“We are the lions” is an exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Grunwick strike, hosted at the Brent Musuem and Archives until 27th March. Ravi Mistry reviews the exhibition and explains the importance of this inspiring struggle.
“We are the lions” is an exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Grunwick strike, hosted at the Brent Museum and Archives until 27th March. Ravi Mistry reviews the exhibition and explains the importance of this inspiring struggle.
The Grunwick strike exhibition beautifully marks the 40th anniversary of when Jayaben Desai, a small middle-aged Gujarati woman who was a migrant from Tanzania, led a walk out from the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory in Willesden in 1976.
As you enter the exhibition, you are welcomed with sheets hanging down from the ceiling with images of the strikers standing against 6ft policemen. The walls are littered with revolutionary art calling for solidarity between workers, who were predominantly Gujarati and Afro-Caribbean, in their demands for rights beyond just better wages and working conditions.
The exhibition describes the racism that the workers experienced, being paid one pound per hour less than white workers, and with an abusive management and long working hours.
Ultimately the strike was unsuccessful – not because of the resolve of the strikers and Jayaben, but because of the weak trade union and Labour leadership. Nevertheless, the exhibition goes on to show how workers who continued to be employed at the factory gained pay increases, pensions, and better working conditions as a result of their struggle.
More importantly, however, the Grunwick strike tore apart the myth about female migrant workers from the Caribbean or India being passive and weak; or that they were undercutting wages and conditions. Instead, the militancy shown by these black and Asian workers during the strike demonstrated the exact opposite.
The exhibition runs until 27th March 2017, at the Brent Museum and Archives near Willesden Green tube station. It is open weekdays from 9am-8pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on weekends.