Disrupt! Peterloo and Protest is the People’s History Museum’s year long programme exploring the past, present and future of protest. It marks 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre, a major event in Manchester’s history and a defining moment for Britain’s democracy.
To tie in with this, I’ve written a blog exploring Manchester protest music. It touches on Rock Against Racism, vegetarianism, Kinder Scout, Section 28 and more. Read it here.
I’m excited to announce that I have been commissioned by Manchester Histories to create a piece of audio art that draws inspiration from the 200 year anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre and its accompanying themes of protest, democracy, freedom of speech.
Back in January I was given the opportunity to review a live performance at Imperial War Museum North by one of my favourite bands, Field Music. The band would be playing a specially commissioned song cycle written for the museum’s Making a New World season, which explores themes of remembrance and how the First World War has shaped today’s society.
For initial inspiration, the Brewis brothers were shown a ‘sound range’ image from the IWM archives that illustrates the very final moments of artillery fire on the Western Front.
The band said, “The image shows the minute leading up to 11am on the 11th November 1918, and the minute immediately after. One minute of oppressive, juddering noise and one minute of near silence. This was the starting point for our suite of new songs. It was also the start of a new world.”
You can read my full review for Louder Than Warhere.
It was a real joy to co-curate a second Suffragette City event at The Refuge. What a riot! It was rammed all day and night, upstairs and down, illustrating just how much appetite there is for women-led DJ events. I really enjoyed playing in the bar early on, and will post my mix soon.
This year, we wanted to raise more, and so The Social Service team produced a set of specially designed t-shirts to sell, and these alone raised £965 for the Women’s Asylum Seeker’s Trust in Manchester. We raised a further £2k on the door of the basement party, which featured DJs Kath McDermott (BBC 6 Music), Kim Lana, Rina Ladybeige (The Social Service) and Danielle Moore (Crazy P).
We hope to make this an annual party! Thanks to everyone who supported, donated, promoted, danced, deejayed and wore a t-shirt.
Building on the success of Manchester Digital Music Archive’s Suffragette City party last year, The Refuge will play host to a second women-focused two-floor event on Saturday 9 March 2019 to raise money for Women’s Aid and related groups.
Curated by Abigail Ward (Manchester Digital Music Archive), Rina Ladybeige (Social Service), Kath McDermott (BBC Radio 6 Music) and Chris Massey (Electriks), the party will boast a line-up of upcoming and established female artists playing multi-genre party starters in the Public Bar and the Basement.
PUBLIC BAR: 2PM TO 1AM
Free – no ticket required! 2-3pm: Paulette 3-4pm: Alex Zaklewska 4-5pm: SNO (Nongi Oliphant) 5-7pm: Abigail Ward 7-8pm: Denise Johnson (ACR) 8-9pm: Kirby 9-10pm BB (Supernature) 10-11pm: Emma Joyce (Disco Mums) 11-1am: Reeshy
REFUGE BASEMENT: 10PM TO 4AM
Hosted by The Social Service, £5 donation on the door for Women’s Aid 10-11pm: Kath McDermott 11pm-12am: Julie Wills 12-1am: Ladybeige 1-3am: Danielle Moore (Crazy P) 3-4am: Kim Lana
Abigail Ward said, ‘we want to build on the phenomenal success of last year’s Suffragette City party by putting together a fresh line-up of incredible female DJ talent whilst raising awareness of the barriers women can face in the music industry. We are fundraising for Women’s Aid, because we are keenly aware of the dwindling number of women’s refuges in the UK.’
Field Music to perform a suite of new songs at Imperial War Museums
[This piece original appeared in edited form in The Quietus]
I was born of 11th November – Armistice Day. My
parents instilled its importance in me. My maternal grandfather fought in the Second
World War and was injured in the Normandy Landings. We were always told not to
ask him about it, although he did once show me a belt he had taken from the
body of a German soldier. As an adult, I am conscious of the lingering
influence Grandad’s trauma had on my mother’s upbringing, and, indirectly, on
my own. There are lines that can be drawn. I grew up understanding the shadows
both world wars cast across our lives.
I was particularly interested, then, to discover that one of my favourite bands, Field Music (David and Peter Brewis), had been commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to create an evening of sound and projections exploring how the First World War shaped the society we live in today. The resulting 18-song suite of brand new material would be performed against the dramatic backdrop of IWM North in Salford on 24th January as part of the museum’s Making A New World season.
For initial inspiration, the Brewis brothers were shown a ‘sound range’
image from the IWM archives that illustrates the very final moments of
artillery fire on the Western Front.
