The Guardian celebrates its 200th birthday in May 2021 with a digital festival of live events and masterclasses, journalism spanning digital and print formats, and a new brand campaign under the banner “200 years a work in progress” to inspire readers to support its ongoing investment into world-class journalism, say the publishers.
The first edition of the Manchester Guardian, as it was then known, was published on 5 May 1821. To mark the moment, from Wednesday 5 May, the Guardian will publish a range of journalism in digital, print, video and audio formats, examining the paper’s origins, its highs and lows, and how its exclusives and investigations changed the world.
Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief, Guardian News & Media, said: “Since the first edition of the Manchester Guardian was published in 1821, the Guardian’s mission has been to seek out truth and use clarity and imagination to build hope. 200 years is a long time for any organisation to last, but thanks to the support and trust of Guardian readers we now have greater impact and are read around the world like never before.
“We are looking forward to celebrating this moment with Guardian readers and supporters - bringing them special journalism and events which look back at our history, and forward to the future."
Annette Thomas, chief executive, Guardian Media Group, said: “Two hundred years since its foundation, the Guardian continues to thrive and grow our reach and impact. Our business is in a strong position and our unique reader relationship model has proved successful, with a record increase in reader support in 2020.
“A big thank you to our readers, commercial clients and partners for their belief in the Guardian and our brand over so many years.”
Digital festival of live events
The Guardian will be running a digital festival of live events to celebrate its 200th birthday. Highlights include:
- The Guardian at 200: Made in Manchester (11 May), a free event exploring the Guardian’s Manchester roots with Guardian columnist John Harris and editor-in-chief Katharine Viner in conversation with some of the city’s most influential voices including Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham; great-granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline and granddaughter of Sylvia, Helen Pankhurst; CEO of Manchester Pride, Mark Fletcher; lead singer of The Charlatans, Tim Burgess.
- A series of Guardian Live events in June featuring politics, environment, the arts, activism, food, and more. Speakers include:
- Ghetts and Misan Harriman (7 June): The grime MC will join the photographer and activist to explore art as a form of social commentary.
- Marina Hyde and John Crace (8 June): The two writers will talk about how they tell the biggest news stories of the day using humour and satire.
- Gordon Brown and Jonathan Freedland (9 June): The former prime minister discusses the path to recovery after the pandemic and to a fairer, more equal society.
- Akram Khan and Amitav Ghosh (14 June): The choreographer will join the acclaimed novelist to explore using their storytelling to create a powerful message about the climate emergency.
- Jessie Ware and Grace Dent (14 June): The singer-songwriter joins the Guardian's restaurant critic to talk about life, food and family.
- Russell T Davies and Omari Douglas (16 June): The writer and star of It's A Sin reflect on one of the year's most loved TV shows.
- Naomi Klein and Elizabeth Wathuti (17 June): The award-winning writer talks to the young climate activist about the most urgent crisis of our times.
- A special series of curated events for young people by the next generation of activists and creative industries professionals, including 21 year-old activist Jeremiah Emmanuel (23 June) and 20 year-old musician Arlo Parks (3 June).
- A short series of special interactive lectures by Guardian Masterclasses as part of an ‘Ideas in progress’ miniseries, hosted by leading Guardian writers and academics. Lectures include ‘A History of The Environment’ (12 May), hosted by Sverker Sörlin and Fiona Harvey; ‘Windrush histories and mythologies of race in Britain’ (19 May) led by Dr Kennetta Hammond Perry and Professor Kehinde Andrews and ‘A History of Intersectional Feminism’ (26 May) with Akwugo Emejulu and Aamna Mohdin.
- A series of special events for Guardian Patrons.
Partnerships with cultural institutions
The Guardian is also partnering with other cultural institutions, including:
- The Photographers’ Gallery, to present an exhibition on the Guardian picture library (25 Jun - 26 Sept 2021), featuring over 300 images drawn from Guardian News & Media’s archives, and exploring photojournalism across the 20th century including rarely seen working press prints, contact sheets and editing notes.
- University of Manchester’s John Rylands Research Institute and Library (which holds the Manchester Guardian archives) will be holding a special exhibition and events with Manchester academics, Guardian writers, and experts on the Guardian’s history (virtual exhibition opens 5 May, in person exhibition dates to be announced).
- Manchester International Festival, where the Guardian will co-host a keynote lecture from an exceptional artist (dates and details to be announced).
‘A work in progress since 1821’
To highlight its legacy of bringing facts to light and championing progressive ideas, say the publishers, the Guardian is launching a special 200th birthday brand campaign based around the central idea ‘A work in progress since 1821’.
According to the Guardian, the campaign highlights the Guardian's role and voice in the world, with a focus on its independent ownership, reputation for holding the powerful to account and commitment to hopeful ideas and imaginative solutions throughout its 200-year history. Campaign activity will celebrate the evolution of the Guardian’s iconic typography and its longstanding challenger voice.
The campaign will come to life through 230 innovative outdoor placements across London and Manchester, including a banner at Manchester Piccadilly, which will be treated with a pollution absorbing coating Pureti, and a series of special-build ‘work in progress’ billboards.
The Guardian will also be collaborating with leading podcasts, using traditional ad space to explore the concept of progress as it relates to key news topics. Host reads will appear on podcasts including Reasons to be cheerful, Kermode on Film, Adam Buxton, Scummy Mummies and Intelligence Squared.
The campaign will run across the Guardian’s digital platforms and apps, including an animated masthead on the homepage. Additional paid activity is planned across the Guardian’s social media channels, including ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
The integrated campaign was created through a collaboration between the Guardian and OLIVER agency and features three films created in collaboration Independent Films which explore the idea of progress as it relates to the environment, equality and humanity at large. Voiceovers featured include the late Ursula K Le Guin, former Observer journalist, Alan Ross, and poet and author, Salena Godden, featuring the song ‘Immunity’ written and performed by Jon Hopkins.
The Guardian saw its biggest year for digital reader revenues in 2020, gaining 268,000 new digital subscriptions and recurring contributions, an increase of 43%. The organisation also received more than 530,000 single contributions from readers who believe in the Guardian’s values and purpose. Including print subscribers and single contributions, people supported the Guardian financially more than 1.5m times last year, says the Guardian.
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