Fighting for Peace

The Imperial War Museum, London, illustrates the evolution of the anti-war movement, ranging from the activism of WWI to the present-day. A diverse range of objects go on display for People’s Power: Fighting for Peace, for the first time in the UK, which investigate the social upheavals as caused by conflict. A realisation of the varied range of creative expression used to campaign is a striking and significant outcome of the exhibition, shedding light on the narratives of both individual and collective acts of protests from the past 100 years.

A unique combination of more than 300 items take visitors on a visual journey throughout the history of war, examining in detail how peace activists altered and influenced perceptions of battle. Anti-combat movements have been inextricably linked to the cultural mood of each era, from the societies of the early 20th century to the contemporary world. Paintings, literature, posters, banners, badges and music reveal the vast breadth of creativity from the oppositions in a stark juxtaposition of beauty and confrontation.

Rare objects such as a handwritten version of Siegfried Sassoon’s The General  (1917) are exhibited for the first time, alongside original sketches of the peace symbol, which demonstrate the both cultural significance of activism and different generational approaches. Other highlights include Paul Nash’s Wire (1918) and C R W Nevinson’s Paths of Glory (1918), compositions in which the destructive nature of WWI is depicted. Progressing linearly, a letter by renowned children’s authors A A Milne outlines his struggle reconciling pacifism with the rise of Hitler in the 1930s. Progressing to the conflict of the 21st century, Photo Op (2007), an iconic photomontage by Peter Kennard and Cat Phillip, portrays Tony Blair taking a photograph against the backdrop of a devastating explosion.

Matt Brosnan, curator of People’s Power, states that the display “continues our mission to explore war and conflict from multiple perspectives- highlighting the peace movement and its important role in British history”. A combination of significant loans and objects drawn from IWM’s rich archives, survey the complex and evolving nature of the movements. The stories of passionate protesters and the struggles caused by a century of combat add a poignant and human element to the items on display.

People’s Power: Fighting for Peace, Imperial War Museum, London, open from 23 March – 28 August.

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1. Edward Barber, Embrace the Base (1982). Courtesy of IWM, London.