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Celebrating 150 years of the TUC

Published date
The TUC celebrates its 150th anniversary and with it, a century and a half of working together to change the world of work for good.

It all started with a simple question. Samuel Caldwell Nicholson, a typesetter and union officer living in Manchester asked:“why not have a congress of our own?”  The trade union movement came together in Manchester, resolved to work as one, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the role of trade unions, to commemorate our history, and most importantly to position ourselves as a modern, confident movement with a role of central importance and legitimacy in today’s workplace and economy.


Sonnet and artwork

Some beautiful compositions have marked the TUC’s 150th anniversary. Carol Ann Duffy has written a celebratory ‘text for artwork’, a poem in sonnet form that has been given a unique visual treatment by artist Stephen Raw

Sonnet by the Poet Laureate for the 150th anniversary of the TUC.


These are a gardener's hands, planting spring bulbs in the municipal parks.

My hands play acoustic guitar. I am music's diligent apprentice.

I have the praying hands of clergy – vicar, minister, imam, rabbi, priest.

Mine are the hands that feed, a chef', so you will sit and eat; welcome.

Or where there is hurt, these hands heal – nurse, doctor, surgeon – make whole.

My hands wear the gloves of science. I think research is a kind of love.

I offer the hands that fight fire as I run to the burning tower.

Carol Dnn Duffy

Enlarge artwork 

Stephen Raw's paintings of the seven couplets of the sonnet will be hung at Congress house. Photographed by Jess hurd.
Stephen Raw's paintings of the seven couplets of the sonnet will be hung at Congress house. Photographed by Jess hurd.
In a further artistic development, the work commissioned by the north West Region TUC for the Mechanics Institute to mark our anniversary has won hazel Roberts the Leeds left Bank art Prize with these three prints above.

Royal Mail, Commemorative Sheet

On 1 June, the Royal Mail launched an 8-stamp commemorative sheet containing images and information about key trade union moments like equal pay.  Copies of the sheet can be ordered directly from the Royal Mail at a cost of £15.95 per sheet.

Civic celebrations

Civic celebrations will take place across the country, including a national reception to be held at the Speaker’s House in Westminster and a reception for local trade unionist hosted by Manchester City Council.

TUC150 collection

As part of our celebrations, the TUC has put together a set of trade union stories from the last 150 years. It’s not a history of trade unionism.  Nor is it a definitive list of the great women and men of our movement.  Instead we present some snapshots of trade unionists whose stories will surprise, move and inspire you here

Tell your story

These 150 stories showcase the amazing achievements of trade unionists over the last 150 years. But there are many more stories we could have told. And everyday, working people are finding new ways to create change – we want to hear those stories too!

So if you have a story to tell, share it here. Let’s celebrate our past and, more importantly, look to the next 150 years of changing the world of work for good.

What will you do?

The trade unionists highlighted in the TUC150 collection played their part in a movement that has shaped two centuries.  What will you do to make trade unions stronger for the next 150 years?

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