Protest: Stories of Resistance in the North West

Posted 12 Jul 2017 by Becky Harrison in Opinion

From the Peasants’ Revolt, all the way through to the anti-Iraq War demo in 2003, people from all walks of life in Britain have been marching, picketing and occupying their way to social justice and, while recorded history favours the rich and powerful, it is often the overlooked grassroots movements that incited the dialogue for change.

Peasant's Revolt: It's all over for Wat Tyler

Protest: Stories of Resistance celebrates these marginal histories, bringing together authors and historians (or real witnesses in the case of the recent protests) to explore over 6 centuries of people power through factually-accurate fiction. Many of these protests have their origins in the North West, so as a publisher whose proud home is that very region, we’re delighted to be able to bring these stories to national and international audience.

Sandra Alland’s story, for example, excavates the little-known history of The National League of the Blind, the first union ever based on an identity, rather than a profession. Set in a blind persons’ asylum in Manchester in the early 20th Century - where people were overworked, underpaid, and often abused in the name of “charity” - the story leads up to the monumental National Blind March, which saw people join together in protest from Manchester, Liverpool, Oldham, and even as far as Dublin. A funny and sharp-tongued story, ‘Kick Start’ not only brings to light the unfair conditions for blind people at that time, but also examines the other ways that people were marginalized, as the women were not allowed to march with the men.

The significance of Manchester to the Women’s Suffrage Movement is no secret, but Michelle Green’s story goes behind closed – locked, actually – doors into a prison cell, where women were taken after being arrested for doing whatever means necessary to get the vote. Inspired by the likes of working class Suffragettes like Annie Kenney, ‘There Are Five Ways Out of This Room’ paints a picture of mistreatment, solitude, but inevitably, hope.

Canal StreetManchester’s Gay Village as a symbol of freedom of expression is used to literal effect in Juliet Jacques’ story ‘Never Going Around’, which follows a young student who moves to the city, and in doing so begins to not only embrace his identity, but fight for it as well. 2017 may well mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of being gay in the UK, but the infamous Section 28 act, which banned schools and local councils from the “promotion” of homosexuality is still in very recent memory, only being dropped in the early 2000s. This story shows the enduring spirit of the LGBT community in the North West, and reminds us how far we’ve come, and how far we also need to go.

The Big Issue described Protest as providing a ‘glimmer of hope and inspiration’ in today’s political climate, and we hope that the stories in the anthology further serve to inspire and unify the people of the North West. We’d recommend this to readers who like political or historical fiction, short stories, or non-fiction and memoir, as well as anyone with a taste for revolution.

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Becky Harrison is the Engagement Manager of Comma Press, overseeing marketing and publicity campaigns, as well as managing the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair, the annual event for aspiring writers which will return to MMU in November.

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