People Power: Fighting For Peace
A new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum follows the story of the British anti-conflict movement through the decades
The Imperial War Museum was founded to record Britain's military effort during the First World War and, as it enters its centenary year, still remains as dedicated to documenting how conflict and society intersect. In its new landmark exhibition, People Power, it will trace how the anti-war movement has evolved throughout the 20th century to the modern day, bringing together rare pieces from its archives alongside important loans.
Organised chronologically, it begins with the First World War and the 1920s, bringing together the personal insights of conscientious objectors impacted by the military subscription put in place in 1916. With the advent of the Second World War, anti-war sentiment became increasingly mainstream and the display looks at some of the famous faces that stood up for the cause, including Winnie-the-Pooh creator AA Milne, who wrote a letter describing his struggles to reconcile pacifism with the rise of Hitler.
The 1950s and 1960s saw a revolution in the way people protested, and anti-war movements became intertwined with the counter culture of the time. Perhaps the most enduring symbol of any anti-war organisation is the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Therefore, the largest section of the exhibition is dedicated to the Cold War, as popular artists addressed the paranoia created by the pervasive fear of nuclear apocalypse at the time. As well as the original sketches of the CND logo, flyers, badges and other pieces featuring the motif will be showcased.
In 21st-century Britain, much of the political discourse has been dominated by events in the Middle East, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A final section explores how anti-war conversations have taken place in the modern age. Among the pieces on display are banners and other items from Brian Haw's protest camp, which remained in Parliament Square from 2001 until it was ordered to move in 2011. The exhibition also includes items from Britain's largest protest, held in 2003, when more than a million people marched against conflict in Iraq. Some of the most recognisable visual cues of contemporary protest movements can also be seen. These include the blood splat posters designed by David Gentleman for the Stop the War Coalition and placards from the Stop Trident demonstrations last year.
People Power: Fighting for Peace is at the IWM London from 23 March to 28 August, tickets £10; iwm.org.uk