I spoke to Field Music’s David Brewis to ask him about the
creative process behind the commission and what the Salford audience can expect
from this unique event.
“We used the sound
range image as a starting point. There are six parallel lines on that image
from six microphones that were spread out across the front in order to pinpoint
enemy artillery. We are imagining following those lines of vibrations. We are
looking at the vibrations from that time that have continued on and spread
across all aspects of human life.”
To represent these ‘vibrations’ David and Peter have
highlighted events, moments, or technological advances that happened during
WW1, or immediately after, and then twinned them with directly related
developments from the following 100 years. Each moment has its own piece of
music, forming a compelling suite that is reassuringly Field Music in sound,
and not without the odd ‘pop banger’, according to the boys.
One song deals with the story of New Zealand-born surgeon Dr
Harold Gillies, who, during the war, pioneered skin graft techniques in order
to perform facial repair operations on wounded servicemen. Gillies became known
as the father of plastic surgery, and in 1946 performed the first
female-to-male gender reassignment operation.
Another, ‘Only in a Man’s World’, deals with the story of
Wisconsin-based company Kimberley-Clark, who mass produced ‘Cellucotton’ for
use as a surgical dressing for soldiers. Later on it was adapted to create
Kotex, the first modern sanitary towel.
Whilst not all the technological developments the brothers
have covered could be described as positive, the songs have an optimistic air –
was this a conscious thing?
“I think we were trying to be neutral about it. The
consequences [of WW1] were incredibly varied, ranging from plunging the Middle
East into a century of horror to finally just having a sanitary towel that
works. We didn’t want to put too much of a moral slant on these stories. Good
things and bad things have happened… the consequences of war are absolutely
still present. Wars, or other cataclysmic events, just have a habit of speeding
things up. Someone would have figured out how to send a radio signal from an
aeroplane at some point, but it happened in the First World War because they
really, really needed it to. They definitely weren’t thinking ‘well, this will
be great for the future of the aviation industry’. It just so happened that
that’s how consequences go. That’s the chaotic nature of these things.”
Field Music are working on film projections to accompany the
music. What can we expect from these?
“It was important to us to have the text telling the stories
within the visuals. Otherwise some of the songs may have seemed a little vague.
We’ve written instrumental sections at the beginning of each song so there is
time for [the audience] to digest the story before the song starts properly.
We’ll have imagery to represent each moment and then those six lines from the
sound range graphic are going to continue vibrating and wobbling throughout the
whole piece to tie it together. Our guitarist Kev Dosdale has the job of
putting these visuals together and I have a feeling he’s going to be working up
to the last moment on them!”
How were the stories unearthed?
“A lot of it was internet noodling – we chased stories we
thought were interesting, and then started to look for an echo of that later in
time. For example, we wanted to do something about tanks. Tanks are a big part
of the imagery around WW1, because that’s when they were first used, but we
were both conscious of what the subsequent imagery around tanks has been across
time. The most iconic image – arguably – is a student standing in front of a
tank in Tiananmen Square, but how do you write a story about that without it
being trite or downplaying the importance of it? Peter decided to focus on the
photographer who took the actual picture, and once that angle emerged, the song
The penultimate song in the suite, ‘Money
Is A Memory’, imagines someone in a back office at the German treasury
gathering up the paperwork for the final payment on Germany’s war reparation
debt. (The final instalment of $94million was paid in 2010. Hitler had
made the injustice of reparations a central part of his rhetoric). David
“I became fixated on
the idea that someone in some finance office in the German treasury had the job
of making sure that this payment gets paid, you know, the really boring
bureaucratic job, which deals with this thing that affected the whole course of
the 20th century. But his job is just to make sure that the paperwork is right.
So many of these things are spun around these little details. I couldn’t get
that idea out of my head.”
When David mentioned this, it reminded me of watching They Shall Not Grow Old – the recent Peter Jackson documentary
that uses colourisation techniques to bring First World War footage to life. So
much of the power of that film is contained in the little details. I wondered –
was it an influence on the Field Music project?
“I have avoided watching it… it was on the telly when we
were deep into the writing and I just thought ‘best not’, because if we had it
might have changed the direction. We scored a film (14-18 NOW’s Asunder)
a couple of years ago to commemorate the Battle of the Somme centenary, which
was about how lives in the North East were affected. That probably influenced
us quite a lot in that it was about very small stories that were almost at a
tangent to the war, but dependent upon it.”
