Free Mandela

mda10. ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ 24-hour picket

City of London Anti-Apartheid Group was formed in 1982. Its first activity was a non-stop 24-hour picket to demand the transfer of political prisoner David Kitson from Pretoria Central Prison. This 24-hour vigil to demand the release of Nelson Mandela held in June 1985 was a precursor of the four-year non-stop picket of the South African Embassy organised by the group from 1986 to 1990. The picket attracted hundreds of enthusiastic young activists.

pic8522. Unveiling a bust of Nelson Mandela

ANC President Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela’s daughter Zenani Mandela unveiled a bust of Nelson Mandela on London’s south bank on 28 October 1985. The bust was created by sculptor Ian Walters and sponsored by the Greater London Council.

po146. Poems for Nelson Mandela

In 1985 the British Defence and Aid Fund launched the Mandela Poetry Project to mark Human Rights Day, 10 December. It asked school students to contribute poems about Nelson Mandela and other Southern African political prisoners. This poster reproduces some of the 200 poems that were written as part of the project.

mda11. ‘Cycle for Mandela’, 1986

Sponsored cycle rides were a feature of the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ campaign – the first was held in 1982. This ride, held in September 1986, raised funds for Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS).

mda12. ‘Cycle for Mandela’, 1987

‘Cycle for Mandela’ bike rides were held in centres all over Britain on his birthday, 18 July 1987.  The rides publicised the campaign for his release and raised funds for Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society (SATIS).

mda02. ‘Free Nelson Mandela!’

In 1988 the AAM launched a new initiative for Mandela’s release, ‘Nelson Mandela: Freedom at 70’. It was discussed at the ANC’s international solidarity conference in Arusha, Tanzania in December 1987 and developed into the biggest campaign ever organised by the AAM. It began with a birthday tribute concert at Wembley on 11 June and culminated in a rally attended by 250,000 people in Hyde Park on 17 July, the eve of Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday.

mda40. Nelson Mandela: 70th Birthday Tribute concert programme

The Nelson Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert held at Wembley Stadium on 11 June 1988 was attended by a capacity audience of 72,000 and broadcast to over 60 countries. The concert was the opening event in the AAM’s ‘Nelson Mandela: Freedom at 70’ campaign. The concert programme carried features on the artists taking part, including Stevie Wonder, Whoopi Goldberg, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Sting, Dire Straits and Simple Minds.

mda23. ‘Freedom at 70’ campaign brochure

This brochure set out the key events in the ‘Nelson Mandela Freedom at 70’ campaign. The day after the Wembley Stadium concert on 11 June, 25 freedom marchers set off from Glasgow on a 5-week march stopping at 32 towns and cities. On 17 July over 50,000 people joined the marchers on the last leg of the march to Hyde Park, where a crowd of a quarter of a million people heard Desmond Tutu call for Mandela’s release. The AAM produced 1 million ‘Free Mandela’ badges for people to wear on Mandela’s birthday. The campaign was the biggest ever organised by the Anti-Apartheid Movement. It projected Nelson Mandela as the future leader of a non-racial South Africa in the eyes of people throughout the world.