North West LABOUR HISTORY journal
No 45, 2020 - 21
This journal could not have come together without modern technology. A dedicated, determined band of volunteers, some with years of valued experience and knowledge, others still finding their way, have word processed, emailed and zoomed as this extraordinary summer rolls into autumn and an uncertain winter. Of course, we’ve been using email for ever and Zoom is fine for the formal meeting but we’re missing brewing up from the same kettle and the chat before and after the written agenda. We are all missing our social interactions but, if combined with job, housing and financial insecurity, the effect on the physical and mental well being of too many people is devastating.
The Zoom demo or rally can be inspiring - with more chance of hearing the speakers - but nothing matches standing shoulder to shoulder with comrades in a cause. The people whose stories are told in this issue surely understood the power of joining together, of solidarity. They come together as trade unionists, in the accounts of three very different strikes or as campaigners challenging rules on meeting in public spaces to march together. Their attitude may be summed up as “Get together and get things done”, the title of one of the exhibitions highlighted in Terry Wyke and Alan Fowler’s record of exhibitions and events marking the bicentenary of Peterloo.
The rolling of the statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matters march has given an unexpected currency to our article on sculptor John Cassidy, written last year to examine his life and work in our region. In 1895, certain business leaders, seeking to enhance the streets of Bristol, commissioned Cassidy to design a statue of Edward Colston, considered one of the most virtuous and wise of the sons of their city, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. It did not serve their purposes to acknowledge that Colston had made his vast fortune as a director of a company that transported 84,000 enslaved African men, women and children across the Atlantic to lives of brutality. For Cassidy, the statue was another job, for the BLM protestors and many other Bristolians, it was a hated symbol of oppression, its removal long overdue and for all of us, it must be part of a honest examination of Britain’s colonial past and present inequalities.
The review of Peterloo celebrations is presented as a record for future historians. Although the exhibitions are packed away, physical memorials remain. The stepped memorial designed by Jeremy Deller, still awaits its adaptations to make it accessible to all. Our cover features the thought provoking mural by Axel Void, commissioned by asking the questions, “If Peterloo was today, what would people march for and what would they look like?” A young Mancunian woman tenderly holds her two year child reminding us that the first person to be killed at Peterloo was the two year William Fildes, thrown from his mother’s arms as they were trampled by rampaging yeomanry. Lydia and her family are campaigners against the Hostile Environment legislation which has led to thousands of Commonwealth citizens being unjustly victimised, the Windrush scandal. She is one person but perhaps she’s all of us, confronting inequality and demanding justice.
I am grateful to all concerned in the production of this journal- the Editorial Board, designer Mike Carter, contributors, reviewers and advertisers. I hope you, our readers, will find your interest piqued by our varied content and perhaps, feel inspired to write your own piece of history. We are always open to ideas for articles.
Two of the longest serving members of the society, Pat Bowker and Eddie Little, are stepping back from committee duties. A full appreciation will follow but for now, I’ll say thank you to them for exceptional dedication to the society and the guidance they have given me.