Brand new exhibition at Weston Park Museum explores Sheffield's remarkable history of protest and activism

Brand new exhibition at Weston Park Museum explores Sheffield's remarkable history of protest and activism

31 January 2018

Changing Lives:  200 Years of People and Protest in Sheffield6 February - 1 July 2018

The passing of the Representation of the People Act on 6 February 1918 was a major electoral reform which extended voting rights to 8.5 million women across the UK. The Act was the result of a long struggle for the suffrage movement and the beginnings of British democracy as we know it today. To mark the 100th anniversary of this milestone in the development of our electoral system, Changing Lives: 200 Years of People and Protest in Sheffield will celebrate how people in our city have stood up for what they believe in over the past two centuries.

Opening at Weston Park Museum on the anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, Changing Lives will explore the city’s remarkable history of protest and activism.  From the Radical Press in the late 1700s right up to causes championed in the city today, the exhibition will chronicle Sheffield’s story of protest through the different approaches campaigners have employed in fighting for their cause.   

Changing Lives will highlight both historical and contemporary examples of non-violent direct action and its impact on driving change. The tradition of trespass walks will be explored through objects including the walking boots of GHB Ward, founder of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers and activist for the right to roam. Amongst the stories featured in the exhibition will be that of Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures, a group formed soon after the Miners’ Strike in 1984, whose Houghton Main pit camp brought public attention to further pit closures in the 1990s. The exhibition will also include local photographer Chris Saunders’ powerful portraits of people involved in Sheffield’s current tree protests.


The exhibition will examine how protesters have employed a variety of creative strategies to support their cause, from Samuel Holberry and the Sheffield Chartists to fly posters from the 2016 Black Lives Matter campaign. Visitors will find out more about the 1911 census evasion, led by suffragette and Sheffield resident, Adela Pankhurst, as well the radical writings of The Sheffield Register (1787-1794) and The Sheffield Iris (1794-1825). The Celebrated Sheffield Street Band, Sheffield Socialist Choir and Sheffield Pride will also feature, highlighting the power of humour, carnival and song, strong protest traditions which are alive in the city today.

Changing Lives will also examine the important role that solidarity plays in protest, and showcase how Sheffield residents have demonstrated unity in protests on a local, national and international level. Visitors will discover objects from the World Peace Congress held at Sheffield City Hall in 1950, alongside placards and banners from more recent protests, including those supporting Junior Doctors, as well as the anti-Trump demonstrations which took place in the city and around the globe in 2017.

 Louisa Briggs, Project Curator (Sheffield: Protest & Activism) said:

“Sheffield has an incredible history of protest and activism. The passion people have shown, the commitment they’ve demonstrated, and the sacrifices they’ve often made for the causes that matter to them are a hugely important part of the city’s story.  We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to share that story through this exhibition at Weston Park Museum.”

Changing Lives is part of a season exploring protest and activism – the exhibition will be accompanied by Hope Is Strong at the Millennium Gallery, opening on Saturday 17 February. The exhibitions will be also be accompanied by a programme of events – see for more information.