campaigner for the rights of working women (Photo: Working Class Movement Library)

Mary Reid Macarthur was a Scottish suffragist and trade unionist, who was instrumental in the expansion of female trade union membership in the early twentieth century. Born on 13th August 1880, Mary was the oldest of six children in a relatively well-off family. She attended Glasgow Girls High School, where she developed an interest in writing and journalism.

In 1901 Mary attended a meeting of the Shop Assistants Union, expecting to write a scathing report. She instead became a strong beleiever in trade unions, becoming secretary of the Ayr branch of the Shop Assistants Union. In  1902 she attended the Union’s national conference, where she became the first female to be elected to the national executive.

In 1903 Mary moved to London, where she became Secretary of the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL), a congress for women’s unions. The League brought together women-only unions from a variety of different trades, which meant it had a mixed-classed membership. Through her activism, Mary realised that small, scattered unions would always struggle because of their inability to raise enough money to provide strike pay. To counter this, Mary founded the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW) in 1906, a general labour union for women. It was open to all women who weren’t allowed to join the appropriate union, or who worked in trades that weren’t unionised. The NFWW became part of the National Union of General Workers in 1921, but in its 15 years it significantly advanced the cause of women in trade unions.

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Mary Macarthur speaking to a mostly male crowd in Trafalgar Square about a boxmakers strike in August 1908 (Photo: TUC Library Collections).

Mary also tried to help female workers in other ways, helping to organise the Exhibition of Sweated Industries in 1905 and getting involved in the foundation of the Anti-Sweating League the following year. Sweated trades we’re characterised by long hours, low  wages, and unsafe and insanitary working conditions. In 1907 Mary founded The Woman Worker, a monthly magazine for female trade unionists. She was a brilliant editor, but gave it up to concentrate on her activism. Mary spent time in the poorer parts of London collecting evidence about what it was like to work in sweated industries. She caught diptheria and spent 6 weeks in hospital, but she was able to present her findings to the Select Committee on Home Working in 1908.

Mary was also active in the campaign for the vote, although she opposed the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the Women’s Social and Political Union, the two main campaign groups. This was because they were willing to accept only certain groups of women bring given the vote. Mary believed this would disadvantage the working classes, and possibly delay universal adulthood suffrage.

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Mary Macarthur at the Trade Union Congress in Nottingham in 1908 (Source: TUC Library Collections).

The Trades Board Act was passed in 1909, largely due to the efforts of Mary and the organisations she worked with. The Act regulated sweated industries and introduced a minimum wage. The female chainmakers at Chadley Heath in the West Midlands became the first test case of the new Act in 1910. Mary convinced the women to fight for the wage they were entitled to; they won the dispute after a 10 week strike. Mary used her skills as a journalist to publicise the women’s cause, giving interviews, writing copy and arranging photo opportunities of the striking women with chains around their necks. She also made use of the new technology of cinema; a Pathe newsreel film of the strikers was seen by an estimated 10 million people. The publicity campaign raised a lot for the strike fund, the leftovers were used to build the Bradley Heath Worker’s Institute, which is now part of the West Country Living Museum.

Mary opposed the first world war, but she worked throughout it to promote the rights of female workers, campaigning for equal pay for equal work. She was a member of the Reconstruction Committee from 1916, set up to give advice on the employment of women after the war. Female trade union membership tripled during the war. After the war, Mary stood in the 1919 general election as the Labour candidate for Stourbridge in Worcestershire but was defeated, along with most other anti-war candidates.

Mary married William Crawford Anderson, the chairman of the executive committee of the Labour Party, in 1911. Anderson had first proposed marriage almost 10 years earlier, but Mary had decided to concentrate on her activism. Sadly their first child died at birth in 1913, but Anne Elizabeth was born in 1915. William died in the 1919 influenza epidemic. Mary herself died of cancer 2 years later, at the age of just 40.

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A blue English heritage plaque commemorating Mary’s efforts on her house at 42 Woodstock Road in Golders Green (Photo: English Heritage).

