Public Lecture Series: Bernadette McAliskey - The Class of '68: Where is the Legacy?

As part of the PSA - British Library Lecture Series 2018, Bernadette McAliskey, a key political voice and activist over the last 50 years, will reflect upon a life spent campaigning for social justice and equality, from the radical awakenings of 1968 to the present. 

Bernadette McAliskey will explore how the events and various protest movements of 1968 energised each other, creating both the expectations and opportunities for significant social change, for advances in equality and a more inclusive democratic system. She will assess the legacy and impact of this profound period 50 years on, what was gained and what was lost and where do we go from here.

Bernadette McAliskey has been a social change activist, organiser and campaigner all her adult life. She is actively involved in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement and was a founding member of  the student movement, 'People’s Democracy', in 1968. She was elected to Westminster in 1969, aged 21 on a radical manifesto which included integrated education and cancelling the national debt. She sat as an independent MP in both Labour and Conservative led Parliaments (1969-1974). During this time, she served a six-month prison sentence for her leadership role in the Battle of Bogside (1969) and later survived an assassination attempt in 1981. She was and remains critical of the Northern Ireland Peace Process through which the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement was reached in 1998, arguing that the deliberate ambiguity it enshrined was unsustainable; that it institutionalised segregation and sought to manage rather than resolve sectarian perspectives. Bernadette is an active human rights campaigner, spending much of her time in grassroots organising. In 1996 she co-founded S.T.E.P. (South Tyrone Empowerment Programme), a rights-based community owned resource, learning and development organisation working with ‘the people furthest from the table of power and plenty’ including new immigrants, migrant worker families and refugees. Bernadette describes herself as a socialist republican and a feminist.

The lecture will be chaired by Professor Robert Gildea, Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford. Professor Gildea led an international research project - ‘Around 1968: Activists, Networks and Trajectories’ - which recorded the spoken testimonies of more than 500 protesters from all over Europe. He edited the subsequent publication, Europe’s 1968. Voices of Revolt (OUP, 2013) in which activists' own voices reflect on how they were drawn into activism, how they worked and struggled together, how they combined the political and the personal in their lives, and the pride or regret with which they look back on those momentous years. Themes explored include generational revolt and activists' relationship with their families, the meanings of revolution, transnational encounters and spaces of revolt, faith and radicalism, dropping out, gender and sexuality, and revolutionary violence. 

Complementing the British Library’s richly curated and diverse programme of exhibitions and events, the PSA - British Library Lecture Series 2018 aims to inspire public engagement and a better understanding of politics, especially within wider historical and cultural contexts.

HOW TO REGISTER: PSA Members are eligible for free tickets. To reserve a place please email Avnish Patel, Events Manager at the PSA, quoting your PSA membership number. Places are available on a first come first served basis but only request one if you genuinely plan on attending and please do not ask on behalf of non-PSA members. If you are subsequently unable to attend please let us know so we can give the ticket to another PSA member.

Non-members can purchase tickets via the British Library here

VENUE DETAILS: Knowledge Centre, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB. Directions to the British Library