From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
The Art Of Women’s Protest
Pop Up Arts Space, Bradford
Monday 24 January 2011
by Jo Stanley
Banners usually mean two things to activists. Either they’re the conglomerations of fabric, poles and ropes that you get tangled up in, battling the rain and baby buggies on demonstrations.
Or they’re those glorious satin, oil-painted monuments that you see hung in people’s history museums, lustrous as Victorian Sunday School prize bookplates.
These 30-odd banners, produced in the last hundred years but mainly from the 1980s and 1990s, are homemade art by women.
Without the intrusions of gales and police, looking at banners on gallery walls really is a different experience.
That’s when you start to see that this really is beautiful art produced by groups of committed women amateurs.
The images produced express passionate beliefs.
Often the banners were hastily discussed, drawn, inked, sewed and on someone’s floor, in the middle of other political and household tasks.
They are a product of women’s traditional skills, going beyond the isolated darning mushroom.
Here the needle is a shared tool for peace, as mighty as a sword. Satin, not serge, is the stuff of the grander battle against war.
A key artist on show is Thalia Campbell, who not only embroidered and machined scores of women’s peace banners but also ran workshops all over the country.
There she taught women how to make a banner that was not just functional. It also expressed the profound meanings of peace to the particular individuals who made it.
Many banners were very much communal enterprises.
The Mothers For Peace banner was effectively a quilt created all over the world as appliqued small squares, and then assembled in Worcester, Birmingham, Southampton, Leeds and London.
Banners traditionally use bold colours, particularly scarlet. But these banners remember the purple, white and green of the suffrage movement too.
One banner dating from the first world war is very simple, small and black with a sense of gravitas and conviction.
My personal favourite Molesworth: The Dawn of a New Era uses subtle beige, brown, and apricot colours.
Tellingly, no-one now remembers its origins.
There must be many such banners and many more have been abandoned, less valued because they were made quickly by non-professionals.
But Bradford’s Peace Museum which organised the exhibition and has probably the biggest collection of peace banners in Britain is keen to preserve and share this heritage.
Even if you can’t visit this exhibition, you can still borrow banners to display in your area, as churches increasingly do, by visiting www.peacemuseum.org.uk.
Runs until January 28. Telephone 01274-370291 for more details.