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> > > Artists Commissions Announced to commemorate historic anniversaries in 2015

Parliament in the Making is a year-long programme of UK-wide events and activities which will commemorate significant historic anniversaries that underpinned the establishment of Parliamentary democracy and the legal system in the UK and around the world.

black and white 'parliament in the making' logo representing the houses of parliament

In 2015 The Houses of Parliament, along with the nation, will be celebrating a special year: 750 years since the De Montfort parliament (20 January 1265), and 800 years since the sealing of the Magna Carta (15 June 1215). The programme will present, recognise and acknowledge the past as well as encourage debate about the future of democracy. 

On 20 January 2015, 750 years since the Montfort parliament , Parliament launches a large-scale banners exhibition charting the journey to rights and representation. It will hang until late November 2015 in the medieval Westminster Hall. 

Commemorating an 800 year history, Parliament has invited nine contemporary artists from across the UK to explore the resonance of 18 themes related to the broader 2015 narrative of Parliament in the Making. Each artist will create two banners, measuring 3m x 5m, that highlight milestone dates and moments. Themes include the emergence of Parliament, the Civil War, Suffrage Acts, groups such as the Chartists and Levellers, as well as the development of civil and human rights.

Parliament will create an online resource to compliment the exhibition banners, providing contextual historical information as well as details of the artists’ approaches to the commission. Covering each of the 18 themes, there will also be an accompanying series of lectures and events.

The exhibition aims to inspire visitors to Parliament with the movements and moments that ‘made a difference’ in the UK’s journey to the rights and representation that we have today.

Three of the nine artists awarded commissions are disabled artists.
Rachel Gadsden is a multi-award winning visual and performance artist, working across the mainstream and disability art sectors in UK and internationally. In 2014 Rachel created a digital artwork with Abigail Norris for Sochi, Russia 2014 Winter Paralympic Torch, as part of the Paralympic Torch lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville. Parliament commissioned her to create four new paintings, inspired by the Saints Mosaics that hang in the Upper Chamber at the Houses of Parliament, in 2013. That year she was also awarded The National Diversity Award: Positive Role Model For Disability. Rachel artistically directed the international commissions of Unlimited Global Alchemy and Starting Line for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Jason Wilsher-Mills is a UK based disabled digital artist who uses iPads to create paintings that detail his disability, childhood memories, popular culture, social history, his biography and creating new narratives, through theatrical artifice and humour. He initially painted traditionally, but since becoming disabled found the iPad screen more manageable, affording him the opportunity to create large pieces of artwork, through high-resolution files and modern Giclée printing methods.

Paula Stevens-Hoare graduated from University of Arts, London with a BA (Hons) in painting, in 2013. Before that Paula worked as an interior designer on commercial retail projects for major high-street chains in the UK, throughout Europe and Asia. Although her career as an artist is fairly new, she has already participated in several group shows such as, The Dinner Party, when 39 members of The South London Women Artists re-created a version of Judy Chicago╩╝s 1974-79 seminal work, The Dinner Party. 

Mr Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, commented:

“Over the past eight centuries Members of Parliament and members of the public have made the difference to the way we live our lives today. The year 2015 seems the perfect opportunity not only to mark the beginning of that journey through the Montfort and Magna Carta anniversaries but also to commemorate all those whose passion and dedication have fostered the liberties that we enjoy today. However, it is important as we reflect on our past, not to forget the present and our future. To that end, the programme will also coincide with the launch of Parliament’s new Education Centre and the Digital Democracy Commission’s Report.”

The Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, said: 

“Magna Carta established the principle of the rule of law and equality before the law; for 800 years we have been influenced by its contents and it remains one of the most important political documents in the world, with countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada tracing constitutional influences back to Magna Carta. 

“How fitting it is that we celebrate this exceptional document by uniting the surviving original copies from 1215 in the home of British law-making today as part of this year-long programme of activities that will allow schools and communities to explore law and law-making as it was in the past, how it works today, and how it might change in the future.”

Speaking about the ambitions for the programme Sir Peter Luff MP, Co-Chair of The Speakers’ Advisory Group, said: 

“It is a welcome coincidence that we mark these historic anniversaries in an election year. 2015 is the 750th anniversary of the Montfort parliament when representatives of the towns and shires were first sent to Westminster to discuss matters of national concern on behalf of their communities. As we see the people of countries around the world fight for their democratic rights, it is fitting that we in the UK take the time to reflect on our very long democratic history and what that history means for people today.

“As Co-Chairs of The Speakers’ Advisory Group for the 2015 Anniversaries, Lord Bew and I are delighted to be overseeing such an extensive programme of public engagement to commemorate these significant historic events. We hope that the programme will help the public appreciate the history and work of both Houses and in doing so, make our democratic heritage and the parliamentary process more accessible and interesting to a wider range of people.”

More details of all activities taking place, as part of the Parliament in the Making programme, will be provided in the coming months. Please click on this link to visit the Parliament in the Making website for announcements of significant additional projects/events that are currently being developed.

The banners exhibition has been made possible with support from the Speaker’s Art Fund and the History of Parliament Trust.