Bristol Radical History Festival 2023

Bristol Radical History Festival 2023 poster, featuring a Walter Crane print

Any movement which is ignorant of its own history is a prisoner of other people’s history. We can’t possibly win the future unless we keep our hands on our own past. (Gwyn Alf Williams)

2023 sees the 5th annual Bristol Radical History Festival. This is hosted as usual by the fantastic M Shed, the museum on the city’s historic harbourside that tells the story of Bristol and its unique place in the world. We warmly invite you to join us at this popular event.

We have a full programme (see bottom of page), which is again based on two main themes:

Radical Bristol and the Visual Arts

This theme explores radical visual artists in Bristol over two centuries. Hazel Gower and Leigh Thomas will discuss Romantic-era painters Rolinda and Ellen Sharples, influential not just for their art, but as founders of Bristol’s Royal West of England Academy (RWA). We look forward to a rare “return” to the city by the charismatic nineteenth-century designer and political philosopher William Morris, who lectured at the Bristol Museum and Library in 1885. Moving forward with our time machine, Marie Mulvey-Roberts, co-curator of a highly successful exhibition on Angela Carter and visual art at the RWA will discuss the delights and challenges of curating works reflecting the visual imagination of one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. Members of the Monica Sjöö Curatorial Collective will discuss the relationship between the art and the radical activism of long-term Clifton resident, Monica Sjöö, while Stephen Lisney will consider the modernist work of the feminist-socialist painter, Doris Hatt.

Bristol Trade Union History: Then and Now     

This theme will aim to provide a historical context for the recent burst of trade union activity in Bristol and throughout the U.K. Ralph Darlington, Mike Richardson and Bob Whitfield will focus on trade union disputes in the past and Sheila Caffrey, President of the Bristol Trades Union Council on its 150th aniversary, and Dave Chapple will be bringing the story up to date. Silu Pascoe will be speaking on the ‘Bristol Bus Boycott: Race, Unions and Civil Rights’ and Andy Danford will consider the campaign to convert from arms production to socially useful production in the Bristol aerospace industry in the 1970s and 1980s. To mark the anniversary of the Bristol Trades Council there will also be a screening of ‘100 Years of Struggle’, a film made by BBC Bristol to mark the Council’s centenary and introduced by Colin Thomas.

It’s not just talks…

The exhibitions of photos, flyers and posters will include:

  • Facing up to the Fascists: Confronting the National Front in Bristol in the 1970s [Guided tour 12:00pm]
  • Subvertising in Bristol – The St. Just Mob [Guided tour 12.20pm]
  • Bristol against apartheid [Guided tour 1.20pm]
  • Visual mapping project – Women’s threads of Bristol [Guided tour 2.20pm]

There will be history walks, performance and lots of stalls with books and merchandise from local and national groups. As always, the festival is a free event with no booking required.


We are pleased to host the following stalls:  Bristol Radical History Group, Remembering the Real World War I Group, Anarchist Communist Group, Bookhaus, Bristol AFed, Bristol & Bath Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Bristol Solidarity Federation, Bristol Squatted, Bristol Trades Council, MayDay Rooms, Monica Sjöö Collective, Past Pixels, Peoples’ Republic of Stokes Croft, Protect our NHS, Radical Poster CollectiveSixPointsCardiff, Tangent Books, Welsh Underground Network, Wessex Solidarity, West of England & South Wales Women’s Network, Base Bristol Collective, White Horse (Wiltshire) Trades Union Council.


You can also follow this event via social media for the Festival… please share!

You can download and print a Bristol Radical History Festival flyer (pdf file) or A4 Poster (jpg), featuring Walter Crane’s Garland for May Day (1895).

Bristol Radical History Festival 2023 poster, featuring a Walter Crane print
PDF A5 Flyer: front and back

Facebook: Bristol Radical History Festival event page here.

Twitter: @BrisRadHis #BRHF2023


The following programme of events will be updated regularly – check back soon!

Saturday 22 April - Talks (drag left/right):

Date Time Location Title With

Events Suite Level 2 Painted out of History – Ellen and Rolinda Sharples Hazel Gower,
Leigh Thomas

Studio 1&2 Level 1 Labour Revolt in Britain 1910-14 Ralph Darlington

Events Suite Level 2 Curating Angela Carter: Bristol, Art and Writing Marie Mulvey-Roberts

Studio 1&2 Level 1 100 Years of Struggle Colin Thomas

Events Suite Level 2 The life and legacy of artist, activist, eco-feminist and writer Monica Sjöö (1938-2005) Maggie Parks,
Annie Johnston,
Su Fahy

Studio 1&2 Level 1 The Bristol Bus Boycott : Race, Unions and Civil Rights Silu Pascoe

Events Suite Level 2 Doris Hatt : Art, Principles and Politics Stephen Lisney

Studio 1&2 Level 1 Trade Unions Then – Tramways 1901 and Print 1985-86 Mike Richardson,
Rob Whitfield

Events Suite Level 2 ‘William Morris’ returns and Alfred Stevens discovered Ciaran Walsh,
Roger Ball

Studio 1&2 Level 1 Conflict and Struggle in the Arms Industry Andy Danford

Studio1&2 Level 1 Trades Union Now Dave Chapple,
Sheila Caffrey

Events Suite Level 2 Lost and Found: Bristol’s underground visual artists Ruth Parkinson,
Bnar Sardar,
Davey Woodward

Saturday 22 April - Walks (drag left/right):

Date Time Location Title With

Meet outside M Shed Cholera Humbug! Epidemics and Radical Politics in the 1830s Molly Conisbee

Meet outside Royal West of England Academy (RWA) Ellen and Rolinda Sharples Lee Cox

M Shed Front Entarnce Bristol City Centre Squatted: the last 50 years Bristol Squatted

Saturday 22 April - Performance (drag left/right):

Date Time Location Title With
Ground Floor Foyer Red Notes Choir Red Notes Choir

Saturday 22 April - Films (drag left/right):

Date Time Location Title With

Film room Level 1 Swords into Ploughshares

Film room Level 1 Reel Lives – a social history of Bristol
Film room Level 1 100 Years of Struggle

Saturday 22 April - Exhibitions (drag left/right):

Date Time Location Title With

Foyer Level 2 Facing up to the Fascists: Confronting the National Front in Bristol in the 1970s Rosemary L Caldicott

Foyer Level 2 Women’s Threads of Bristol Zoe Gibbons

Foyer Level 2 Subvertising – The St Just Mob Ruth Parkinson

Foyer Level 2 Bristol Against Apartheid Trish Mensah

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