This site is run by Gavin Brown. I am a Visiting Professor in Geography at The University of Sheffield and University College Dublin.
What is this project about?
‘Non-Stop Against Apartheid: the spaces of transnational solidarity activism’ is a two-year research project. It uses the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy in London (1986 -1990) to critically analyse the spatialities of transnational solidarity activism. It has the following specific objectives:
O1: To record a historical geography of the Non-Stop Picket.
O2: To analyse how the political (and material) culture of the Picket produced particular understandings of transnational solidarity.
O3: To investigate how the social space of the Picket enabled individual activists to develop and extend a sense of grassroots cosmopolitanism through their friendship networks with other activists.
O4: To trace how individual activists experienced the emotional geographies of the Picket; and, how their involvement in the Picket has affected their lives in the intervening two decades.
This research is innovative in combining an analysis of the political and material cultures of this protest with attention to the long-term impact of participation on the lives of individual activists.
Helen Yaffe was the Research Associate working on this project.
The international campaign against apartheid was one of the largest sustained examples of transnational solidarity in recent history. From 1986 – 1990 the supporters of the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group maintained a Non-Stop Picket outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square calling for the release of Nelson Mandela. The Picket was the most visible (and controversial) expression of anti-apartheid protest in Britain. City Group’s unconditional solidarity with all liberation movements in South Africa (not just the ANC) and its principled linking of the struggle against apartheid with anti-racism in Britain led to group’s eventual expulsion from the national Anti-Apartheid Movement.
The combination of the Picket’s central location in London and its expression of solidarity through confrontation with the representatives of apartheid attracted a broad and diverse group of (mostly) young activists from the UK and beyond. This research is an original study of the geographies of transnational solidarity activism, using this unique and previously unresearched anti-apartheid protest, where activists from many nationalities and social backgrounds converged, as its case study.
This project offers a renewed understanding of the importance of transnational solidarity activism in contentious international politics and insights into young people’s engagement in political action. It seeks to stimulate renewed debate about the value of transnational solidarity activism.
We will be analysing material about the Non-Stop Picket, City Group and its relationship to other anti-apartheid movements that is held in public archives in Britain and South Africa. We have negotiated access to a privately held archive of City Group’s internal documents and correspondence. We are collecting and analysing photos of the Non-Stop Picket.
We will also be interviewing former members and supporters of the Non-Stop Picket about their involvement in that protest and how it has impacted on their lives since.
What will the project produce?
- This website, as a virtual archive of the project and our activities.
- Some academic articles and (eventually) a book, written in an accessible style
- An exhibition about the Non-Stop Picket.
- Teaching resources for schools that use the Non-Stop Picket as a means to think about the value of international solidarity and young people’s active citizenship in new ways.