I mentioned to David that one of the main things that stayed
with me about the Jackson documentary was hearing servicemen say that after
they war they didn’t feel able to talk to friends, family or to any civilians
about their experience in the trenches – that it was easier not to speak about
it at all than try to communicate it to people who simply had no ability to
understand. I thought again of my own granddad, and how ‘bottling it up’ and
tough guy archetypes are still considered a major factor in today’s male
suicide rates. Could David comment on this?
“The granddad I knew was too young to fight. He was
evacuated in WW2. My wife’s granddad apparently had a great time in the war
driving lorries around Italy, but he still didn’t talk about it! I’m part of a
generation that has never experienced anything like that. War is professionalised
now. The people who experience it are ‘apart’ and that might be an issue for
them, but the mass experience that deeply affects an entire generation… that’s
not going to happen again in the same way. This is why Peter and I didn’t want
to write directly about the war. We can’t. We don’t have the context or the
experience to do that in a way we could justify. I’m glad we found other things
to write about.”
And what about plans for the music you’ve written after
“Once we’ve done the performances, we’ll get the band
together in the studio and record what we’ve done…because to me, this sounds
like an album that could be as good as any of our other albums! I’m very
enthusiastic about what we’ve managed to do. But the first step would be to see
if we can capture it in a recording.”
Field Music play:
IWM North, The
Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ on Thursday 24th January 2019at
Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ on Thursday
31st January 2019 at 9pm.
This audio documentary was created to mark the 30th anniversary of Manchester’s anti-Clause 28 march, 1988. Attended by 20,000 people, the protest was a seminal moment in UK LGBT+ history. The piece seeks to evoke the sounds and emotions experienced on that day through interviews with marchers, fragments of archival material and music.
It was also conceived as a tribute to the LGBT+ activists who organised and took part in the demonstration.
The title comes from the chant, “we’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going shopping”.
Section 28 or Clause 28 formed part of the Local Government Act 1988.
Section 28 of that act stated:
(1) A local authority shall not:
a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality
b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship
Angela Cooper David Hoyle Kath McDermott Louise Wallwein MBE Luchia Fitzgerald Paul Fairweather
This piece was commissioned by Manchester Pride and Superbia. Special thanks to Greg Thorpe and all who contributed.
It forms part of the Queer Noise exhibition for MDMArchive:
Produced by Abigail Ward.
Abigail Ward is a curator, musician and DJ. Her work explores the place at which music, politics and protest meet. For 10 years she has been documenting the history of LGBT+ music and club life in Greater Manchester through her digital heritage project, Queer Noise. She is a co-founder of Manchester Digital Music Archive.
This document presents the evaluation of the Northern Carnival Against the Nazis: 40th Anniversary Exhibition project, delivered by Abigail Ward for Manchester Digital Music Archive with the support from Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Northern Carnival Against the Nazis, a rally and concert held on 15 July 1978 in Moss Side, Manchester, was a defining moment in establishing anti-racism in the city and beyond.
Dubbed ‘the day that it became cool to be anti-racist’, the Carnival galvanised Manchester against racist groups including the National Front, with a rally of 15,000 people marching all the way from Strangeways to Alexandra Park joining a further 25,000 for an afternoon of music, dancing and unity.
Co-organised by the Anti Nazi League and Rock Against Racism, the Carnival featured incendiary live performances by pop-punk superstars Buzzcocks and Steel Pulse, the UK’s leading reggae band of the period. Support came from Moss Side’s Exodus and China Street from Lancaster.
Our project comprised a physical exhibition held Mon 3 September to Sat 22 September at NIAMOS, Chichester Road, Hulme; a digital community exhibition; and two large launch events.
Votes for Women – WSPU – rosette. Photo: Lee Baxter
Spirited is a new exhibition at The Portico that tells the stories of some of the young women and girls who fought for the vote 100 years ago, centring on Manchester as the birthplace of the suffrage movement. It brings to life their incredible acts of courage, creativity and cunning in order to inspire today’s young people into taking their own first steps into social action.
It’s curated by Catherine Riley of Spirit of 2012, and runs until November 24th 2018.
For the last few months I have been working on a digital version of the physical display. It features all the artefacts from the physical show, plus a timeline and some downloadable key stage 3 teaching resources written by archivist Heather Roberts.
Spirited is funded by Spirit of 2012, established by the Big Lottery Fund with a £47m endowment from the National Lottery. One of Spirit’s goals for 2018 is to empower, inspire and engage young women and girls – it is funding a range of projects that provide opportunities for making change through social activism.
Spirited features items from the collections of the BBC archives, the BFI, Bishopsgate Institute, British Library, Museum of London and the Women’s Library at LSE, which together offer an exciting new perspective on the suffrage story in a positive, youth-focused celebration of gender equality.