Commons Speaker John Bercow launched a celebration of Britain’s long and continuing struggle for democratic rights yesterday.
A major programme of events sponsored by Mr Bercow offers a broader perspective than the jingoistic ballyhoo whipped up by Prime Minister David Cameron over the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta deal between King John and the English barons.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists and the Levellers will all have a prominent place in the festival dubbed Parliament in the Making.
Historic Westminster Hall was draped yesterday with 18 illuminated banners by nine artists, commissioned by the Speaker’s Art Fund.
The banners hang until November to mark 800 years since the sealing of the Magna Carta and 750 years since the Simon de Montfort parliament.
Other themes include the 1647 Putney Debates, the punishment and transportation to Australia of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834, the People’s Charter of 1838, the 1965 Race Relations Act and the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs banner pictured is among 18 hanging in Westminster Hall
Artist Jason Wilsher-Mills said: “I was inspired by memories of my father, a coal miner and a lifelong member of a trade union.
“The positive stories of what the unions had done to support working people were as much a part of my formative years as bedtime stories.
“I really wanted to make a banner that would pay tribute to these incredibly brave and inspiring men — the Tolpuddle Martyrs.”