Mary’s legacy lives on in the Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust and the Mary Macarthur Educational Trust, which provide grants to working women. A blue plaque commemorating Mary’s campaigning efforts on behalf trade unions and working women was installed on her house in Golders Green in north London in March 2017. As such, it might be said that she is better remembered than some of the other Turbulent Londoners featured on this blog. She deserves this recognition however, because of her huge contribution to the cause of women’s working conditions.

Sources and Further Reading 

Black Country Living Museum. “Mary Reid Macarthur, 1880-1921.” No date, accessed 22 March 2017. Available at  https://www.bclm.co.uk/media/learning/library/witr_marymacarthur.pdf

Simkin, John. “Mary Macarthur.” Spartacus Educational. Last modified August 2014, accessed 22 March 2017. Available at http://spartacus-educational.com/TUmacarthur.htm

Wikipedia, “Mary Macarthur.” Last modified 12 March 2017, accessed 13 March 2017. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Macarthur

Working Class Movement Library. “Mary Macarthur.” No date, accessed 22 March 2017. Available at http://www.wcml.org.uk/our-collections/activists/mary-macarthur/

Protest Stickers: Brighton

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Brighton has a lively street art culture, which reflects the city’s accepting and radical atmosphere. This photo was taken in Trafalgar Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The city of Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of England, has a reputation as one of the UK’s most cosmopolitan, radical, and open cities. I have blogged about protest in Brighton before, as well as the city’s role in the campaign for female suffrage. Brighton must also be home to a large number of sticker-ers, as the streets are covered in stickers of all kinds, including protest stickers. I have already blogged about the stickers I found on one walk down London Road, but I have found some other great stickers elsewhere in the city that I wanted to share.

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After the UK general election in 2015, the South of England became a sea of blue, apart from a small oasis of green (the constituency of Brighton Pavilion) and red (Hove). Thus was born the People’s Republic of Brighton and Hove, a group calling for the city’s independence from Britain. They were joking (mostly), but the logo has become a common sight around the city. These stickers were on a post box in Brighton Station, welcoming visitors to the city (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 23/10/15).

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Some protest stickers in Brighton can be found in cities across Britain, like this anti-UKIP sticker that started appearing in the run up to the 2015 General Election. This photo was taken in Kensington Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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One the other hand, some stickers are unique to Brighton. Reclaim the Night is an annual event that takes place in cities across the country that protests against violence against women (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Queen’s Road, 24/05/15).

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Brighton Hospitality Workers is a campaign unique to the city. It is run by the Brighton branch of the Solidarity Federation, the British Branch of the International Workers Association. They campaign for better working conditions for employees in the hospitality sector, and help individual workers in disputes with employers. This photo was taken on North Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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A lot of British cities and large towns have an anti-fascist group. Brighton Antifascists has a strong presence amongst the protest stickers in the city. This photo was taken on York Place on 31/12/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The March for England is an annual event organised by the English Defence League, often held in Brighton. I suspect the city is chosen deliberately because the EDL know that they will not be welcomed to the city; the resulting clashes have frequently garnered a lot of publicity. This sticker is old and faded, but I think it was playing on the advertising slogan ‘United Colours of Benetton’ (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 24/05/15, Jubilee Street).

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Brighton is well known for having a large LGBT community. This sticker is referring to the struggle of this community to win rights, which in many countries is still ongoing. This photo was taken in Queen’s Road on 23/10/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Class War is a common theme in protest stickers, although normally the implication is that it is the working class that are at war. I’m not sure if this sticker is sarcastic, but there has been a lot of debate over the last few years about the ‘squeezing’ of the middle classes, so maybe it is heartfelt. This photo was taken in Kensington Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I have seen plenty of protest stickers concerned with the environment before, but only in Brighton could you find something like this! (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Kensington Street, 24/05/15).

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I have never seen a sticker about digital rights before. EDRi is an association of civil and human rights groups that campaign for human rights in the digital realm. They focus on privacy, surveillance, net neutrality and copyright reform. This photo was taken in Jubilee Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The Brighton Peace and Environment Centre works to create a more peaceful and sustainable world. The ‘Not in my name’ slogan was popularised during the campaign against the war in Iraq. Social movements frequently reuse and reinvent symbols and catchphrases from previous campaigns. This photo was taken in Bond Street on 31/12/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Brighton Odeon- Emily's Photo

This is one of my favourite stickers I have ever found in Brighton. Falling somewhere between protest and art, it criticises modern society for being so wrapped up in the virtual world that we risk missing amazing things happening right in front of us. This sticker was found on the inside of a cubicle door in the ladies toilets at the Odeon cinema (Photo: Emily Awcock).

Book Review: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

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The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Harris

Jeanne Theoharis. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Boston: Beacon Press, 2013). £16.99.

I buy a lot of books. To the extent that I cannot read books as fast as I buy them. As a result, I have a lot of unread books sitting on my bookshelves. Whenever I finish reading a book I go to my bookcase, look at all the unread books, and see which one takes my fancy to read next. A few weeks ago, it was the turn of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, by Jeanne Theoharis. It has been sitting on my shelves since the great book-buying spree of ’15, during my trip to New York two years ago. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get round to reading it- I loved this book.

Theoharis starts this book at the end, with all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the funeral of Rosa Parks when she died in 2005. Perhaps one of the best known individuals in American history for her role in kickstarting the civil rights movement, Parks became a legend in her own lifetime. The quiet, soft-spoken seamstress who refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white man in Montgomery, Alabama is well known the world over. However, the legend of Rosa Parks bears only passing resemblance to the real woman. An activist all her life, her decision not to move on that bus was the result of years of anger and frustration at American injustice, not tired feet.

In this thoroughly researched, well-paced book, Theoharis details the life of a woman who was brought up with a sense of pride and her own self-worth, who was willing to stand up and defend herself if she was attacked. Along with others, Parks campaigned for civil rights in Montgomery for decades before her bus protest in 1955. The protest took its toll, leaving Parks, her husband, and her mother economically insecure and dealing with constant threats. In 1957, the family moved to Detroit, where Rosa continued to campaign for civil rights for the next four days. Whilst segregation was not legally enforced in northern US states, Parks saw it as just as pervasive as in the south, and continued to fight in any way she could.

In The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, Theoharis looks at the myth of Rosa Parks, considering its purpose and effects, then dismantles it, writing a biography of a life-long activist who was not afraid to ruffle some feathers. Rosa Parks was a fascinating woman who had a fascinating life; she was a great admirer of both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and she supported both the civil rights movement and the more antagonistic Black Power movement. Parks threw herself into so many campaigns and activities that her life is like a slice though the struggle for racial equality in mid- and late-twentieth century America.

I think most people are familiar with the myth of Rosa Parks, and know that she was someone special. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks reveals that the reality is much more interesting than the myth.

Turbulent Londoners: Jayaben Desai, 1933-2010

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past, with a particular focus of women, whose contribution to history is often overlooked. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. The 20th Turbulent Londoner is Jayaben Desai, the fierce and inspirational leader of the 1976-8 Grunwick Strike.


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Jayaben Desai, one of the leaders of the 1976-8 Grunwick Strike (Photo: Labournet).

Throughout it’s history, London has relied on immigration to function. Jayaben Desai was one such immigrant, who refused to accept the long hours, low pay, and poor working conditions that have also been a feature of London for most of it’s history. She was one of the most prominent leaders of the Grunwick Strike, which

Born on 2nd April 1933 in the north-western state of Gujarat in India, Jayaben was defiant and headstrong from an early age. At school, she rejected passive obedience in favour of supporting the Indian independence movement. In 1955 she married Suryakant Desai, a tyre-factory manager from Tanganyika. The couple settled there in 1965, by which point the country had united with Zanzibar to become Tanzania. East African Asians were members of the mercantile and administrative classes, and Jayaben had a comfortable lifestyle. It did not last however, the Desais were expelled along with tens of thousands of others as part of “africanisation” policies. They fled to Britain and settled in the north London borough of Brent. The couples’ socio-economic status dropped considerably; Suryakant got a job as an unskilled labourer and Jayaben worked part time as a sewing machinist whilst bringing up their two children, Shivkumar and Rajiv. In 1974 Desai started work at the Grunwick factory which processed mail order photographic film.

