From the TUC

Ken Sprague and the cuts

20 Oct 2010, By

Ken Sprague's poison image reworkedKen Sprague’s iconic image of a deadly poison bottle ‘containing’ the anti-trade union laws accompanied by the slogan underneath, ‘not to be taken’ became a regular sight on demonstrations in the sixties against the introduction of the now notorious anti-union laws.

Although Ken died in 2004, the Ken Sprague Fund has reworked that icon and has produced T-shirts and postcards to be used in the present campaign against the Con-Dems’ draconian cuts. As UNISON general secretary, Dave Prentis said recently, ‘these cuts are poison’. Ken’s image underlines that reality.

Who was the labour movement artist Ken Sprague who died in 2004?

He spent almost 60 years drawing, designing, painting and printing for the labour and progressive movement. He was a cartoonist, print-maker, poster-man, painter, sculptor, muralist, banner-maker and sometime television presenter, ideas man and teacher. He is also undoubtedly the only living British artist to have had such a close and long-term association with, and commitment to, the trade union movement in this country.

In his sixty productive years he produced art and publicity materials for most of our leading trade unions as well as banners. He also worked with the late John Gorman helping him collect trade union banners for his renowned book ‘Trade Union Banners’.

Sprague t-shirtSprague’s company, Mountain & Molehill, was instrumental in persuading trade unions for the first time to use publicity and design as an integral part of their work, thus changing the face of trade unionism and expanding the role of publicity and advertising into this area. Much of the trade unions’ publicity work in the fifties and sixties was produced by his company and through his editorship of the Transport and General Workers Union journal, The Record under Jack Jones he set new standards for trade union publications. He has produced work for almost every leading trade union in the country.

Why not use this great image in your own campaign? The image itself can be obtained free of charge from the Ken Sprague Fund: [email protected]. T-shirts and postcards can be ordered from or by post from KSF, 11 Dorset Road, London W54HU tel: 02085793553

GUEST POST: John Green is Secretary of the Ken Sprague Fund. He is a former assistant national officer for UNISON, and before that was a documentary film-maker for over twenty years, covering social, political and labour struggles. He is the author of a recent biography of Friedrich Engels and writes occasionally for journals and newspapers.