Material on the subject of theatre and the arts


The trade union and labour movement have long campaigned for access to culture and the arts to be available to the many, not just the few.

At the 1960 TUC Congress Resolution 42 on the subject of ‘Promotion and Encouragement of the Arts’ stated:

Congress recognises the importance of the arts in the life of the community, especially now when many unions are securing a shorter working week and greater leisure time for their members. It notes that the trade union movement has participated to only a small extent in the direct promotion and encouragement of plays, films, music, literature and other forms of expression including those of value to its beliefs and principles. Congress considers that much more could be done and accordingly requests the General Council to conduct a special examination and to make proposals to a future Congress to ensure greater participation by the trade union movement in all cultural activities.

The motion was carried by the Congress and its subsequent implementation produced the Centre 42 cultural group and theatre company. The TUC Library contains a collection of material related to Centre 42, including event programmes, flyers and photos. The group arranged a number of trade union festivals in the early 60s, including music performances from the FortyTwo jazz orchestra.

Programme from the Centre 42 Bristol Trades Union Festival, 1962

The Centre 42 Jazz Orchestra performing at the Nottingham Trades Union Festival, 1962

In 1964 Centre 42 acquired a train shed, the Circular Engine House in Camden, London, and turned it into an arts and theatre venue. Today the venue is better known as the Roundhouse.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, in response to rising unemployment, the TUC organised the Campaign for Economic and Social Advance. The campaign included a rally at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, entitled “Bread and Roses: Rally in Defense of Education and the Arts”. The name referred to the claim, associated with a textile strike in the USA in 1912, that unions campaign not only for the maintenance of basic living standards – ‘bread’ – but also for working people to have access to the ‘roses’ of culture and the arts.

Flyer for the TUC-organised Bread and Roses rally, 1980

The TUC Library also contains extensive collections of material from the major unions representing workers in the arts, notably Equity representing actors, BECTU respresenting technicians, the Musicians’ Union, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, etc.

An issue of “The Performer”, 1922, journal of the Variety Artistes’ Federation, a predecessor union to Equity.

To find out more about these collections, or arrange an appointment to visit, get in touch.



Historical material on previous refugee crises


A selection of material from the TUC Library on the subject of refugees and migration

Following the distressing images of refugees attempting to enter Europe via the Mediterranean and eastern Europe in recent weeks, the following items from the TUC Library Collections document previous movements of refugees and stateless persons within Europe, particularly during and after the Second World War.

Above, “The Economics of the Refugee Problem”, Focus Publishing Co., 1939

A pamphlet by Sir Norman Angell, published by the National Committee for Rescue from Nazi Terror, 1943.

A welcome card from the Reception Committee, Young People from Occupied Territories, UK, c. 1940s

A plate depicting migrants moving throughout Greece, from “No Room for Them?…. Commentary presented to the Council of Europe on the problem of refugees and surplus elements of population in Europe”, Council of Europe, 1953.

For more information on these items or other aspects of the collections, or to arrange an appointment to visit the library, get in touch.


The history of incomes policy and the ‘Social Contract’


There has been much debate prompted by the Chancellor’s recent announcement of a statutory National Living Wage, rising to £9 an hour by 2020. This has re-opened the debate about whether there should be a government Incomes Policy, whether it should be dictated from the centre by legislation, or left to be negotiated in a decentralised manner at the level of the firm by unions and employers.

This week we have had a visitor to the library undertaking research on the historical development of this topic. Mr Hitoshi Kiriya, Professor of Comparative (Labour) Politics at Shizuoka University, Japan, is engaged in a research project studying corporatism and incomes policies in the OECD countries since the 1970s. Mr Kiriya was visiting the TUC Library to research the “Social Contract”, agreed between the TUC and the Labour Government c.1974-1977.

The “Social Contract” developed from a document published by the TUC-Labour Party Liaison Committee in 1973 (see below).

1973 document from the TUC-Labour Party Liaison Committee that would form the basis of the Social Contract

When the Labour Party formed a minority government following the February 1974 general election, and then a small majority government following the October 1974 election, this agreement began to be implemented. In exchange for repealing the controversial 1971 Industrial Relations Act (see our previous blog post on this topic), the TUC agreed to an Incomes Policy involving voluntary wage restraint in order to combat rising inflation. A second and third ‘Phase’ of the Social Contract followed in 1975-6 and 1976-77.

The details of Phase 2 of the Social Contract, 1976, limiting pay rises to £2.50-£4 per week.

More information on the Social Contract can be found on our history website here, and a summary of UK incomes policies from 1948-1977 here.

The Conservative Government of 1979, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, would begin to dismantle this ‘corporatist’ structure of wage negotations and incomes policy, in favour of a more ‘neo-liberal’ regime.

To find out more, or arrange an appointment to visit the TUC Library, get in touch.