Festival of Freedoms celebrates 800 years of rights and representation through a series of more than 30 events this autumn. Aligning with ‘The Beginning of that Freedome’ banner exhibition in Parliament’s Westminster Hall each event will examine major political movements and moments in the UK’s constitutional past, starting with King John’s acceptance of Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 through to devolution and Parliament in 2015.
The Festival is part of Parliament in the Making, which is a year-long cultural and education programme that commemorates a series of major anniversaries including 750 years since Simon de Montfort’s parliament (1265) and 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta (1215).
Events will question the impact of equality legislation, draw parallels between 18th century petitioners and how to petition Parliament today, examine parliamentary recording and reporting, unearth hidden histories and introduce attendees, sometimes in person, to political and democratic pioneers. Others – like the Putney Debates of 1647, the People’s Charter in 1838, the struggle of the Tolpuddle Martyrs – will spotlight moments not when people actually achieved rights or liberties, but when the aspiration for them was articulated in a way that still resonates today.
The Festival will also provoke discussion about impact of key pieces of legislation including the 1965 Race Relations Act, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.
Festival highlights include:
The Dagenham Women
Wed 9 Sept, 6.45pm | Houses of Parliament
Meet two machinists, who took part in the strikes at Ford Dagenham, as they talk about how their struggle contributed to current employment law.
The legacies of British slave-ownership
Wed 16 Sept, 6.45pm | Houses of Parliament
Professor Catherine Hall gives an account of the legacies associated with the compensation paid to slave-owners after the abolition of slavery in 1834. Her team’s research informed the recent BBC Two documentary series, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners.
Bold, brave and bolshy: actresses, theatre and Votes for Women
Fri 18 Sept, 5pm | Oxford Playhouse, Oxford
Dr Naomi Paxton explores the importance of theatre, performance and propaganda in the campaign for Votes for Women.
Magna Carta in art
Tues 22 Sept, 1pm | Houses of Parliament
Dr Caroline Shenton explores how and why Magna Carta has found its way into art and architecture over the centuries.
Driving the change: culture versus legislation
Tuesday 22 September, 6.45pm
Macmillan Room, Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament
Has culture or legislation been the driving force behind improved equality for the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual, and questioning) community?
The panel will include, amongst others, human rights activist Peter Tatchell, Brie Stevens-Hoare QC and artist Jez Dolan. They will consider the influence of legislation – from the Sexual Offences Act 1967 through to The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 – on improved equality for LGBTIQ people. The panel will ask whether sexuality legislation has actually just followed newly developed cultural norms, or whether the legislation has been instrumental in shaping changes in society.
They will also question what effect the mainstreaming of ‘Gay Culture’ has had on the LGBTIQ community and suggest what further action is needed going forward.
Poor Law records for the genealogist
Wed 23 Sept, 3 – 5.30pm | Houses of Parliament
This workshop, led by pert genealogist Dr Nick Barratt, who has appeared in many television programmes including Who Do You Think You Are?, shows how you can make use of the Poor Law Records.
The Race Relations Act @ 50
Thurs 8 Oct, 6.30pm | University of Leeds
50 years on from the introduction of the Race Relations Act, a panel of speakers from across the political spectrum discuss its impact and their vision for the future.
For full programme listings see here: www.parliament.uk/festival-of-freedoms
Most events are free of charge and booking in advance is required, unless otherwise stated. With noted exceptions, tickets can be booked via www.eventbrite.co.uk