Welsh exhibition will inspire new generation to fight for their rights

The First Minister will today (Thursday), open a new exhibition which aims to inspire a new generation to fight for their rights in the workplace and in society at large.

Mark Drakeford is attending the launch of ‘UNISON and the Welsh labour movement,’ an exhibition of radical history on a scale never before seen in Wales, permanently based in the trade union’s Cardiff office.

The general public will have the opportunity to visit an online version of the exhibition with bilingual audio commentary.

UNISON Cymru Wales promises an exhibition which brings history alive and leaves visitors excited about what is possible when people come together to campaign for change.

Visitors will learn about the reality of life for working class people in the industrial revolution and the birth of early Welsh unions, through to popular revolts in Mold and Merthyr and the powerful voices of the suffragettes.

The modern era records the birth of the National Health Service and the ongoing fight for social justice and equal rights for all.

Highlights include an image of original mural commemorating the Chartist uprising in Newport and a specially commissioned epic poem, Song of the Unvanquished, from Patrick Jones. Three named rooms feature the lives of Welsh labour movement heroes, Aneurin Bevan, Thora Silverthorne and Betty Campbell.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea, UNISON general secretary and

Wales TUC general secretary, Shavanah Taj, will also speak at the event, where numbers have been restricted to ensure a Covid safe environment.

Karen Loughlin, UNISON Cymru Wales regional secretary, said,

“History shouldn’t be seen as dry or distant. We’re showing Welsh people that the women and men who have helped transform society looked and sounded just like them.

“We want people to come away inspired and fizzing with ideas thinking about what change is possible and how they can achieve it.

“There is a direct line from the struggle of working people against their exploitation in times past and today’s fight for action on the climate, anti-racism and equal rights for all.”

Dave Rees, UNISON Cymru Wales Convenor, said,

“This exhibition champion the gains won by working class people and their trade unions that have benefitted everyone.

“You’ll hear about the people in Mold, Merthyr and elsewhere, who banded together to turn the world on its head, winning the vote, reduced working hours and safer workplaces. It was trade union campaigning which secured the minimum wage, maternity and paternity rights, pensions, holiday pay and sick pay.

“We’re so proud of the exhibition and it shows what a positive difference trade unions can make.”

UNISON Cymru Wales engaged local historian, Robert Griffiths and designer, Hannah Warrick, to develop the exhibition.

Notes for editors

  • The new historical exhibition ‘UNISON and the Welsh Labour Movement’ which is now permanently situated in our UNISON House conference suite.
  • This exhibition will be officially opened at 10am on Thursday 18 November. Photographs can be provided after the event and requests should be sent in advance to Alastair Gittins gittins@unison.co.uk
  • From 10am on Thursday 18 November, members of the public will be able to view the virtual exhibition here The physical exhibition is not open to the public.
  • Examples of the exhibition panels can be found via the links below.
Image of poet Patrick Jones and one verse of commissioned poem, Song of the Unvanquished.
Image of Nye Bevan and image of quote from Nye Bevan
Image of pioneering nurse, Thora Silverthorne. Image of quote from Thora



Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer on 07816 53 83 97