Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

Reflections on ‘Jubilee’

Posted by wcmlibrary on September 24, 2012

Jen Morgan reflects on the exhibition ‘Jubilee: the radical tradition’ which she has just taken down at the Library:

Inspired by Malcolm Chase’s article on the radical use of ‘jubilee’ in late 18th century / early 19th century culture, I set out to see what the library had in its collections that would illuminate this period, and possibly beyond. It turns out there was quite a lot.

The exhibition covered all of the jubilees from George III’s Golden Jubilee in 1809 to Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. It displays work by Thomas Spence, William Morris, Walter Greenwood, the Sex Pistols, Angel Tuckett, ‘Lucy Toothpaste’, and the newspapers the Clarion, the Nelson Gazette, the Daily Worker, and the Commonweal. It was interesting to take up this thread that led me through the entire collection, and I bet most people wouldn’t expect the library to have a collection of feminist punk zines, and original ‘Stuff the Jubilee’ badges from ’77.

A favourite of mine was a cartoon from the Daily Worker, mainly because of the strange insult that one London Busman slings at another: tortoise legs?!

Although Chase was right to note that the radical use of the term ‘jubilee’ – referencing the passage from the Bible on social justice and land redistribution – did not survive the mid-19th century, it did survive in the memory of the left. I found a few references around the time of George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 to the passage from Leviticus, but more in the vein of ‘wasn’t the jubilee originally from the Bible…?’

Despite the waning of this specific tradition, whenever there was a royal jubilee it was accompanied by protest at the display of privilege at times of high unemployment and social inequality (this seems to shadow royal jubilees like a bad smell).  A cartoon from the Daily Worker, comparing the lavish meal at the celebration of George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 and the allowance for the unemployed.

Full article by Jen, including photos from the exhibition, on her blog at


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