Odes to change: Senate House Library’s ‘Radical Voices’ season

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Tucked away at the very top of its iconic Bloomsbury home, the Senate House Library is something of a hidden treasure. And its wealth of original research bears witness to revolutions across the disciplines, from medicine to politics.

In early 2017, the library will launch its unique celebration of the individuals and groups who raised their voices to argue for social and political reform. ‘Radical Voices’, an exhibition supported by a wide variety of events, will amplify those voices throughout the library, the School of Advanced study and the University of London.

Senate House Library has organically developed into a hub for collections of radical voices of the 19th and 20th centuries. Revealing this dynamic strand not only sheds light on enormously influential but subsequently neglected figures, campaigns and organisations, but also on the university’s own institutional history, and potential futures.

The exhibition runs from 16 January to 31 March and will display more than 50 items representing the various ways advocates of change have campaigned over the past century and a half. They include suffragette badges, tickets to a Great Socialist Demonstration in Watford in the very early 20th century, a petition signed by British and European women doctors including Elizabeth Blackwell and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and 100 years’ worth of handbooks providing legal advice to protesters.

Three sound artists will create works and perform them on 2 March. Orlando Harrison, a musician, sound artist and radio producer, and radical poets Sean Bonney and Nat Raha, will produce work to complement and celebrate the exhibition and issues it addresses.

There will be two conferences, one in February discussing how walking can be a radical act, and another in March examining the impact libraries and archives have on the dissemination of knowledge. The library is also hosting a monthly film night during the season, from Bette Davis as a censorship-fighting librarian in 1956’s Storm Center to a BFI presentation on radical film to a viewing of Ken Loach’s Spirit of ’45 documentary.

February’s ‘Ephemera Road Show’ will allow the public to bring in their own items relating to political activity and protest. These will be shared with librarians, archivists and conservators. All events will be available to book through the library’s website.

In commemorating and promoting these voices of the past, Senate House Library will question how today’s potential reformers can express their views and aims to inspire all to make their voices heard.

Senate House librarian Jackie Marfleet said, ‘We look forward to welcoming you to “Radical Voices” and hope that, through our programme of events, you will be inspired to discover more about the wealth of collections held within Senate House Library.’


Notes to editors:

1. For further information please contact Senate House Library Engagement Officer, Emily Stidston on emily.stidston@london.ac.uk or 020 7862 8417. Images available on request.

2. Senate House Library (SHL) is one of the world’s most significant collections in the arts, humanities and social sciences. With its partner libraries of the institutes of the School of Advanced Study, it provides services to readers from the School of Advanced Study, the colleges of the federal University of London, and from regional, national and international research communities. All are welcome to join the Library. The Library and its collections have been continuously developed since the 1870s. It now holds more than two million printed books, thousands of printed and electronic journals, and the highest proportion of historic collections of any university library in the UK. Learn more about Senate House Library at http://senatehouselibrary.ac.uk/.

3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2015-16, SAS: welcomed 786 research fellows and associates; held 2,007 research dissemination events; received 24.4 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 194,145 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews

4. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. Its members are 18 self-governing institutions of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. Learn more about the University of London at http://www.london.ac.uk