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.
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
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
O, heavenly chips!
Sanctus, Sanctus, Excelsus
It was May the 12th, 2018,
Synchronised walking was happening all over the globe
Via a shared urban score:
‘Cities tend to start in the middle and spread outwards, thinning as they go…
a familiar phenomenology … in the middle of things.
But where is that exactly, and how can we be sure?
…you are unlikely to encounter a sign telling you that you have arrived.
This is, of course, one of the surest indications …
that you are back in the middle of things:
the signs pointing the way will have dried up.’
But we were in the country,
Far away from the City of London;
How could we see, hear, touch, taste and smell
The space-time of a city, out here in the shires,
Far away from Jeremy Corbyn and the TUC Rally,
Far away from William Blake and London:read more
With thanks to Bob Fry for the prologue and Robin Treefellow for his stream of consciousness imagery.
Dusty spikes of blue Bugle
Hemlock Water Dropwort.
Cow Parsley and May Blossom, shining white in the green hedgerows, everywhere.
Early swallows skimming the air above the buttercup meadows (where Robin recited his poems)
The Dream of Nailsworth
The waters’ intonation
washed in Nailsworth.
Before the cloth mills,
before the cars brought their disquiet
the waters sang among alders.
The world was a flicker of a fish
hiding from the heron.
Nailsworth knew nothing of Egypt’s pyramids
or the fall of Carthage.
Softly persisting to go where its water went,
Nailsworth bred dreams and spawned thousands of little worlds in marshy meadows.
This anniversary coincides with the 11th Prince Albert Beer & Music Festival, Thursday 3rd – Monday 7th May
Real ale, cider and perry. Food available all weekend.
And here are some slogans from Paris, fifty years ago.
You could declaim one or two,
over a pint or two, if you fancy it.
Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible.
Be realistic, demand the impossible.
La barricade ferme la rue mais ouvre la voie.
The barricade blocks the street but opens the way.
Refusons le dialogue avec nos matraqueurs.
Let us not dialogue with our persecutors.
On achète ton bonheur. Vole-le.
They buy your happiness. Steal it.
Sous les pavés, la plage !
Beneath the paving stones – the beach!
L’ennui est contre-révolutionnaire.
Boredom is counterrevolutionary.
*Pas de replâtrage, la structure est pourrie.
No re-plastering, the structure is rotten.read more
Words of the day were obvs bound to be
Metaphor, Palimpsest, Serendipitous,
Inscription and Superscription,
On such a walk as this;
A train ride to Stonehouse
And then a walk through what once was Standish Hospital,
Now a Dystopian Derek Jarmanesque seeming film set,
A Victorian mansion built as a temporary home,
Becomes a Great War hospital,
Becomes a sanatorium,
Becomes an NHS hospital,
But now a building site in limbo,
Fencing all around the mouldering mansion,
The once-were stables,
The towering red brick chimney at the boiler house,
The Japanese knotweed infested lakesides,
The art deco sanatorium: its clean air and sunlight,
Long gone the way of all flesh;
We continued past streams and brooks and railway lines and bridges,
Past ridge and furrow and Revenants,
Past round barrows etched on the skyline,
Past churches and graveyards and lost villages
(And Standish, where the body of Edward the Second rested en route
From Berkeley Castle to Gloucester Cathedral),
To see the line of motorway and the cathedral of the Anthropocene:
It has been said that football is a religion. It is true that for many, attending a match can seem like a religious experience. The blind faith that one day your team will reach the promised land (of the Premiership), the sense of belonging, the passion and the weird attire all replicate that of many religions. Even the killing of the opposition supporters has been known to happen, but thankfully not to Inquisition style proportions.
I suggest that the links to religion don’t stop there.
I have been reading a book recently by the psychologist Jordan Peterson and in his opening chapter he makes the comment “Chaos and order are two of the most fundamental elements of lived experience”. We order our lives in a way that can cope with the chaos that life throws at us, whether it is health issues, financial problems or the elements of nature that are doing their best to make life difficult.read more