Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

Posts Tagged ‘art’

‘Darn that Picasso’ – a Manchester Weekender event to remember

Posted by wcmlibrary on October 18, 2013

On 26 April this year, the anniversary of the aerial bombing of the town of Gernika in 1937 which led Picasso to paint his sombrely magnificent Guernica, we published a blog posting introducing the Re-Making Guernica project, the inspiration of a group of academics, artists and makers at the University of Brighton who invited activists to join them in creating an art of protest against fascism.  The Library played its part in their initial research about the painting coming to England. Now read on…

It was with great excitement that we looked forward to the arrival of Maude Casey, with the banner she and other artist activists have been working on, for our Manchester Weekender event Darn That Picasso last Saturday.

With trepidation too of course. Would anyone come?  Would anyone join the walk Suzanne Hindle was leading up the Crescent, following the yarn trail which’d sneakily appeared overnight thanks to guerilla activity by the King’s Arms knitters? Guerilla knitting outside the Library

We needn’t have worried.  Well before our official opening time of 2pm people were starting to come in, and Suzanne brought an influx of 17 walkers.  Maude gave the group an impassioned talk about the political background to the project, as well as about Picasso’s own starting point for creating the painting, and Dora Maar’s often unacknowledged part in its development.

Sewing the Guernica bannerAnd then people set to sewing!  Some were skilled, some less confident but still eager to play their part in such a lovely collaborative venture.

Sewing the Guernica bannerMuch tea was drunk, many stories were shared – including Adrine Middleton’s tale of how she’d seen the original Guernica when the vast painting travelled, extraordinarily, to Manchester in 1939.

Comments included:

‘A fantastic idea and a truly beautiful object. Thank you’

‘An excellent way of getting people together to remember the horrors of war’

‘Great. Friendly, comradely atmosphere and a cracking project’.

It’s been mooted that we should build on the afternoon to create a banner of our own. Thoughts?

In the meantime many many thanks to Maude for travelling up from Brighton to share the banner and its stories with us.  And to everyone who contributed.

Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager (I’ll try and do a Storify account of the event soon…)

Sewing the Guernica banner

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Re-Making Guernica part three – communal sewing in Brighton

Posted by wcmlibrary on June 11, 2013

On 26 April, the anniversary of the aerial bombing of the town of Gernika in 1937 which led Picasso to paint his sombrely magnificent Guernica, we published a blog posting introducing the Re-Making Guernica project, the inspiration of a group of academics, artists and makers at the University of Brighton who invited activists to join them in creating an art of protest against fascism.  The Library played its part in their initial research about the painting coming to England. Now read on…

guernica_sew_1What is Guernica? Gernika is a place in northern Spain and Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso; it is a tapestry that hangs in the UN; a mug; a t- shirt. It is a rallying cry; a call to action to stand up against fascism; it is an anti-fascist banner. Guernica is many things: it has transcended its canvas and the walls of the gallery and it circulates far and wide, shifting shape as it goes. The frequency with which people are moved to recreate Guernica is testament to the ongoing power of Picasso’s image to move people into action.

A group of activists and artists are re-making Picasso’s Guernica as a banner. Re-making Picasso’s Guernica is a collective project involving people from Amnesty International, Brighton Anti-Fascists, Gatwick Visitors Group, Migrant English Project, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, University of Brighton and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

They say: ‘We have worked together to recreate Picasso’s famous shapes. We’d like to invite you to take part – come and sew! Jubilee Library, Jubilee Street, Brighton, 16 June & 23 June 2013, 12 – 4’.

