Through a year-long programme, entitled ‘Parliament in the Making’, Parliament brought these important anniversaries to life in various ways – through cultural and education projects, art commissions, conferences, talks, debates, ceremonial events, and learning resources.
‘The Beginning of that Freedome’ exhibition
The exhibition featured 18 large-scale banners, created by nine artists, providing a contemporary interpretation to complement the historical subjects. It ran from 20 January – 12 December 2015, in Westminster Hall, during which time it was seen by an estimated 750,000 people.
Covering 800 years of constitutional history, each banner provided a dynamic visual representation of milestone ‘moments’ demonstrating how the UK has built a powerful system of civil rights and representative government.
Now that the public exhibition has finished, following an open call for applications, the banners will be given to appropriate organisations. Through gifting the banners people will have opportunities to see and interact with them, in a variety of locations across the UK, on an ongoing basis.
Which Organisations are receiving banners?
- 1215 Magna Carta: to be archived in the Parliamentary Archives
- 1265 Simon de Montfort parliament: Lewes Town Council (East Sussex)
- 1601 Poor Law: Bidston Avenue Primary School (Merseyside)
- 1628 Petition of Right: Brunel University London (Middlesex)
- 1647 Putney Debates: St. Mary’s Church, Putney (London)
- 1689 Bill of Rights: Mid and East Antrim Council (Mid and East Antrim)
- 1771 Wilkes: Freedom of Speech and Parliament: Lincoln Castle (Lincolnshire)
- 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade: Westminster City Council (London)
- 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act: to be archived in the Parliamentary Archives
- 1832 Great Reform Act: Nottingham Castle (Nottinghamshire)
- 1833 Factory Act: Quarry Bank (Cheshire)
- 1834 Tolpuddle Martyrs: Shire Hall, Dorchester (Dorset)
- 1838 The People’s Charter: to be archived in the Parliamentary Archives
- 1897 Foundation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS): joint ownership and partnership between the National Football Museum (Manchester) and the National Federation of Women's Institutes (England, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Mann)
- 1965 Race Relations Act: School of Law, University of Leeds (Leeds)
- 1967 Sexual Offences Act: Thurston Community College (Suffolk
- 1995 Disability Discrimination Act: Shape Arts (London)
- 2015: to be archived in the Parliamentary Archives
The Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, said:
"Over the past eight centuries the public and their Parliament have shaped society and changed the way we live our lives. The sealing of Magna Carta in 1215 and the Montfort parliament of 1265 marked the start of the journey towards modern rights and representation, paving the way for the House of Commons and democracy as we know it today.
Our ambition for 2015 was to capitalise on these anniversaries in order to raise awareness and understanding of the UK’s democratic heritage and, in doing so, to encourage the public to better value our current parliamentary democracy. I am proud that ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’ exhibition banners will continue to be seen by thousands of people across the UK – in museums, castles, churches, universities, schools and civic buildings – for many years to come. We hope that, through interacting with these unique pieces of art, the public will feel more closely connected to Parliament and more confident to exercise the liberties that the banners celebrate."
Lord Speaker's comments
The Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, said:
"Magna Carta established the principle of the rule of law and equality before the law; for 800 years we have been influenced by its contents and it remains one of the most important political documents in the world, with countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada tracing constitutional influences back to Magna Carta.
How fitting it is that as Parliament’s year-long programme of commemorative activities concludes by gifting the banners commissioned for the ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’ exhibition to a wide range of organisations. It is hoped that they will help to encourage communities across the UK to continue exploring law and law-making as it was in the past, how it works today, and how it might change in the future."
Banners held by Parliament
Parliament will retain four banners in the Parliamentary Archives:
- 1215 Magna Carta
- 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act
- 1838 The People’s Charter
Nine artists from around the UK were commissioned to create the banner images, with support from The Speaker’s Art Fund. They were: Maria Amidu, Alinah Azadeh, Ross Birrell, Ruth Ewan, Rachel Gadsden, Joel Millerchip, Ross Sinclair, Paula Stevens-Hoare and Jason Wilsher-Mills.
Image: Parliamentary Copyright