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Ding Dong

Radical artist Peter Kennard was a chief satirist of Thatcher during her era. On the day of her funeral, we revisit some of the images that captured the Iron Lady and her demons.

All images by Peter Kennard. 

Text by Leah Borromeo.

Margaret Thatcher's election in 1979 heralded a fresh and angry approach to the arts. An emergent alternative comedy of the 80s fed hungrily at increasingly more political targets while a vanguard of radical artists like Peter Kennard found ready lampoon fodder in Thatcherism's demons. 

Britain For Sale, 1985.

Thatcher breaks through miners' banner, 1984.

Originally a painter who started his art career as a teenager painting out of his parents' coal shed in Maida Vale, Peter Kennard turned to photomontage to better express his political fury and activism. An artist more concerned with the dissemination of ideas than the commodification of culture, Peter says his art in the 80s "shows there was a cultural resistance running in parallel with political resistance. It's all the same. The images communicate to a wider group of people than words can - they were designed so everyone could visually understand real issues through the image.  

My pictures gave people who felt appalled by Thatcher's actions a boost. They had images that encapsulated what they were feeling. The fact they stem from photography lends them a reality and an urgency. As with back then, I want my images to open up thought processes about what people believe.

Tyranny lives through one vessel into another. Then it was Thatcher. Then Blair. Now Cameron. Same shit, different arsehole."

Maggie Mask, 1985.

Maggie Regina, Victorian Values. 1983, Tate

Margaret Thatcher's death has dug up her legacy - wounds that never truly healed because succeeding politicians have been all too keen to continue in her shadow. The privatisation of public services, the dismantling of the welfare state, a free market economy nurtured on individual greed instead of collective need - the effects of her actions still resound today. While the left, old and new, publicly celebrated the passing of conservativism's most distinctive scion, Thatcher's funeral arrangements silenced Big Ben and cost the taxpayer £10m. She even took away Big Ben's right to strike. It's what she would have wanted.

Thatcher pukes up the welfare state, 1986.

Thatcher Smashes through a miner's helmet, 1984

Thatcher cuts healthcare, 1985.


Note on the Artist: In addition to regular shows, residencies and workshops, Peter is currently working on a three-dimensional follow-up to his book @earth where he addresses wider issues such as climate change using blackboards, oil and re-appropriated found objects. He is also working with his archivist to contextualise his artwork for an interactive, online platform using film, history and political archive. You can find him online at @at_earth and on http://peterkennard.com.

About the author

OurKingdom is the British section of openDemocracy. 

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