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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Marching banners show struggles
One of the banners in the exhibition
The banners mark the struggles communities faced
Marching banners, some more than a century old, are being displayed as part of an exhibition to chart trades union and social history in Wales.

More than 30 banners made for various marches and demonstrations over the last 100 years form the exhibition in Newport Museum.

The banners illustrate many of the struggles that communities faced over the years.

Banners from the 1926 miners strike and the suffrage movement are included.

"These banners are very much a part of people's history," said Sandra Jackaman, the exhibitions officer for the museum.

"It is about ordinary people and their struggles and triumphs.

"And there were triumphs, like some of the trade union marches and the Greenham Common protests.

"It shows people having using their voice to fight their struggles.

"It isn't about the history of the aristocrats but of the fights people had and marching with banners gave people a voice so they didn't feel weak and powerless."

One of the banners
They evoke our parents' and grandparents' struggles and beliefs, and of our aspirations for the future
South Wales Miners' Library

For more than150 years, banners have been carried in rallies, marches and demonstrations, in processions, parades, meetings, picnics and funerals throughout the whole of Wales - although the majority took place in the industrialised south east of the country.

Among the banners being displayed are ones used by trade unions, friendly societies, temperance groups, co-operative societies, suffragettes, peace groups and political parties.

Grandparents' struggles

It includes banners from the 1984/85 miners' strike as well as from the campaign for women's suffrage in the early part of the 20th century.

One of the exhibits originates from the Soviet Union and was used by striking Welsh miners in 1926.

Aberavon Labour MP and historian Hywel Francis said he spent two years tracking it down.

One of the banners
Banners from various groups are featured in the exhibition

Dr Francis said: "In the early 1970s we were in the process of collecting lots of archive to do with the south Wales coalfield.

"We came across a large number of trade union banners which had been discarded. There was one, a Soviet banner which had been brought back by the leaders of the British miners in 1926 during the great struggle of that time, and (miners' leader) AJ Cook.

"He said it ought to be kept in the place which was the heart of the struggle, so to speak, and that was "Little Moscow" - Maerdy in the Rhondda.

"It had been lost since 1939 and I found it in Cardiff in the offices of the Communist Party. This banner had been used in the 20s and 30s to drape the coffins of communists and socialists and it disappeared after the 1939 funeral of the great leader of the unemployed in the Rhondda, the novelist Lewis Jones."

Dr Francis said the banner had been made by women textile workers in Moscow to celebrate the struggles of women in the 1920s.

He added: "As the great historian Gwyn Alf Williams said of banners: 'They are the memory of the movement'."

Sian Williams, of the South Wales Miners' Library in Swansea, who put together the exhibition said: "The banners in Wales have been carried for hundreds of years by all kinds of organisations - not only political organisations.

The earliest banner in the show dates from the mid-1800s - a Friendly Society banner from Radnorshire.

"The banners would be used in annual parades," said Ms Williams.

"They would also be hung as the backdrop at meetings so they were used on the street but also indoors."

Some of the banners are from private collections and others have been loaned from museums in Swansea and Manchester.

The Marching Forward exhibition is at Newport Museum in John Frost Square until 24 September.



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