PoP & Protest: The Musicians’ Union in the 1980s

A new exhibition exploring the history of the Musicians Union in the 1980s, Pop and Protest is on display in the University of Stirling Library until the end of March 2019.  The exhibition draws on material from the archives of the Musicians’ Union, which were deposited with the University of Stirling Archives in 2010, and features some rarely seen items from the collection.

Pop and Protest: the Musicians Union in the 1980s is a journey through the campaigns and memorabilia of the decade which saw membership of the union reach 40,000.  The exhibition illustrates the ways in which the Musicians’ Union sought to improve the lives and employment rights of performers.  During this politically charged decade, members tackled anti-union legislation and spending cuts to music education thrown at them by the Conservative Government.  They protested the mistreatment of performers during a series of orchestra strikes and raised awareness of racial discrimination in the UK and apartheid in South Africa.  Images and archive material about the flagship campaign ‘Keep Music Live’ have been used to highlight the importance of live music when new technology threatened the job security of live bands and singers.  Musicians’ Union members also used their talents to raise funds for famine relief by contributing to 1985’s Live Aid concert.

The exhibition was curated by third year students at the University of Stirling taking a course in Exhibition and Interpretation Design.  Kelly Law, Nina Van Rooijen and Kassandra Bailey, students in the Exhibition Design team said “Working on this exhibition has been both challenging and fun. As design team we worked with several different members of the class to incorporate everyone’s aesthetic ideas. Designing this exhibition has been a wonderful opportunity to express our creativity and learn how to work as a team. Our design is inspired by the vibrant ‘80s and it is shown by the colours we have picked. We are excited to present this exhibition to the public and hopefully our hard work will show.”

The University Archivist, Karl Magee, noted “we were delighted to open up the fantastic research resource which is the Musicians’ Union Archive to this student project. The exhibition they created brilliantly captures a particularly eventful decade for the Union and shows the huge potential of this collection for research, exhibition and promotion.”

archives Written by: