Rather creeping on me unawares has been “Taking Liberties,” an independent exhibition run by the British Library of how British freedoms were won.
The title expresses neatly the ambiguity of the subject – how the State could be oppressive and how citizens progressively gained the essential corpus of freedom we associate with a modern democracy. Although run by very much a State body, we’re assured Taking Liberties is far from a celebration of a tradition or history in aspic:
The display items will be displayed in chronological order but visitors will also be encouraged to view them in connection with certain themes. These include the right to justice, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom from want. As they make their way through the displays, visitors will be asked to consider the similarities between modern day protest groups and their counterparts from the past.
“Snub to Gordon Brown” is the Sunday Telegraph’s spin on the story as it appears the idea took off after he had made a very different proposal for a ” National Museum of British Achievement” with a possible £100m budget. The Telegraph may have a point, for:
the exhibition is more than a celebration of the nation’s past, with the focus on current topics like ID cards, 42 days detention and internment without trial.
I have no problem with the exhibition being Anglo-centric. It’s bound to reflect the experience of the big population, the hub and origin of the polity etc., but I was glad to see a second reference in the Telegraph’s story:
There will also be news items about internment during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
The Yorkshire Post reports that the British Library has trawled for material there. Any approach to the PRO in Balmoral Avenue and the Linenhall library, does anybody know? Or the National Library in Dublin?
There will be a major interactive site that should entice the Slugger community. Details to follow: so far scarce. The exhibition runs from end of October to March. It promises to provoke lively debate and Slugger will surely make its mark. The inclusion of internment is of course vital, not only for what it did to us, but how it related to them. Brits tend to overlook the latter point and seal off the Irish experience in a world apart. Moreover, internment is not enough. For without making a meal of it, the evolution of British freedoms cannot be understood without an examination of the full Irish record.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London