Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Bradford streets become a stage

Taken from Big Issue in the North magazine, 1 June -7 June. 
The actions of Bradford’s Chartists will be recreated in a series of street theatre performances on the weekend of 12-14 June during the city’s annual festival. 
Chartism was a working-class movement that began in the mid-1830s to campaign
for basic electoral reforms that were outlined in what became known as the People’s Charter of 1838 – a vote for every man over 21, secret ballots, equal sized constituencies, no property qualifications to become an MP, payments for MPs and annual parliamentary elections. 
Chartism began with a series of huge meetings showing popular support. In 1839, 1842 and 1848 millions of people signed petitions that were rejected by the House of Commons. Early in 1840, a number of Bradford Chartists took several police officers prisoner, only to be later overpowered by a larger opposing force. Eight were sent to York for trial. On Wednesday 18 March 1840 Robert Peddie, William Brooke, Thomas Drake and Paul Holdsworth were found guilty of riot and conspiracy. 
In April 1848 there was a large Chartist gathering in Bradford. According to a book by Chartist RC Gammage: “Bradford was that day in the possession of the Chartists.” 
Bradford Chartists were eventually overwhelmed by the military, with many sentenced to jail with hard labour. 
Some of these men will be brought back to life at the long-running annual Bradford Festival on 12-14 June. 
The Rising of the Moon is a 50-minute street play written and directed by Javaad Alipoor, artistic director of Northern Lines Bradford. 
The play, featuring non- professional and professional actors, will tour Bradford city centre, stopping off at some of the important places of the time. Audience members will also be able to listen to an MP3 recording featuring a fictionalised account by one of the police spies within the Chartist movement. The recording will remain available for download so people can undertake their own walk. 

“Bradford was central to the Chartist movement, especially in the Yorkshire West Riding. By 1848 Chartism was heading towards defeat. Yet local people, disappointed that constitutional methods had been ignored remained at the forefront of the physical struggle,” said Alipoor. 

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