An evening to launch the new Bristol Radical Pamphleteer title Cry Freedom, Cry Seven Stars by Mark Steeds. This is also a chance to drink beer in CAMRA’s best pub in Bristol 2010 and celebrate its unique place in the history of the Abolition Movement.
Including performances by the Red Notes Choir and Richard Burley.
Since its formation in 2006, Bristol Radical History Group has come a long way with a staggering list of happenings and events under its belt, bringing radical history from Bristol and beyond to more and more people.
Getting the Clarkson Plaque on the Seven Stars was one of BRHG’s most significant achievements. This plaque provides a lasting monument to the work of the Abolition Movement in Bristol. There’s now an opportunity to build on this by making more of the pub’s relevance in World History, since it was in here that Thomas Clarkson began his research that would eventually lead to the 1807 Act of Parliament that banned the slave trade.
To this end, the Cry Freedom pamphlet, which was originally produced to help raise funds for the plaque, has been revised. Giving even more details of the Slave Trade in Bristol and more of the people who fought to abolish it the new pamphlet also raises the question ‘can the Seven Stars be a World heritage Site?’
Landlord Paul Wratten is right behind the cause and would like to make the pub not only a monument to the Abolition Movement but also other events in the Radical History.
Red Notes Choir is a Bristol-based socialist choir which campaigns for peace, justice, freedom and internationalism. They use the streets of Bristol and further afield to spread their message of fighting for the rights of working people, those who are oppressed, and those seeking the right to self-determination. They come from a long tradition of socialist choirs which use political and campaigning songs in struggles for rights and recognition. Inspired by Cor Cochion Caerdydd, their sister choir from Cardiff, they started in January 2002 with a few interested people coming together and have been growing ever since.
Richard Burley writes songs of survival – they say life is hard but we have to keep making the choices that will get us through it. They are songs which show that we are all in some way survivors. Each one is a story which the listener can enter and inhabit; a room of sunlight and shadows, echoing to sounds from our pasts, presents and maybe futures.
Here are some notes on Richard’s set:
This Time It’s Personal
It takes its inspiration from Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ but instead of the fellow trying to get his girlfriend into bed by talking about the shortness of life and the emptiness of eternity, he is now much older and has already made his girlfriend his wife – now he is saying to her that although ‘time’s winged chariot’ really is breathing down their necks there’s no need to give in and go quietly: he says ‘it ain’t over till it’s over my dear’. It’s basically a ‘mature’ love song which I wrote for my partner Jane whilst staring for hours at a Welsh mountain and thinking about the meaning of life and all the usual kind of thing we do when staring at mountains.
This is simply a story about a man or woman who has had an affair and run off into the night with the kids. They have no idea what to do and then, sitting in the dark, unravelling their thoughts, they realise that if life has any meaning then it is to care – to care to live, to care to love those for whom we have responsibilities, to care for ourselves even – to have self respect as well as respect for those around us. They feel ‘everlasting shame’ but realise that life is to be lived and responsibilities to be shouldered with gladness of spirit.
Your Good Light
At the Thunderbolt I introduced this as ‘an statement of belief in the beloved’. It is quite simply that: a love song for a person or ideal – a song that says that salvation lies in the arms of that which to us is the good thing we have found in life; the thing which heals us, makes us whole and brings out our mutual love. I chose the time-honoured metaphor of a boat at sea to put this across.
Old Bristol Road
Quite simply a story taken from the Archives: a Henbury man (‘My name is Tom Evans and I work at the Crow’) is coerced into becoming a hit-man by an acquaintance of his and heads off unwillingly to Bristol to murder the hapless nephew of a Farmer Pierce. The plot fails and the unwilling partner races to the magistrate to spill the beans before he’s made to try again. It’s a true story set in 1793 and describes Bristol at the time of the slave trade:
Last week Jimmy Miller, a Redwick man I know,
Said there was money for going into town with him:
There’s tea and rum there for the smuggling…
We went to the Three Cups on the Back for sprats and ale,
The White Hart in Union Street, Corner’s in Broadmead;
Up the hill, past the gallows, to the Blackamoor’s Head…
The Seven Stars isn’t mentioned in the witness statement but I bet they went past it!
Ballad of a Home Owner
A song I wrote for a CD put together by Bristol musicians who wanted to do something for the victims of Hurricane Katrina – the proceeds from sales were to go to New Orleans charities, especially those helping young people to make music and transcend the awful state of the city and its surrounding area.
I used the actual words of a Mr Hendrix (honestly) from Biloxi, Mississippi, in the chorus:-
That ain’t no flood
‘Cause floods have no names;
It was a hurricane
‘Cause it had a name:
Insurance companies wouldn’t pay out to those with hurricane insurance (the most common insurance – ‘homeowner policies’) because most of the damage was done by water – they deemed Katrina a ‘flood’. It was mainly African Americans who suffered first hand in the disaster because they were overwhelmingly the poorer end of society and unable to leave their homes (they had no transport and were often sick or disabled or caring for sick or disabled relatives. Katrina showed that the spirit of slavery is far from dead in the USA and that there is still much work to do to make US society more equal.
Pass It On
Simply a song I wrote for my father who was a teacher and believed that if life has any meaning then it is that we must pass on what we know and feel to each succeeding generation and that we must ensure that there is always a succeeding generation whose job it is to do the same and to try and make things better. I haven’t had children for number of reasons but in the song I’m telling my dad that I am still able to pass something on by writing songs and by contributing to the anima mundi, if you will, the soul of the world, by trying in my very small way to enrich our culture. It’s a very personal song but people really identify with it – I guess we all want to feel we are contributing to the greater good and we all want to please our parents!