Sheffield’s contribution to protest: a review

Copyright of Museums Sheffield

Sheffield: often referred to as a ‘friendly’ city, a city surrounded by the serene setting of the Peaks. However, adding depth to its amiable reputation, Sheffield has a fierce history of protest- as you will find out by visiting the ‘Changing Lives’ exhibition at the Weston Park Museum.

As soon as you step into the exhibition you’re immersed in protest. From photographed portraits of figures involved with ‘Save Sheffield’s Trees’ campaign to hand made cross-stitches of the ‘craftivism’ movement to inflatable dinosaurs declaring the fight against fossil fuels. The exhibition documents the role Sheffield has played in protests over the last 200 years, and the city has played a surprisingly large part.

The exhibition opens with a timeline which illustrates all the protests which have occurred in the city from as early as the 18th century, up until last year. Of course, one of the most pivotal- and pertinent- successes of activism was the passing of the Representation of the People Act, in 1918, which was achieved by the women’s suffrage movement. Evidence of the dedication and laborious work which many women invested into this movement can be found throughout the exhibit.

As well as heavily publicised, global protests, movements which are more localised to Sheffield are displayed. For instance, the actions of rebellious ramblers of the early 1900s which secured public access to the city’s surrounding countryside today are highlighted. A large montage of the posters and pictures of the yearlong miners’ strike, anti-Conservative representations and a display about the closure of the steel factories complement each other to reveal the city’s more liberal, left-wing attitude that has dominated throughout its past.

In contrast to the black and white evidence of past protests are the colourful displays of more recent movements, including Black Lives Matter and the inevitable anti-Trump banners. In fact, one of the most entertaining, and certainly most colourful, posters of the exhibition compares the US president to a Wotsit. Need I say more?

The exhibition is free entry and runs until 1 July.

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