Past

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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The Best Goal I Ever Scored

Alas! George Bowling and George Orwell’s Coming Up For Air: the spot where I scored my best ever goal is now a housing estate.

The Best Goal I Ever Scored

It must have been 1965,
We were having a lunchtime kick-about.
‘It’s Good News Week’ by Hedgehoppers’ Anonymous
Was playing on someone’s transistor
Just behind the goal nearest the school,
Phil Vine was puffing out on the wing,
And crossed hopefully towards the edge of the box,
Where I had strayed, and where I stood,
Predicting the precise path of the ball.

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Inprint Eulogy

The Inprint shop and building in the High Street in Stroud,
Resembles nothing so much as something out of Dickens,
An Old Curiosity Shop,
Defying straight lines of logic:
A seeming hexagonal structure,
With Wemmick-like turrets at the top;
The shop doorway on the corner at an angle,
With a fading palimpsest gable end advertisement
For something delicious and ‘home made’,
And a mysterious door numbered 31a,
That might – or might not- take us up flights of stairs,
Past so many Great Expectations,
And so to Mr. Wemmick’s castle up on high.

But far better than such an ascension,
Let us examine the shop windows:
Displays that follow the high ideals of public broadcasting,
Spectacles of books and comics and posters and maps,
All artfully and painstakingly arranged,
A tableau of colour and half-remembered past time,
A street mis en scene that arrests the eye,
And one which informs, educates and entertains,
A business that improves the mind of the passer-by,
As well as tempting the bibliophile;

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Fractal Light Show at St. Laurence’s

They met by a sacred oak tree:
The Celtic-British church delegates,
And Laurence and Augustine from Rome;

A sacred oak near to a great river near here:
At Cricklade on the River Thames perhaps,
Or Arlingham on the River Severn;

The wind soughed through the branches
Silver light stippled the water,
A coracle cast its steady shadow,
In the year of our Lord,
603.

A millennium and more later,
A scintillant refulgence,
A dazzle of artful light;

There, in Saint Laurence’s in Stroud,
Fractals of illumination,
Stained glass manuscripts;

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Terminalia Festival February 23rd 2018

Well that was a walk, that was,
For we explored boundaries,
Spatial, temporal, linguistic, social, spiritual, rational,
By exploring Jon Seagrave’s Stroud map of the subjective,
Of the emotional and the affective,
Rather than the conventional topography:
The boundary between landscape and experience;

We explored the archaeology of industry:
Rusting capstans and a forgotten railway turntable,
John Seagrave was talking of how the turntable
Could accommodate one wagon at a time only,
For the winch down to the gasworks,
And, oddly, in true time-shift fashion,
I noticed a notelet recently dropped
On the ground nearby:
‘DO NOT DOUBLE STACK’;

Pleased by this coincidence of time and space,
This damp leaf typescript revenant,
Our quickening pace took us back
To 1920s guides to London walking,
Gordon Maxwell and HV Morton;
We planned a Captain Swing memorial walk,
Along the old Tetbury branch line,
To the Trouble House Inn;
We talked of walking the 1839 Newport Rising.

We dropped down Time’s wormholes n so many ways
At the Roman villa at Woodchester,
Where Robin Treefellow transported us
With his fictive account of a servant’s life there,
Druid mistletoe shrouding the lime trees;

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North and South

There, on the one hand, St. Pancras and Paris;
And there, on the other, Kings Cross:
Gateway to the LNER,
And night mails crossing the border,

And gateway to a world we have lost:
Pit heads and winding gear, tram-roads and collieries,
And curling smoke chimney stacks:
The world of the North,

The canvas telling the truth,
Up there in the Mining Art Gallery,
At Bishop Auckland:

A terrible beauty down there in the dark depths,
And a beautiful harmony up there in the streets
And homes and chapels and clubs and pubs:
The stippled mist-light of the pit village,
The twisted sinews in the eighteen inch seam,
Ears keening with the creak of each pit prop,
The mind tracking the echo of dripping water,
And the whisper of each rock –

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Bristol: Clichéd Football; Radical History

Temple Meads via Swindon, 14 quid?
Temple Meads via Gloucester, only 7?
Well, that meant a ride through the warehouse edgelands,
And the buddleia rusting railway lines to Gloucester
(‘YES MATE’, as it said under the bridge),
But there was time enough for a trip down football’s memory lane
With a Swindon fan at Stroud:
‘No football at Ebley, now, look.
Nothin’.
Nothin’ at Ebley anymore’
I said I was off to watch Derby at Bristol City,
And he recalled
Swindon beating Derby one nil,
November 5th 1968:
‘Best Bonfire Night I ever had.’
We talked of FGR:
‘You be careful at Forest Green on Friday.
I know about 200 Swindon fans will be at the FGR end.’
‘I know mate. I’ll be one of them. With my red and white scarf.’
He looked at me with new and slightly befuddled admiration.
He slapped me on the back:
‘Fair play on ya, mate. Fair play.’

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