Changing Lives charts this difficult relationship with protest in the form of a timeline. From the institution-shaking protests against pit closures in the 1980s to the less expected connections that beg you to look a little deeper (see: Sheffield’s uniquely close and vocal relationship with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa), the exhibition is brimming with artefacts which paint a picture of a city energised, with much to say on not just the monumental issues but the local, specific and marginalised ones too.
Posters, banners, pamphlets, memorabilia, manifesto, sashes, and protest art of all kinds populates Changing Lives. There’s a collection of artefacts relating to Adela Pankhurt’s attempted protest at Cutlers’ Hall while disguised as a kitchen maid, tracing a Suffragette story in Sheffield – as told by an embroidered apron.
As you might expect, the exhibition is bittersweet, each object of a battle won a symbol of historic pains and challenges yet to overcome. The Women’s March and anti-Trump exhibits are particular examples of this. For art lovers though, it does provide a look at an alternative design history – as political protest has often provided a rich territory for boundary-pushing creativity. Take a look at the aggressively stylised typefaces of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, or the conceptually powerful anti-nuclear posters to see this creativity in action.
The message of Changing Lives is clear: Sheffield can be mighty and outspoken, but there’s still much to do.