Songs Celebrating British Democracy

This is from yesterday’s i newspaper:

“A group of folk musicians is celebrating 800 years of British democracy with songs inspired by an unusual source: legislation including the 1601 Poor Lw; the 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act and the Sexual Offences Act of 1967.

Musicians include BBC Folk Singer of the Yea Nancy Kerr have worked on the project which also references the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Levellers and the East End Match Girls’ strike – for close on 10 months.

The English Folk Dance and Song Society commissioned 6 musicians to take part in the Sweet Liberties project. It launched yesterday in the Place of Westminster ahead o a 6 date tour. Singer-songwriter Maz O’Connor has written 2 songs inspired by the 1965 Race Relations Act, called “The Harbour” and “Broad Waters”, as well as “Rich Man’s Hill” about the Poor Law. “It’s so relevant” she said. “You may think 1601 is such along time ago, and it’s inspiring the legislation is that old; I found it easy to find parallels with today.

Last night’s launch took place in the State Rooms of he Speakers’ House to an audience that included MPs Lords and arts grandees. “We live in a democratic nation, we should be able to sing whatever we like to the Speaker and he may not like it but he’s going to hear it,” Ms O’Connor said. ”

HMmmmm. Most of these I would agree are worth celebrating but not the 1601 poor law, the first of many begun by Elizabeth with a direct line to the horrors depicted by Dickens and The Times.

Before the Tudors broke up the church, there was no need for poor laws, as the may religious houses cared for the sick and infirm as their duty. They were paid for by tithes which seems to have been paid without much trouble, as it was seen as a way to shorten a person’s time in purgatory, as well as being part of what bound communities together.

By destroying the monasteries, the large pool of celibate people started breeding, including of course the priests, whose wages were paid by the tithes so poor taxes had to be raised to pay for the exploding population of the poor. people were forced to pay more for less. So, I don’ think this is worth a song of praise,but the project overall sounds great, and includes some fine singers and musicians.


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