Parliament to host exhibitions and talks on 800 years of rights and representation

Parliament’s Festival of Freedoms celebrates 800 years of rights and representation through a series of more than 30 events this autumn from 1 September to 25 October

Aligning with ‘The Beginning of that Freedome’ banner exhibition in Parliament’s Westminster Hall each event will examine major political movements and moments in the UK’s constitutional past, starting with King John’s acceptance of Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 through to devolution and Parliament in 2015.

The Festival is part of Parliament in the Making, which is a year-long cultural and education programme that commemorates a series of major anniversaries including 750 years since Simon de Montfort’s parliament (1265) and 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta (1215).

Events will question the impact of equality legislation, draw parallels between 18th century petitioners and how to petition Parliament today, examine parliamentary recording and reporting, unearth hidden histories and introduce attendees, sometimes in person, to political and democratic pioneers.

Others – like the Putney Debates of 1647, the People’s Charter in 1838, the struggle of the Tolpuddle Martyrs – will spotlight moments not when people actually achieved rights or liberties, but when the aspiration for them was articulated in a way that still resonates today.

The Festival will also provoke discussion about impact of key pieces of legislation including the 1965 Race Relations Act, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

An exhibition The Putney Debates: democratic pioneers will also take place from
Tuesday 1 – Saturday 12 September, 9am – 6pm (Mon – Sat) and 11am – 5pm (Sun) tracing the roots of our democratic ideals back to the ground-breaking Putney Debates in 1647.

Festival highlights:

The Dagenham Women
Wed 9 Sept, 6.45pm Houses of Parliament
Meet two machinists, who took part in the strikes at Ford Dagenham, as they talk about how their struggle contributed to current employment law.

The Putney Debates and the Levellers
Saturday 12 September, 2pm
St Mary’s Church & Gardens, Putney High Street, London
Professor Justin Champion discusses the ground-breaking 1647 debates, which paved the way for many of the civil liberties we value today.

The legacies of British slave-ownership
Wed 16 Sept, 6.45pm Houses of Parliament
Professor Catherine Hall gives an account of the legacies associated with the compensation paid to slave-owners after the abolition of slavery in 1834. Her team’s research informed the recent BBC Two documentary series, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners.

Bold, brave and bolshy: actresses, theatre and Votes for Women
Fri 18 Sept, 5pm | Oxford Playhouse, Oxford
Dr Naomi Paxton explores the importance of theatre, performance and propaganda in the campaign for Votes for Women.

The Race Relations Act @ 50
Thurs 8 Oct, 6.30pm University of Leeds
50 years on from the introduction of the Race Relations Act, a panel of speakers from across the political spectrum discuss its impact and their vision for the future.

Wales and Magna Carta in 1215
Thursday 17 September, 6pm
The Pierhead, The National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay
Professor David Carpenter will explore the crucial role played by the Welsh rulers in the creation of Magna Carta.

Heritage in focus at the International Slavery Museum
Saturday 19 September, 2pm
International Slavery Museum, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Building, Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront
Exploring different aspects of our heritage linked to the transatlantic slave trade in Liverpool.

Female Suffrage in Scotland
Saturday 17 October, 11am – 1pm
Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee
Dr William Kenefick and Dr Ann Petrie explore issues related to female suffrage in Scotland.

Full programme listings can be found on the Parliament  website.