‘You are history. You are legend.’

The Peoples Centre, Mount Pleasant
3rd September – 31st October 2008

Reviewed by Alfonso Barata

By the time this review is published, this extraordinary exhibition, which commemorates and celebrates the people of Merseyside who fought against Franco’s troops to defend the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, should have been closed. However, due to the unexpected number of people who have so far visited it, the exhibition will remain open for until the end of October.

That this exhibition, despite its lack of publicity, has been so successful is perhaps unsurprising. In Liverpool, unlike other places such as Salford or Manchester, it doesn’t seem to be easy to find information about the contributions of the volunteers from Merseyside who seventy years ago went to Spain to fight, and in many cases die for their ideals.

This is why this exhibition is so remarkable and it helps explain why many people, including relatives of the volunteers, sons and daughters of Spanish refugees who settled in Merseyside and elsewhere in the UK or people with an interest in the events of 1936-39, were eagerly waiting for something like this to take place in Liverpool.

It is fitting then that such event is happening now that Liverpool celebrates its status as European Capital of Culture, adding a different angle to the mainstream celebrations, telling locals and visitors alike of the extraordinary and moving story of those involved in this episode whilst acting as a reminder of Liverpool’s heritage of resistance and political activism.

The exhibition’s aim is to educate and inform us about the journey that these men undertook seven decades ago, a journey that would enter the History books as a valiant and heroic attempt to defend the values of the legitimate Spanish Republic.

Several panels spread out around the centre’s reception area and the first floor tell us of the names of those volunteers involved, profiles of well-known Brigaders such as Jack Jones, famous battles they were part of, aspects of their daily life in Spain, their relationship with the natives, together with examples of the art and culture produced in defence of the Republic.

It gives us also a succinct but interesting account of the bigger picture, the Civil War that tore Spain apart and led to a dictatorship that for forty years kept Spain in the darkness.

There is also information on what is known as the ‘Internalisation’ of the conflict, when it became clear that for Russia and Germany this was somehow a rehearsal of a future and bigger conflict.

This exhibition deserves a wider audience, for every single person in Liverpool and Merseyside should know about the courage, commitment and solidarity of these volunteers, ensuring that future generations do not forget who, in the words of Dolores Ibárruri- ‘La Pasionaria’* - were ‘heroic example of democracy’s solidarity and universality’.

When the Volunteers had to leave Spain, she paid tribute to their support saying: ‘You can go proudly. You are history, you are legend’. It is up to us now to make sure these words are not forgotten.

Visit the website: Merseyside International Brigades Network - Researching and commemorating the role of Merseyside in the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigades.

*Secretary General of the Spanish Communist Party

Printer friendly page

Comments are closed for this review