Next year will see the country marking both 800 years since Magna Carta (15 June 1215) and 750 years since the Montfort parliament (20 January 1265), when representatives of the cities and boroughs were first sent to Westminster to discuss matters of national concern.
The Parliament in the Making programme will explore these and other historic events that have underpinned the establishment of parliamentary democracy and the legal system in the UK and around the world over the last eight centuries.
The programme will include, on 20 January 2015, the launch of an exhibition of giant banners charting the journey towards rights and representation, which will hang until late November 2015 in Westminster Hall, the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster.
Nine artists – including disabled artists Rachel Gadsden, Jason Wilsher-Mills and Paula Stevens-Hoare – will explore themes related to the 2015 celebrations, with every artist creating two banners, each measuring three metres by five metres.
Gadsden is an award-winning visual and performance artist, who works across both the mainstream and disability arts sectors in the UK and Internationally.
Wilsher-Mills is a digital artist who uses an iPad to create digital paintings which are “a direct reaction” to his illness and disability and detail his life as a disabled person, “using images which are often provocative but humorous”.
Stevens-Hoare is a London-based, award-winning figurative painter and former interior designer.
The themes explored by the nine artists will include the emergence of parliament, the Civil War, the suffrage acts, groups such as the Chartists and Levellers, and the development of civil and human rights.
The banners will be accompanied by a website, as well as a series of lectures and events, and have been supported by the Speaker’s Art Fund.
Gadsden told Disability News Service she was “quite blown away” by being part of the Parliament in the Making programme.
She said it sent out an “incredibly positive message” that three disabled artists had been selected.
She added: “As an artist and also as a disabled person it is really critical to be there and to have my voice represented.
“One of the over-riding motivations of my work is very much about getting vulnerable voices heard through society.”
Gadsden said the artists and subjects chosen for the project will show how, since Magna Carta, “it has been possible for vulnerable individuals to finally find some form of freedom within society”.
She added: “As individuals we have a much stronger democracy than many countries, and that exists because of some of the legislation that began to be put in place when Magna Carta was written.
“What is most vital is that each of the banners and subjects chosen really reflect on how our democracy has found ways over the last 800 years to make things more equal and continually strive to make things more equal.”
The Speaker’s Art Fund is also supporting Democracy Street, in which disabled artist Jon Adams will create a digital art project that will ask the public to plot the “democratic streets” in their local area, producing new artistic maps of the country.
Adams’ interests include “playing with the transformation and metamorphosis of the ‘ordinary’ found object or pattern and concepts of ‘hidden’ and ‘normality'”.
He says: “I continuously correlate and reference elements of arts, sciences and investigate autobiographical reinterpretation of living with Aspergers combined with a subversive and/or geological sub context.”
Parliament in the Making is managed by the public engagement and learning team within the Commons department of information services.
16 October 2014