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Barbara Niven was born on 5 November 1896 in Chorleton, Lancashire.
Along with her husband, Ern Brooks (see separate entry), Niven was Art Director of Theatre Union, established in 1936 in Manchester. It successfully staged a range of bold and innovative productions, much of it anti-Fascist. Theatre Union stated its aims were “to establish a complete theatre unit consisting of producers, actors, writers, artists and technicians".
Both Brooks and Niven were members of the Manchester Society of Modern Painters and the Communist Party.
A visual artist in her own right, Barbara Niven she was a close friend of Hugh MacDiarmid (see separate entry), the Scottish poet.
Giving up what should have been a highly promising career as an artist was not perhaps difficult for her, as the cold war denied commissions to her. Either way, she began full time work for the Daily Worker and was, for some 20 years from 1950 (when the picture was published), the national organiser of the Daily Worker and then Morning Star PPPS Fighting Fund, until she died on 8 July 1972. Her daily column in the paper made her affectionally regarded by readers.