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For the Love of a Chartist

PRESS RELEASE

FOR THE LOVE OF A CHARTIST

STROUD THEATRE FESTIVAL

Chartism was a working class movement of the 1830s and 40s that wanted to establish democracy in the country, at a time when only the aristocracy and middle class men had the vote.
It was based upon 6 points: the secret ballot so there could be no intimidation; payment of MPs so that working people could stand; same-size constituencies to prevent the old rural aristocracy lording it over the new industrial towns; ending the ownership of property rule to become an MP, so that working people could stand; votes for all men over 21 (there were Chartist groups in favour of votes for women even back then, however); annual parliaments so that governments would keep their promises.

All but one of these is now the law, of course, but you could easily end up in prison in Chartist times for supporting these ideas … lose your freedom, your job and home for wanting a democratic government…

It’s time to remember these freedom-fighters, and rescue them from what EP Thompson called, ‘the enormous condescension of posterity’.
And so this show – our counter-heritage rescuing of two special working people from the enormous condescension of posterity: George Shell of Newport and Charlotte-Alice Bingham of Stroud.

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Nevern, near Newport, Pembs

Faith, Time and Tide

We wandered windfall pilgrims’ paths,
Past hedgerows bright with sloe and crimson haw,
Swallows, too, following their autumnal call,
While murmurations of starlings,
And flocks of melancholy geese,
Patterned a darkening estuarine sky,

The ghost-church at Cwm-yr-Eglwys
Tolled an ancient knell of parting day,
A sea-storm squall shifted drowned sailors’ bones,

But we slipped past circles of stone,
Past Carn Ingli – the Hill of Angels -,
To seek penance and resurrection,

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Chip Shop Walk

Chip Shop Hop

A group of us gathered at the corner Bath Road and Frome Park Road, initially in search of the legendary Rodborough Chip Machine
http://radicalstroud.co.uk/the-face-that-launched-thousand-chips/

We then flexibly followed the score from walkwalkwalk – thanks to Clare Qualmann, Gail Burton and Serena Korda – (see at the end), so as to be part of a worldwide chip shop exploration. Our chip shop heritage pilgrimage took us from Bath Road to Cainscross, to Cashes Green to the High Street, to Simpsons, to Nelson Street and so to sunset and bed.
We had a lovely time chatting with staff in all the shops and explained our quest, emphasizing that this was not, as Deb Roberts put it, anything to do with ‘Chip Advisor’. Robin Treefellow wrote a poem especially for the occasion, which he performed in two different locations, once outside a cloth mill and once, natch, outside a chip shop.
Chips are not from Hell
they come from Heaven Highest
chips are winged angels
flying with greasy wings
coated in sparkling salt
into our contentious world
where they relieve our tearful cries
for help is here
the chips, the excellent and goodly chips
we partake of their ambrosia
soaked in vinegar
stubbled in salt
hot and rewarding between the teeth
as we swallow
the chip carries us up to the golden light
in the knowledge our troubles have passed
the chips!
O, heavenly chips!
Sanctus, Sanctus, Excelsus
Amen.

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A Bristol City and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of the Robins:

Edmund Burton KIA 1917
Allen Foster KIA 1916
Henry Gildea KIA 1917
James Stevenson 1916
Thomas Ware KIA 1915

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Edmund, Allen, Henry, James, Thomas,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to James’,
‘Over here, Allen,
‘Shoot, Henry’;

The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:

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A Tottenham Hotspur and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of other Spurs:

George Badenoch 1915
Jim Chalmers 1915
John Fleming 1916
Frederick Griffiths 1917
Alan Haig-Brown 1918
John Hebdon 1917
Alf Hobday 1915
John Jarvie 1916
Edward Lightfoot 1918
William Lloyd 1914
Alexander MacGregor
William Weir 1918
Archibald Wilson 1916
Norman Wood 1916

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
George, John, Jim, Fred, Edward, William, Archie,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Archie’;

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Walter Tull and Captain Cobham-Smith

Even though Walter Tull’s body (and his diary) was never recovered, a fascinating document has recently come to public notice that sheds light on Walter’s life and ancestry.
It was found in the journal of Captain Cobham-Smith of Little Withens, Hampshire. This journal had lain in a cabinet drawer until house clearance on the death of his daughter, and only child, Lucia Cobham-Smith.

To Posterity
Last night, I had the great honour to share an hour with Lieutenant Walter Tull – an extraordinary fellow – who showed me a deeply personal manuscript that he keeps folded in his diary. This note reveals that Walter is an even more remarkable fellow than I had first surmised.
I penned this record of events straight after Walter left me. I have tried to be as faithful as humanly possible to the words I saw and heard.

To Whom It May Concern

In the event of my death, I hope this account of my ancestry will let Posterity know of my Past, and inform the Present of how we may build a new Future.
When I was a boy, my father told me of his mother’s life, together with her memories of her – and my – lineage. My grandmother had told my father that her mother would sit her on her aged knee and sometimes whisper and sometimes sing and sometimes cry this tale:
‘Child, we came here to Barbados more than a hundred years ago. From a land called Africa, far away to the East across this shining sea. Our people, my child, your ancestors and mine, were taken from the secure and happy compound of family. A happy land of plenty and comfort: sheep and goats and the cow, and the yams and the corn and bananas and palm wine.
We lived the gladsome life of the free and easy; this was the way of life of our people, the Isha Yoruba near Bante; a peaceful, peace-loving people. No war. No killing. No slaves. The old gods. Even though I revere the past, my child, heed this:
I no longer trust the old gods and neither must you, child.

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A Northampton Town and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of other Cobblers:
Harold Redhead KIA 1918
George Badenoch KIA 1915
Bob Bonthron
Harry Hanger KIA 1918

Harold Springthorpe 1915

Harry Vann KIA 1915

Bernard Vann VC KIA 1918

Frank Taylor survived the war
Frederick Walden survived the war
Frederick Whittaker survived the war

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Harold, George, Bob, Harry, Freddie, Bernard, Frank,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Harry’;

The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:

read more