Help to build this part of the rebel road by sending details & photographs of murals in your area to Mark Metcalf at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 07952 801783.
Jack Jones mural, Liverpool Tolpuddle Martyrs mural, Tolpuddle
The Chartists mural, Newport
A 115 ft-long mural that depicted Newport’s historic role in democratic reform was pulled down in October 2013. The destruction was called ‘absurd and tragic’ by actor Michael Sheen – www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/absurd-tragic-michael-sheen-criticises-6203409
The mural (shown in sections, above & below) depicted the November 4th 1839 Newport Rising, the last armed rebellion in Britain when led by John Frost more than 3,000 marched to Westgate Hotel in the town to demand the release of several Chartists held there.
Twenty-eight soldiers inside the hotel were ordered to open fire on the crowd, at least twenty of who were killed and fifty wounded. Frost and other leaders of the match were subsequently found guilty of high treason and transported for life. Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform that existed between 1838 and 1848 and from which it took its name from the People’ Charter of 1838. This had six basic reforms to make the political system more democratic:
1) A vote for every man over the age of 21
2) A secret ballot for elections
3) No property qualification for members of Parliament
4) Payment for MPs (so poor men could become one)
5) Constituencies of equal size
6) Annual elections for Parliament
The artwork for the mural was completed in 1978 and consisted of 200,000 pieces of tile and glass at the entrance to John Frost Square in the centre of Newport. Artist Kenneth Budd created it and took four months to research the rebellion story before completing his designs. The Labour led City Council has now pulled down the mural, cowardly doing so unannounced in order to prevent local people from physically opposing them. This has led to angry protests internationally. It will make way for a £100 million shopping centre.
Edward Rushton (1756-1814)
A beautiful colour dome that celebrates the life of Edward Rushton still currently adorns the former Merseyside Trades Union and Unemployed Resource Centre; Hardman Street building that was sold to the owner of Hope Street Hotel, Liverpool in 2010. The artist of this magnificent work, the future of which remains in doubt, is the late Mick Jones, younger son of the trade union great Jack Jones.
Edward Rushton is one of Liverpool’s great radicals who became a passionate abolitionist after his work as a sailor brought him into contact with the slave trade. Born in 1756, Rushton was thirteen when he went to sea and subsequently worked on a number of slave ships. At seventeen he survived drowning when Kwamina, a young former African slave, saved him at the expense of his own life. Shortly after - when he found himself on a slave ship - Rushton defied his captain and the threat of a mutiny charge to continuously go below to bring water to the manacled Africans.
His bravery and courage was to come at great personal cost because by the time he returned to his hometown he had contracted Ophthalmia following a highly contagious outbreak amongst the slaves. It left the teenager blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other. He was unable to sail as a result and moved in with his sister, where after studying politics and philosophy he began to write poetry and begin a rhetorical battle with prominent political leaders against the slave trade. This was another courageous move as Liverpool had prospered after it began sending out slave ships in 1699 and at its peak – in 1799 – more than 45,000 slaves were transported to the West Indies from ships based on the Mersey.
Rushton’s radicalism also extended to support for the American struggle for independence, the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799 and the United Irishmen in their struggle for Irish independence. He also backed the rights of workers to combine in unions. His poetry and writings though proved popular especially as increasing numbers of people began to recognise the need to abolish the trade in human cargo. From the money he earned, Rushton was able to establish The Liverpool School for the Indigent Blind in 1791 on Hardman Street. In 1807, Rushton had an operation that allowed him to regain his sight and he saw his daughters for the first time. He had married Isabelle Rain in 1784. Rushton died on 22 November 1814 of paralysis.
When the Merseyside Unemployed Centre took over the Hardman Street building from what had become the Old Blind School they commissioned Jones to paint the dome in 1986 and he made a fitting tribute to a fine man who remains almost unknown even today. Its survival is though in doubt – see
and it may well be that a campaign may be required in the future to ensure it stays.
Meantime, there are plans to commemorate the bi-centenary of Edward Rushton’s death later in 2014. There are museum exhibitions, educational projects and a staged reading of a play based on Rushton’s struggles, UNSUNG. In spring 2015 there will be a full production of the play at the new Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. The play will employ a blind or visually impaired actor and the signer will be involved in the stage performance. As a result the costs of production are slightly higher than normal and an appeal has been made for trade union financial support of £4667.
