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People Power: Fighting for Peace - A Unique, Enlightening and Informative Exhibition

Maz Saleem: This fantastic exhibition should become a permanent fixture of the IWM


People Power: Fighting For Peace runs until August 28 - iwm.org.uk

I attended the free guided tour from Stop the War Coalition for the People Power: Fighting for Peace exhibition at the Imperial War Museum yesterday. At first, I was hesitant to attend because, as we all know, the Imperial War Museum is focused on showing its visitors the history of war rather than peace but I was impressed with this inspiring exhibition which shows how people have protested war over the last 100 years. 

Downstairs, in the museum’s main area it’s business as usual with an extensive display of World War I and II aeroplanes, army tanks and other ghastly military fixtures.

In contrast, the People Power: Fighting for Peace exhibition starts off with conscientious objectors refusing to fight in the First World War and continues by displaying the personal struggles of anti-war campaigners in the Second World War through personal letters. It eloquently covers the anti-nuclear movements in the 1960’s and 1970’s and more recent protests against conflicts in the Afghanistan, Balkans and Iraq.

The exhibition, which includes paintings, literature, posters, placards, banners, badges and music explores the impact of peace and anti-war movements (from the First World War to the present day) on society, tells the stories of passionate people struggling against war and uncovers the remarkable cultural creativity of these movements.

On display are Stop the Wars hand-stitched protest banners, placards and a variety of powerful anti-Blair slogans. There is even the sheepskin coat and megaphone of peace campaigner Brian Haw, who camped in Parliament Square for almost a decade.

Artist David Gentleman’s inspired “bloodspot” placards, designed for the Stop the War Coalition are also on display. These were displayed during the mass demonstration in London protesting the Iraq war on the 15th February 2003. Attended by 2 million people, this march was the largest in British history and coincided with similar mass demonstrations on the same day around the world. Gentleman’s use of a succinct slogan and a powerful blood spot logo is typical of his work for Stop the War.

Senior IWM curator and historian Matt Brosnan and Stop the War convenor Lindsey German guided the tour which was extremely insightful and informative. As you exit the exhibition there is a fascinating series of interviews with a range of figures from actor Mark Rylance to banner maker, Ed Hall. Lindsey German’s contribution on how and why protests do make a difference is particularly pertinent.

This unique, enlightening and informative exhibition is extremely important to counteract what the museum is usually about. I really do hope it will become a permanent fixture of the IWM.

People Power: Fighting For Peace runs until August 28 - iwm.org.uk

Tags: united-kingdom

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