Final push towards Liberty's new home

Liberty has been based in its current office for over 30 years, longer than many staff and volunteers have been alive.

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>How Liberty was founded

In 1932, the organisers of the National Hunger March attempted to deliver to Parliament a petition of one million signatures in protest against legislation that had plunged thousands into extreme poverty. 100,000 people gathered in Hyde Park to meet the marchers, among them Liberty’s co-founder Ronald Kidd.

The petition was blocked from reaching Parliament, and thousands of police were mobilised against the protest. Serious violence erupted in the park, and spread throughout central London, leaving many seriously injured. In Trafalgar Square, Kidd witnessed police agent provocateurs disguised as workers attempting to incite violence among the peaceful protestors.

Over the next year, Kidd and fellow co-founder Sylvia Scaffardi worked to try to raise awareness of the threat to peaceful protest. Ahead of the next Hunger March, planned for February 1934, they put out a circular letter to a number of eminent figures of the day, gathering support from across the political spectrum, from politics, law, the arts and sciences.

On 22 February 1934, at a meeting in the vestry hall of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, the Council for Civil Liberties was formed. Their immediate goal was to make sure that the next ‘hunger march’ was peaceful and safe. But the founders agreed that the Council would be needed long after the march was over, to defend ‘the whole spirit of British freedom’.

The formation of the Council and their pledge to act as responsible and neutral legal observers on the next march was announced in a letter printed on the 24 February in The Manchester Guardian. It was signed by 14 of the Council’s most prominent supporters, including HG Wells, Vera Brittain, Dr. Edith Summerskill, Clement Atlee, Kingsley Martin, and Prof. Harold Laski. Read the orignal letter.

On the day of the march, thousands of protestors gathered in Hyde Park, where there was a heavy police presence, and the threat of violence hung in the air. Although politicians had predicted bloodshed, they were proved wrong – the huge rally was entirely peaceful.

We can never take our liberty for granted, and in times of economic instability and social upheaval, our basic rights come under attack. In 1934, as desperate people protested against poverty, corruption and the threat of fascism, the Council of Civil Liberties was formed to protect them, to champion the rights of ordinary people and hold the powerful to account. For 80 years we have been the conscience of the nation, and we are needed now as we were then to keep watch over our rights and freedoms.

Today we strive to continue the work that Ronald Kidd, Sylvia Scaffardi and the rest of the Council began. When Kidd died in 1942 his friend and colleague EM Forster wrote a tribute to him, which is carved on a plaque which still hangs in Liberty’s offices:

"Passionate in his hatred of injustice, wise in judgement, fearless in action, he championed the liberties of the people in the fight that is never done"

>Legal work

Liberty has been providing legal advice and supporting groundbreaking cases since 1934.

We’re one of the only campaigning organisations in the UK that makes change by challenging injustice and defending our rights in the courts.

Our landmark cases help dismantle laws, policies and practices that violate people’s rights – and fight for justice for people who have been let down by those in power.


We take on test cases – ones that will set a useful precedent others can follow.

Our ongoing cases include our major challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act – the Government’s surveillance law.

We also act as solicitors for people bringing, or sometimes defending, a case – such as Cardiff resident Ed Bridges, who we’re representing in his challenge to South Wales Police’s use of facial recognition technology.


As well as acting as solicitors, we sometimes intervene in cases where we act for neither party.

As third-party interveners, we submit expert evidence in our own name to assist the court in deciding on a case.

Interventions are an increasingly important route by which we can seek to influence the development of the law.


We receive a large number of requests for legal representation – but we can only take up a very small proportion of these and focus our efforts on bringing test cases in key areas of law.

We offer the public free legal advice and information through our Advice Line – and we’re working on developing a new online legal advice system.


80 years of campaigning

The National Council for Civil Liberties was founded in 1934, as a response to brutal police attempts to stop people peacefully protesting.

Ever since, we’ve been working to challenge injustice wherever we find it, defend freedom and make the UK a fairer, more equal place.

Our members have campaigned on a huge range of issues over the last 80 years – from fighting fascism, mass surveillance, internment and abuse of police power, to defending free speech and demanding equal rights for all.

But our principles and aims have remained constant. We want rights to be protected and freedom valued for everyone in the UK.

Today – as Liberty – we strive to continue the work the Council began.

Our historical archives are maintained on our behalf by the University of Hull and are open to the public. Contact Hull History Centre to find out how you can visit them.

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Female anti-fascist protestor