For more details on how you and/or your trade union branch can assist see: -
tel: 0151 707 1733 and 07436 536200
There is also going to be a Edward Rushton and Romantic Liverpool: A Bicentennial Conference at the University of Liverpool on November 14 and 15 in 2014. See:-
Many thanks to writer John Graham Davies for the photograph and much of the information that appears on this page.
Break the Connection with Capitalism, Belfast
Break the Connection with Capitalism was unveiled on Northumberland Street on 20 April 2013. It was erected by Teach na Failte Republican Ex-Prisoners Support Group and Belfast City Council. The board shows Belfast socialists walking at Bodenstown, 1934, as part of the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration. The board states:
In Memory of the Belfast Men who fought Against Fascism
With the XV International Brigade, Spanish Civil War 1936-39.
For more details see:-
Many thanks to Richie Browne, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, for this photograph.
Unite in our Communities, Belfast
Unite in our Communities is UNITE’s mural on Northumberland Street, Belfast.
Unite for jobs. Unemployment and cuts destroy our communities! The board was erected in 2013.
Many thanks to Richie Browne, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, for this photograph.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions Mural, Belfast
The gable wall of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) office in Donegall Street Place, Belfast is adorned with a magnificent mural celebrating the many unions with membership in Ireland, north and south.
It states: An Injury to One is an Injury to All.
Commissioned from Belfast muralists Danny Devanny and Mark Ervine It was unveiled by ICTU President John Douglas in September 2013, the year that marked the 100th anniversary of the Dublin lock-out that ran from August 1913 to January 1914.
For more details see: - www.fisherbelfast.wordpress.com/tag/ictu
There are so many that Belfast is possibly the world mural capital. For more information visit a great site at www.extramural.activity.com
Peasants Revolt, Tower Hamlets, London
Sadly this is now long gone as it was quietly removed - much like the removal of the Chartist mural in Newport in 2013 - by the local council. (see links below for more on this).
The mural was designed by Ray Walker, who tragicallydied young, and was sited in Bow Common Lane, London E.3 at the junction of Burdett Road. The Lane now forms part of Mile End Park.
The mural commemorates the 600th year anniversary of the Peasants Revolt. The unveiling was part of a weekend of celebrations by trade councils and union groups to mark the 600 year anniversary. The peasants army camped at Mile End in 1381 before marching into London.
Ray Walker was one of the artists who completed the Battle of Cable Street mural and many others in east London. Photographer David Hoffman has kindly given his permission for the images to be used.
Many thanks to Jim Thatcher, UNITE member and blacklisted construction worker, for the information that appears here.
Facists and Police Routed, Cable Street, London
By the late Reg Weston
Cable Street, October 4' 1936 — an eye witness account told for the first time back in 2001 - by the late Reg Weston.
I was at the Battle of Cable Street. In my early twenties, I was then secretary of the recently formed Southgate branch of the Communist Party in North London.
On that warm October Sunday afternoon, October 4 1936, we had organised a party of (now over sixty years later, I put it at) about forty, (probably it was fewer) people. They were members and sympathisers who we had mobilised in the three or four days before.
We had set out by bus and tube to oppose the proposed march of Sir Oswald Mosley and his several thousand Blackshirts through the East End of London. Through we arrived at the tube station in Aldgate we had no idea of what had been happening in the surrounding streets during the hours before.
We came to the tube entrance, together with hundreds of people who had been on the same train. There we stopped.
The pavements were packed; the whole street — Aldgate High Street — was packed solid. Crowds were everywhere as far as we could see. It was impossible to make any progress. Parked in the middle of the street, towering over the
crowds were a line of tramcars — marooned and empty. They could not have moved, even if anyone had wanted to move them.
The rumour went that the first tram in the line had been deliberately driven to the point by an anti-fascist tram driver, and then placed there to form a barricade against the fascists. As we stood blocked from moving on there came the sound of shattering plate glass windows of the store at Gardiners Corner glass. Rumour said that a policeman had been thrown through it, through it was probably just a victim to the sheer pressure of the crowds. There was not a single policeman in sight. We did not see one for hours..............
Read the full story here