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Last updated:26 May 2015

Banner of the East Bradford Socialist Sunday School

BannerThis banner was rescued by Gina Bridgeland and Bob Jones (Friends of the Library) from the basement of the Textile Hall in Bradford sometime in the early 1980s, shortly before the building was sold and went into commercial use. Bradford councillor Fred Liles made the banner for the East Bradford Socialist Sunday School in 1914.

Like all Socialist Sunday Schools, East Bradford sought to teach children the tenets of socialism. Although secular, Socialist Sunday Schools shared teaching techniques with their religious rivals. This was reflected in the ten socialist precepts or commandments which all members were encouraged to learn, and the singing of socialist tunes or hymns. The schools also taught the practicalities of political organisation. Meetings were recorded in books, the minutes taken by the children. The purpose of this, as one 1923 Socialist Sunday School manual put it, was ‘to train the observation and memory of the young people in view of later Trade Union, Co-operative, and Socialist Duties'.

On one side of the East Bradford banner is the fourth Socialist Sunday School commandment, ‘Honour good men, be courteous to all men, bow down to none'. In later editions of the precepts the language was altered to eliminate the gender bias, reading instead ‘Honour the good, be courteous to all, bow down to none'.

The banner heading off to a May Day parade in the 1920s

The banner heading off to a May Day parade in the 1920s. Vic Feather, later General Secretary of the TUC, is standing to the left (as you look) of the banner pole

The banner's other side contains significant socialist symbolism. As labelled on the banner, the two trees represent ‘knowledge' and ‘truth'. Fruit trees and fields of corn represent abundance and plenty under socialism, while the poppy with its ability to grow in disturbed soil signifies beauty emerging from disturbance. Liles made the banner before the flower was adopted as a symbol of remembrance. The rising sun in the background is a common occurrence in visual political communication, and represents the possibilities of a better life beyond the present one.

You can see the banner on display at the Library, and read Gina Bridgeland's article about finding it and her research into its history in North West Labour History No. 32, 2007-8.

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