Huddersfield Local History Society and the University of Huddersfield present the eighth in a series of annual lectures focusing on aspects of the history of radicalism in the Huddersfield district.
The power of song has long been used to give voice to social and political concerns and that’s the focus of this year’s 2022 Luddite Memorial Lecture entitled: ‘Rise Now From Your Slumber: Peterloo, Song and Protest.’
The lecture, on Monday April 25 (7.30pm) at the Bronte Lecture Theatre at the University of Huddersfield, will be given by Dr Alison Morgan, an associate professor at the University of Warwick, who will be exploring a range of songs from Luddism to Chartism and the contribution they made to the soundscape of the period as well as looking at how the songs were both performed and received.
Cyril Pearce, chairman of Huddersfield Local History Society, said: “The Luddite period in our local history was about far more than machine breaking.
“Its leading figures were not simply resisting new technology but were also campaigning for the personal and political rights and freedoms which remain central to popular protest wherever those freedoms are denied.
“The Peterloo massacre, barely six years after the last Luddite disturbances, spoke to those same freedoms and the same repression. Its victims and their supporters also sang of them.
“Around the world songs have accompanied social and political movements and Dr Alison Morgan, this year’s Luddite memorial lecturer, will be exploring those connections in early nineteenth century British popular culture.”
Dr Morgan said those songs still had resonance and added: “From the early seventeenth century to the present war in Ukraine, the power of song has been harnessed by activists to literally give voice to social and political concerns.
“From narrative ballads about key events in labouring-class history to revolutionary exhortations, the culture of the song is rich in its eclecticism.”
Dr Morgan’s book ‘Ballads and Songs of Peterloo’ was well-received on its publication in 2018. She added: “As a literary scholar with no discernible musical ability, I was drawn to vernacular song through my study of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poems and songs on the Peterloo Massacre, written swiftly in the months following the event in August 1819.
“Disappointed by Shelley’s reluctance to secure publication for them, I turned to the poems and songs published in the radical press and as broadside ballads as more authentic texts and have spent the past ten years immersed in the sounds of the radical culture of the long nineteenth century, which resonates so clearly with us today.”
The lecture will be introduced by Prof Tim Thornton, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor and himself an historian.
He said: “I am delighted that the university is able to host the Luddite Memorial Lecture again this year, in collaboration with the Huddersfield Local History Society.
“Although there are undoubtedly benefits to formats like Teams and Zoom, there is still much to be said for the atmosphere of a lecture on an engaging topic well delivered to a good audience physically present in the same room.
“And so after the interruptions of Covid it is a particular pleasure to welcome back onto campus this annual fixture, and to be able to do so with such a distinguished lecturer as Dr Alison Morgan talking to such an interesting theme as song and popular culture as a context for the Luddite and other protest movements.”