Bristol Radical History Festival 2020

Cancelled: Saturday, 16 May

Bristol Radical History Festival 2020

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Regrettably, but predictably, we are postponing the fourth Bristol Radical History Festival, scheduled for 16th May 2020, due to the coronavirus crisis. In with line with the M Shed and Cube Cinema closure, and for the safely of attendees, we have put the event on hold. We have put together an excellent programme, some details of which can be seen below, and thank all those speakers, performers, stallholders and others who have agreed to contribute. We are not cancelling this event, and fully intend to reschedule when circumstances permit us to do this safely.

Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) have organised a full programme of events for our 2020 Radical History Festival, in collaboration with our hosts at M Shed.

The 2020 Festival has two main Themes, where once again we will reveal hidden histories, debate and agitate for a future of better pasts:

– State and private surveillance of labour and social movements (1792 to now)
– Hidden histories of post-war mainland Britain (1945-51)
State and private surveillance of labour and social movements (1792 to now)

When environmental campaigners exposed Mark Kennedy as an undercover police officer (or spycop) in October 2010, after a seven-year posting, outrage ensued over the fact he had coerced a number of female activists into relationships, and taken part in criminal actions.

Numerous other spycops were (and are being) exposed after this, forcing the Government to set up the Undercover Policing Inquiry into the activities of its undercover operations through the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) since 1968. The cover-up, and whitewash, was underway, utilising multiple arms of the British state. But as we will show in this theme, surveillance activities by both the British state and private/corporate entities have been ongoing for centuries, often working together, hand in glove.

From fears in the aftermath of the French revolution in the 1790s, republicanism and the struggles for democracy to resistance to World War One and the increasing political and economic power of the working class in the 1960s, the British state through spying has attempted to neutralise, suppress and stymie progressive movements and groups. And they didn’t stop yesterday…hello Special Branch!
Hidden histories of post-war mainland Britain (1945-51)

Post World War II we find a Britain with its treasuries exhausted after paying for the War; a diminishing world power supported by colonies it could no longer afford to maintain, nor contain! Its citizens were determined not to be short-changed again, as they were after WWI, in a post-WWII settlement they had fought so hard for, after a conflict in which so many had lost their lives.

Money for this reconstruction and social investment could only come from the US, the only global power to emerge unscathed from WWII. What would the rising US Empire demand in return from the diminishing British Empire?

We’ll share peoples’ stories of the push for social reforms, labour activism, civil rights and experience of national service within a diminishing empire under austerity; and look too at the break-up of the colonial Empire and Britain’s treatment of its former subjects.
It’s Not All Talks

So, you’ll know it’s not just going to be talks, discussions and workshops!

Once again expect:

singing and a performance space;
exhibition space;
talls with books and merchandise from local and national groups.

Not to be missed – go up to Level 2 to see the Feminist Archive’s Women’s Liberation exhibition.

All the events at M Shed are free with no booking required – all are welcome!
M Shed

This will be our 4th Festival, which once again is hosted by M Shed, Bristol’s social history museum located on the historic harbourside.

Date & Time: 

Saturday, 16 May, 2020 - 10:00 to 16:30


  • book shop/info shop/library
  • course/workshop
  • discussion/presentation
  • exhibition
  • film
  • guided tour
  • meeting
  • music/concert


  • Bookfair


Princes Warf, Wapping Road
United Kingdom

Since 2006 BRHG have organised over 250 events; staging walks, talks, gigs, historical recreations, films, exhibitions, trips through the archives and fireside story telling. We have several active research projects, publish a range of books and pamphlets and host an archive on this website.


  • book shop/info shop/library / course/workshop / discussion/presentation