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.
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
Manchester’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.
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.