What became of the old trade union banners?

Cambridge has more than a few of them over the years. Could these make for future arts-based local history projects?

I mentioned this to Cllr Hilary Cox (Lab – Arbury) of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Turns out a few of them have been photographed and preserved.

Above – from @CountryStandard – and the two images below outside the Old Addenbrooke’s.

As Cllr Cox noted, similar issues, different generations.

There’s a long tradition of very artistic trade union banners

“How do you know who these people are and what they want? Whether you lived 150 years ago, or today, it’s their banners that tell you.”

BBC History – Banners.

The People’s Museum in Manchester had a display on trade union banners recently, one which uncovered a diversity of themes, designs, and histories.

Above – Mrs Pankhurst’s Suffragettes – the depth of the colour purple is striking. What did the Cambridge women’s suffrage banners look like? (Other than the well-known Girton & Newnham banner).

There was also the tradition of large marches of workers on May Day in Cambridge – such as the above from the 1930s, in the Cambridgeshire Collection. The band is the Cambridge Railway Worker’s Union Band – a branch of the National Union of Railwaymen – now part of the RMT Union.

Above – from the British Film Institute on anti-fascism protests in Cambridge just before the arrival of WW2 on British shores.

There are more items from protests over the years in the Bishopsgate Institute archives.

“What would a local history art project look like for children and teenagers?”

Back in 1989 at school we did some banner-making for what would later turn out to be a city-wide 200th anniversary celebration of the Storming of the Bastille in Paris. I don’t recall why Cambridge in particular was so special as to justify closing the roads in town for our parade with a couple of the local secondary schools, but it made for an interesting Saturday on Parker’s Piece with people dressed up in French revolutionary period costume. I don’t recall any revolutionary slogans on my banner – we were just told to put lots of red, white and blue on it.

Part of any project could link some of the contemporary protests with those of the past, sharing the stories as well as the techniques of banner making. For those teenagers doing extended projects – whether in art or any general studies / extra curricular course, how could local museums and archives provide students with inspirations, examples, and materials for them to use? What could the final results of their work involve? Public exhibitions? Public talks and events? Is it something that could become part of the civic calendar on local history generally?

Food for thought.

Supporting my future research on the story of Cambridge the town

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in the history of Cambridge the town and the people who made our modern city, please support my research in bringing their records of achievement to wider audiences. Click here if you would like to make a donation or take out a small subscription to support my ongoing work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s