Saturday, July 27, 2019

Two Leicester exhibitions: Ladybird Books and the Imperial Typewriters strike

I braved the rain and went into Leicester today to visit two exhibitions.

The first was The Wonderful World of the Ladybird Book Artists at the museum and art gallery on New Walk.

On the walls was some of the original artwork from the Keywords books with which my mother taught me to read before I went to school.

They first came out in 1964, so they must have been the latest thing when she bought them.

And I learnt that most Ladybird history books were a collaboration between sometime Liberal candidate L. Du Garde Peach and the Leicestershire illustrator John Kenney.

A plaque in the latter's honour was recently put up in Kibworth, though a letterhead in the exhibition has him living in Smeeton Westerby.

On to the Newarke Houses museum and the exhibition remembering the Imperial Typewriters Strike of 1974.

It began when an Asian worker at one of the company's Leicester factories was mistakenly given the pay packet of a white friend and discovered she was being paid more.

BBC News report says the Transport and General Workers Union refused to support the Asian strikers because its local negotiator believed they had "not followed the proper disputes procedure" and "have no legitimate grievances".

The strikers stayed out for 14 weeks, but a shutdown of the factory by its American owners ended the strike. A year later they closed the factory and a few years after that manual typewriters were museum pieces.

This exhibition is well put together, with lots of video interviews with people involved. It's themes of race and gender and white resentment resonate today.

And you can still find Imperial Typewriters' main factory on East Park Road.

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