See Powerful Anti-War Propaganda At The Imperial War Museum

People Power, Imperial War Museum ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 19 months ago

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See Powerful Anti-War Propaganda At The Imperial War Museum People Power, Imperial War Museum 4

Imagine it's 1916. The Great War is well under way and conscription has been introduced. As a young man if you choose to object for moral, religious or political beliefs you'll be labelled a coward by the press, shunned by neighbours — and that's just the start of it.

Conscientious objectors would still have to serve in non-combat roles, such as ambulance drivers, or face imprisonment. 6,000 men went to jail for refusing to take part in the war effort in any capacity.

The stories of these wartime outcasts is just one of many in this insightful exhibition from the Imperial War Museum.

The campaign for nuclear disarmament is well represented in this show.

We learn about a pacifist school teacher who became a bomb disposal expert in the second world war, and the modern day story of Brian Haw. Haw lived on Parliament Square, in a near-decade-long anti-war protest, leaving behind his family. He only vacated the square when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Haw is remembered here with some of his original placards and banners, his jacket and loudspeaker. To many, he was a London fixture — always present and literally facing off against Parliament.

Two haunting paintings by Nevinson (left) and Nash (right) show the horrors of war. Image courtesy IWM.

Poems and writings from Siegfried Sassoon and paintings by Paul Nash and CRW Nevinson show the horrors of the front line. Nevinson's Paths of Glory pictures two dead soldiers, face down in the mud. It's hung next to a Nash landscape showing charred stumps of trees on a lifeless battlefield. Together, they capture the decimation of man and nature.

The banners, clothes and loudspeaker of protester Brian Haw who set up camp in Parliament Square for almost a decade.

The modern day equivalents of these anti-war paintings are the photo-manipulated posters showing Tony Blair's nose getting longer for telling lies, and Peter Kennard's Labour party poster where a giant hand crushes a nuclear missile.

The infamous mocked up photo of Tony Blair taking a selfie in front of an explosion. Copyright Kennard/Phillips.

Arguably the most famous photograph here is the mocked up image of Tony Blair taking a selfie in front of an explosion in the desert. Here is proof that a picture is worth a thousand words — long after we've forgotten all the anti-war speeches, images like this one remain seared into our memories.

Elsewhere, the show is chock full of protest banners, placards, diary entries, badges, videos, photographs, posters and paintings — all echoing the powerful voices of those that opposed war. It's often sad to think these voices fell on deaf ears at the time.

Some of the many posters that can be seen on the walls of the museum.

People Power: Fighting for Peace at Imperial War Museum is on until 28 August. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available.  

Last Updated 24 March 2017