50 years of protest images at Birmingham gallery

kennard-survive1This celebratory article about a new exhibition by anti-war, anti-capitalism war artist Peter Kennard in Birmingham ran on Birmingham Eastside during the week of the Conservative Party Conference in the city – too good an opportunity to juxtapose the two events:

There was something ironic about the proximity of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham to a new exhibition celebrating anti-establishment political artist Peter Kennard.

While those advocating Trident renewal and deeper austerity were meeting in Birmingham’s International Convention Centre, Kennard’s striking photo assault on the ignominy of war and the disgrace of global poverty was adorning the walls of the nearby mac birmingham arts venue.

Kennard has spent some 50 years, the best part of his lifetime, being a thorn in the side of the most powerful and wealthy, using his astute, hard-hitting photomontages to challenge and inspire in equal measure.

In the 1980s he fervently championed CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; his Broken Missile images remain among his best known. He was a staunch ally of the Stop the War campaign before and during the war in Iraq, his work focussing on the impact of the ‘shock and awe’ allied bombing campaign on child innocents.

His images have adorned the placards and banners of anti-war activists and equality campaigners across Britain and beyond, while also featuring in books, newspapers and magazines around the world.

At the root of all his work is Kennard’s desperate desire to effect change for the good of all mankind.

As he said recently in conversation with exhibition curator Craig Ashley: “Some of my work from nearly 50 years ago is just as relevant now as it was then, if not more so. This doesn’t give me any satisfaction. It means the gap between the obscene amount spent globally on weapons as against the paltry amount spent globally on alleviating poverty has increased, is increasing, and will continue to increase unless we act.”

The exhibition features his most distinctive images and collections, from Stop, created at the start of his career, to his recent Boardroom, which highlights the atrocities of wars since 1945 in a claustrophobic, wraparound installation that marries startling facts with stark imagery.


Always relevant, Kennard teamed up this year with agit poet and musician Kate Tempest on her astounding new work Let Them Eat Chaos, producing artwork that appears in her book, album and live shows. He’s also worked with fellow artists including Banksy and Cat Phillips.

“My images are deeply critical of all the status quos that condemn billions to live in poverty while making billions off their backs. It’s art as early warning system…we’ve got to hurry.”


Peter Kennard’s Off Message exhibition runs at mac birmingham, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH until Sunday November 27, open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-6pm. Entry is free.

Find out more about Peter Kennard at www.peterkennard.com

Words & images by Jane Haynes @janerockhouse

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