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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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FGR and WWI Memorials

I pedalled through snowdrops and birdsong,
To the two war memorials in Woodchester,
Then bicycled past umpteen old cloth mills,
River liquid light all along my way,
To Nailsworth, Avening, Minchinhampton and Amberley,
With long barrows and a standing stone for company;
On through Shortwood, Tickmorend and Downend,
To Horsley
(A memorial just by the church, the bus stop and the school),
Before descending through Ruskin Mill’s sluice-scape,
A heron pointing my way back to Nailsworth,
Just before the rain came in, on a mid-day westerly breeze.
My next trip meant the number 35 bus,
A two pound forty single delight,
Gazing at the wood anemone by the roadside,
A palimpsest of ancient woodland by this main road,
Traveling by bus on what was once a prehistoric track,
That once made its way under a gloomy canopy,
But now tarmacadam speeds south of the Cotswold scarp –
But I was on my way to Nympsfield’s war memorial,
Just by the shadowed wall of the Old Chapel,
A crucifix, refashioned from one found on the Somme,
And brought back to this Catholic village in 1917;

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The Stroud Valleys, Nailsworth and the Great War

They were summoned from the hillside,
They were called in from the glen,
And the country found them ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardship,
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking
Make it sing this cheery song:
Keep the home fires burning
While your hearts are yearning,
Though the lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining,
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.

1914 August

“On it becoming known that the mobilisation of the Territorial Forces was expected great excitement prevailed in Stroud. Holiday makers gathered in groups round the Post Office…Until a late hour on Wednesday the streets of Stroud continued in an animated state, groups of people gathering in the busier parts of the town, eagerly discussing the latest news. The evening papers were snatched up as soon as they were on the streets.”

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An FGR 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 from Forest Green:
Harry Watts was born in 1891 in Avening.
Harry joined the 6th Signal Corps of the Royal Engineers
prior to outbreak of war and became a Corporal.
He received the Military Medal in 1915.

Ernest Beale was born in 1897.
He worked as a brass worker before joining up.
He died in 1916 at Exeter Hospital of meningitis.

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, and Ernest, and Harry,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Harry,
‘Shoot, Ernie’;

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:

‘Over the top tomorrow, Harry’,
‘Keep your head down, Ernie’,
‘Stay quiet. Don’t shoot, Ernie’,
‘Don’t worry, Harry. We’ll get you to hospital’,
‘Where’s Walter?’

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A Swindon Town FC 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:
Billy Brewer KIA 1914
Jim Chalmers KIA 1915
Ted Murphy died of head wounds 1916
Billy Kirby KIA 1917
Albert Milton KIA 1917

Arthur Beadsworth KIA 1917

Freddy Wheatcroft KIA1917

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, Billy, Jim, Ted, Billy, Albert, Arthur, Freddy,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Billy’;

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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Synchronised Global Walking May 12th 2018

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:

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A Nine Mile May-time Walk around Nailsworth

With thanks to Bob Fry for the prologue and Robin Treefellow for his stream of consciousness imagery.

Dusty spikes of blue Bugle
Sanicle.
Yellow Archangel.
Hemlock Water Dropwort.
White Deadnettle.
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.

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