For more information: guernica_sew_2
If you’d like to stay in touch with the banner makers as the project develops, or host a sewing event or talk, email:

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Re-Making Guernica part two – ‘an unwavering commitment to resisting injustice unites us’

Posted by wcmlibrary on June 5, 2013

On 26 April, the anniversary of the aerial bombing of the town of Gernika in 1937 which led Picasso to paint his sombrely magnificent Guernica, we published a blog posting introducing the Re-Making Guernica project, the inspiration of a group of academics, artists and makers at the University of Brighton who invited activists to join them in creating an art of protest against fascism. Now read on…

What do you think an artist is?  An imbecile who has only his eyes if he’s a painter, or ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre at every level of his heart if he’s a poet, or even, if he’s a boxer, just his muscles?  On the contrary, he’s at the same time a political being, constantly alive to heartrending, fiery, or happy events, to which he responds in every way.  How would it be possible to feel no interest in other people and by virtue of an ivory indifference to detach yourself from the life which they copiously bring you?  No, painting is not done to decorate apartments.  It is an instrument of war for attack and defence against the enemy.

Pablo Picasso: From an interview with Simone Téry, 1945

The excitement, focus and engagement expressed by Picasso in his words above are at the heart of our project, Re-Making Guernica.

We all share a commitment to the uses of art in challenging perceptions, so that we can begin to see things in new ways, waking up lazy ways of seeing, making us aware of habits and of our tendency to stereotype, unpacking texts so as to reveal new meanings.

We also share a passionate interest in the uses of art in political struggle.  To name just a few examples, Jenny made many striking banners at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, enjoying the ways in which they carry a message and become a permanent expression of history.  Pete has curated exhibitions for socially didactic purposes.  Jill has spent her life working on projects which foreground women, whose artefacts and events have often been written out of history.  Megha’s art practice uses sound, painting and sculpture to explore Indian women’s migration post-1990s in the era of globalisation.  Louise worked on a project to preserve parts of Long Kesh prison and curated an exhibition of materials created as part of anti-Guantanamo campaign work.  Maude was at school in Paris in 1968 and worked alongside students who were making posters, using cartoons, words and graphic forms to rally support, interrogate assumptions and create unities.  All of us have taken part in political actions where the creation of a banner, or a placard, or items of clothing or badges have been part of that action, dramatically enacting or expressing it while also inviting engagement and dialogue.

An unwavering commitment to resisting injustice unites us; many of us have been active in the peace movement and anti-fascist actions for several decades.  Several of us volunteer for organisations which support refugees and asylum seekers who have no recourse to public funds, or who are enduring indefinite detention in UKBA Removal Centres, frequently with no other contact with the outside world  Others visit Palestine to support those who endure daily trauma and indignity and whose livelihoods have been brutally stripped away.  Some of us have felt keenly the ways in which as women we have a different experience of war: we produce sons; we most frequently experience rape as a weapon of war; we are victims of trafficking – and we campaign for organisations to bring about an end to this.

In a time of austerity, we might remember our mothers or grandmothers making do and mending.  However we also recall the ways that fascists grow in numbers at times when mainstream politicians seek to blame economic hardship and social dislocation – which are the results of the political system over which they preside – upon groups that already endure forms of political exclusion: refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

We all see the collaborative process of making as a powerful antidote to the destructive powers of war and violent political systems.  Sitting down together to listen to one another, giving one another space to be heard; sharing common experiences or perceptions; muddling through the process of sewing itself, which drives some of us mad and which some of us find deeply boring; feeling upon us the beady eyes and critical gazes of our mothers or grandmothers – all so much more adept and deft with needle and thread than most of us will ever be; deciding upon stitches and showing one another how to sew them; deciding upon fabrics; talking about pieces of cloth which we have saved from our families’ pasts; showing one another little needle cases made for our mother in our childhoods; noting the humble simplicity of the tools used for sewing – their universality and their power in clothing and sheltering the world throughout history.  All of these experiences have been creative and empowering for us.  They have also shown us that it doesn’t matter how rubbish at sewing we might individually feel we are: commitment to the process and to Picasso’s work and its messages, which we are re-making, are what count more than counting perfect stitches.

