Manchester Art Gallery

In Translation: Women, Migration and Britishness

Part of a major project working with women who have migrated to the North-West of England from all over the world.

Manchester Art Gallery
Saturday 25 February 2012–Sunday 5 May 2013


Empire Marketing Board Posters

The women, drawn from a range of diverse backgrounds, worked with artists’ collective UHC (Ultimate Holding Company) to co-curate a display featuring and inspired by Manchester City Galleries’ collection of Empire Marketing Board Posters.

These posters were produced by the Empire Marketing Board, a promotional body set up by the British government in 1926. They are large, colourful lithographic prints, which are now regarded as a rare example of peace time government propaganda. Each set of posters promotes a way of thinking about the Empire – for example, as an eager market for British exports, or as a bounteous source of produce for the British tea table. Any darker ideas of ruthless colonial domination were kept at bay by the sheer brilliance of the posters. The poster campaign ran nationwide on Britain’s streets from 1926 to 1933.

In 1933, Manchester Art Gallery acquired 222 individual posters for the Gallery’s Industrial Art Collection. The posters did not see the light of day again until the 1990s. Perhaps this was because people were uncomfortable with the version of Empire that they promoted.

As with any cultural material, however, their meaning has changed over time and the poster collection today is subject to quite different readings from those originally intended. The Sunshine and Europia women’s groups at Wai Yin, the Cumbria Multicultural Women’s Network, and UHC, worked together with staff at Manchester Art Gallery to look at these posters in a critical and creative light, displaying a selection of the posters together with the women’s own interpretative artwork.

Further resources

Browse the entire Empire Marketing Board poster collection on flickr.

A series of events linked to this exhibition ran throughout the year and a publication, Empire Marketing Board Posters, was made available in the shop priced at £7.95.


The project was funded by a grant from the Arts Council.

The conservation of the Empire Marketing Board posters was kindly supported by The Pilgrim Trust.

Related links

Ultimate Holding Company

Wai Yin Chinese Women Society


Detail from Empire Marketing, series unknown, designed by Hugh Williams