Project to highlight Leeds’ Voices Against Apartheid

Picture caption: Campaigners in Leeds gather to show their support for the anti-apartheid movement (Photo courtesy of Dr Salim Essop - please acknowledge if reproduced).

A project to document the history of the anti-apartheid movement in Leeds and celebrate the partnership between Leeds and Durban will be officially launched this week.

A Voices Against Apartheid display, which will include a number of artefacts relating to the movement including a letter from Nelson Mandela, will be hosted by the Leeds City Museum until 5 September.

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Media are invited to the launch of Voices Against Apartheid at Leeds City Museum on Thursday 14 July from 4.30pm. The leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, the Deputy South African High Commissioner, Ms Bongiwe Quabe, and the new Mayor of Durban, Councillor James Nxumalo, will be available for interview. Please email jon.crampton@leeds.gov.uk or call 0113 3951577 to confirm attendance.
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The display is part of the Voices Against Apartheid project which has been designed to raise awareness of the movement in Leeds against apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s and 80s. The passionate involvement by the people of Leeds reflected the city’s values of social justice, equality and diversity and Voices Against Apartheid will raise awareness of the movement, through schools, to new generations.

The project has been put together by Leeds City Council’s international relations team and includes a 20 minute documentary which has been created to highlight the anti-apartheid movement. Local schools, including Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Garforth Academy and Primrose High School, took part in a workshop to learn media skills before interviewing key figures from the anti-apartheid movement in Leeds. It will be screened for the first time at a special launch event at the Leeds City Museum on Thursday and will be on show until 5 September

Those who appear in the Voices Against Apartheid documentary include Peter Hain MP, Councillor Bernard Atha, Carole Summerill and Frances Bernstein.

Peter Hain’s parents were anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. They were briefly jailed and prevented from working and due to police harassment the family moved to the UK in 1966. Mr Hain became chairman of the ‘Stop the 70s’ tour which significantly and controversially disrupted the tours of the South African rugby and cricket teams, which included visits to Headingley.

Councillor Bernard Atha was the Lord Mayor of Leeds when Nelson Mandela visited in 2001. He was involved in the local anti-apartheid movement which included securing the renaming of Mandela gardens and passing the council resolution to stop the purchase of South African products.

Frances Bernstein was part of a campaigning family and her father - Lionel 'Rusty' Bernstein – was on trial with Nelson Mandela. She spent many of her childhood years without Lionel and her mother, Hilda, as they were imprisoned in South Africa. Frances moved to the UK and joined the anti-apartheid movement in Leeds and later the women’s anti-apartheid group.

Carole Summerill was a founder member of the Leeds anti-apartheid movement and worked to support national anti-apartheid policy, in particular the cutting of economic links between Britain and the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Speaking at the launch will be the new Mayor of Durban, Councillor James Nxumalo, and the Deputy South African High Commissioner, Ms Bongiwe Quabe, who will be in Leeds to further develop relations between the two cities. Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, will open the event.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:
“The anti-apartheid movement in Leeds highlighted how strongly the people of the city felt about the inequality and injustice that was taking place in South Africa. This project – and the film in particular – tells this story and is a fantastic reflection of Leeds and its values.

“I’ll never forget Nelson Mandela coming to Leeds. It was a strange feeling of being in the presence of greatness it was one of the most important days of my life. He represented everything Leeds had been campaigning for and it was an honour for the whole city for him to visit.

“Voices Against Apartheid is an excellent project which I am pleased to support. It will raise awareness to a whole new generation and ensure the efforts within Leeds to stop apartheid are never forgotten.”

Councillor James Nxumalo, the Mayor of Durban, said:
"The anti-apartheid movement in Leeds reflected the strength of feeling in South Africa and provided a solid base for the relationship which has developed to the present day. The Voices Against Apartheid project outlines what happened in Leeds in the 1970s and 80s and shows how important that period of time was in the struggle for freedom. Nelson Mandela's visit in 2001 was the culmination of many years’ hard work and, during my first visit to Leeds, I look forward to developing the relationship between these two great cities even further."

Each item in the display tells a story from the anti-apartheid movement. A unique piece is a copy of a letter written on a piece of cloth by Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein. Whilst in prison, he smuggled letters to his wife by hiding them inside his shirt collar, which she had to take home to wash. It was written using a pen which she smuggled to him inside a banana.

To learn more about the movement visit www.voices-against-apartheid.org.uk where there are useful resources for schools, including historical timeline of the movement, presentations and links for further reading.

Schools can request a copy of the documentary by emailing international@leeds.gov.uk.


For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577
Email: jon.crampton@leeds.gov.uk