Maude Casey – Re-Making Guernica project

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Re-making Picasso’s Guernica: Art V Fascism – a Collaborative Project

Posted by wcmlibrary on April 26, 2013

Guest post from Maude Casey – Re-making Guernica project

We are a group of artists, academics and activists who have come together in Brighton in order to remake Picasso’s painting, Guernica, as an act of protest. As part of our process of making, we have begun to establish links with WCML, which will continue, in the form of posts on the WCML blog.

Our project began in June 2012, in response to the fact that, during the previous year, we had witnessed the spread of a new fascism.  Virulently Islamophobic, it demonstrates a hatred for immigrant communities as well as for collective organisations, such as trades unions and the Occupy movement, both of which represent the rights of workers  and marginalised people.

In April 2012, communities in Brighton showed great unity in a street mobilisation against fascism. We wanted to continue to develop links between people and groups in Brighton through a collective art project, bringing together artists, activists and communities to share skills of making and experiences of countering racism and fascism through the Re-making of Picasso’s Guernica.

We envisaged the Re-making of Picasso’s Guernica as a large-scale textile piece, or series of textile pieces, that could be used as a banner to be carried or displayed as a wall hanging for a permanent or temporary location.  It is both a work of art and an act of protest.  Different groups are contributing, with support from practising artists, by creating reproductions of the powerful forms created by Picasso to represent the horrors of the aerial bombardment of this small Basque town, in broad daylight, on market day.

As the work of Re-making Picasso’s Guernica has been shared amongst the participants in the project, this collective endeavour is providing a forum for exchanging experiences and understanding of twenty-first century fascism. We shall begin to assemble the forms during a public sewing event at the Jubilee Library in Brighton during Refugee Week in June 2013.

Wounded waitToday is the anniversary of the aerial bombardment of the town of Gernika in Northern Spain on 26th April 1937. On that horrific day, the seven thousand civilian inhabitants, were subjected to three waves of aerial bombardment by the Condor Legion, formed by Franco, Mussolini and Hitler to declare war on the Republican government of Spain, as well as to prepare techniques for their plans for world war.

Picasso learnt of the bombardment in a French newspaper report on 30th April 1937; on 1st May he began the creation of the piece he was to call Guernica, combining the name of the town of Gernika with the French word ‘guerre’ meaning ‘war’.  This awe-inspiring piece of work, which Picasso said belongs to the Spanish Republic, was used as a publicity tool for the Republican cause, and it toured the world raising awareness, prevented by Picasso from remaining in a gallery until the overthrow of Franco.  WCML have been most generous in helping us to trace elements of its journey to Manchester in 1939 and in providing us with material for our first talks and lecture.

Over the next few weeks we shall be updating you on the process of our Re-Making Guernica project, which has been exciting and inspirational.

Next up: who we are and why we decided to collaborate in order to Re-make Guernica.


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‘Money Money Money’ – two artists’ use of the WCML collections

Posted by wcmlibrary on December 17, 2012

It’s always great to see our material being used in imaginative and unusual ways.  Recently two artists, Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck, have used some of our books and pamphlets in an exhibition in London’s Jerwood Space, ‘Money Money Money’.

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Alongside the exhibition they ran study groups, with the aims:

To think about money – what it means and how it works

To examine both historical precedents and contemporary experience  

To promote independent and non-hierarchical learning

To think about how we might engage and intervene with capitalism.

Participants included William Kherbek, who taught an Economic Literacy course at the Bank of Ideas, part of Occupy London.

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Photo by Hydar Dewachi

Amy and Ruth also ran a skill swap bazaar, creating an alternative, moneyless economy within the space inspired by Robert Owen’s Equitable Labour Exchange.  Swaps offered included street dance and bicycle repairs.






The final work made a result of doing the show was The Alternative School of Economics, which was launched at an event during the last week of the exhibition.  We look forward to hearing more about this, and about Ruth and Amy’s future plans, in the New Year.  More info about the exhibition is at

stall final event

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