Two years later, on 23rd August 1976, Jayaben walked out of the Grunwick factory. The final straw was being ordered to work overtime; she persuaded 100 of her colleagues to go with her. Jayaben was known for having a way with words; she apparently told her manager: “What you are running is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips. Others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager.”

Jayaben is known as being a trade unionist, but I don’t think that really does justice to what her and her colleagues achieved. They were not members of a union when they first walked out, the Trades Union Council advised them to join Apex, a white collar union that is now part of the GMB. The strikers were also mainly Asian and women, two groups who did not have a strong tradition of striking in the past.

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Jayaben was only 4ft 10in,much shorter than most of the police officers she faced. This didn’t phase her though (Source: Facebook.com/Grunwick40).

Another factor which set the Grunwick strike apart was the solidarity that the strikers received from employees in other workplaces and industries. Newly arrived migrants accepted (and still do) long hours and low pay because they had no choice. This has frequently caused resentment amongst British workers. The Grunwick strikers, however, received significant moral and practical support from other workers. For example, postal workers in the local sorting office in Cricklewood refused to handle Grunwick’s post. As the factory processed mail-order photographs, this move almost won the strike for Jayaben and her colleagues. In November a High Court ruling forced the postmen to start handling Grunwick post again, a big blow to the strikers. The strike committee visited more than 1000 workplaces around the country garnering support- many workers came to join the picket lines outside the factory. On 11th July 1977 the TUC organised a 20000 strong march to the factory. The workers at Cricklewood again refused to handle Grunwick’s mail. They were suspended for 3 weeks for their defiant act of solidarity.

The Labour Prime Minister, James Callahan, persuaded the TUC and Apex to allow a court of inquiry under Lord Justice Scarman to resolve the dispute. It was highly unusual for employers to defy the conclusions of inquiry, but Jayaben was convinced that Grunwick’s managing director, George Ward, would. She was right; Scarman recommended that the strikers be given their jobs back and that their union be recognised. Ward refused. With few options left and almost two years of hardship behind them, the strikers conceded defeat on 14th July 1978.

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Jayaben was not the only person involved in the Grunwick strike, but she played a significant leadership role and she is definitely the best remembered participant (Source: Left Foot Forward).

After the strike, Jayaben’s health declined. She got another sewing job, which led to teaching for the Brent Indian Association, and she developed an Asian dressmaking course at Harrow College. She passed her driving test aged 60, and when her husband retired the couple traveled extensively. She passed away on 23rd December 2010.

At just 4ft 10in, Jayaben Desai shocked many with her strength and resolve. She was inspirational, and known for her charm, tact, and diplomacy, even in the face of aggression and threatening behaviour from police and the Grunwick bosses. Although the Grunwick strike failed, it had a big impact on industrial relations for women and ethnic minorities, forcing the union establishment to taken them seriously for the first time. Whilst Jayaben did not do this alone, her bravery and determination should be remembered, celebrated, and learnt from.

2016 was the 40th anniversary of the start of the Grunwick strike. The Grunwick40 group was set up to commemorate this event. They organised events, a museum exhibition, and a mural. More information can be found about their work here.

Sources and Further Reading

Dromey, Jack. “Jayaben Desai Obituary.” The Guardian. Last updated 23 February 2012, accessed 20 December 2016. Available at  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/dec/28/jayaben-desai-obituary

Pattinson, Terry.”Jayaben Desai: Trade Unionist Who Shot to National Prominence during the Bitter Grunwick Dispute of 1976-77.” The Independent. Last updated 21 February, 2011, accessed 24 December 2016. Available at  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/jayaben-desai-trade-unionist-who-shot-to-national-prominence-during-the-bitter-grunwick-dispute-of-2220589.html

Wikipedia, “Jayaben Desai.” Last updated 17 December 2016, accessed 20 December 2016. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayaben_Desai