Back with the next instalment of the regular blog shortly but a special one off post this time to alert you t0 a wonderful example of how libraries, society and popular culture are inseparable. As a wonderfully timely example of the importance of libraries to our cultural identity the famous Manchester Central Library will be the venue for the launch of a new album from celebrated folk reggae band Edward II.
It is not the Library’s first association with the folk tradition. Folk legend and local resident Ewan MacColl said it “quickly became a popular rendezvous and “Meet you at the Ref” became a familiar phrase on the lips of students, lovers and unemployed youths. I was there on the opening day and on many days thereafter; the Ref played an important part in my life “
Edward II’s album Manchester’s Improving Daily is based on The Manchester Ballads a collection of thirty five broadside ballads dating from the time of the industrial revolution. Collected by two local historians and folk music enthusiasts, preserved in Manchester Library and published with financial help from the education offices at Manchester City Council, The Manchester Ballads is in the form of loose- leaf facsimile prints of the original penny broadsheets accompanied by text with many of the ballads, giving the biography of the song and, where necessary, a glossary of dialect terms. The Manchester Ballads are a snapshot of Mancunian life in the industrial era.
The Manchester Ballads and the musical project which they have inspired are a reminder of the importance of public services such as libraries in preserving our heritage and making it available to future generations so that we can understand our past and how it has helped form our present.
Edward II blend the rhythms of the Caribbean with traditional songs from the British Isles this time from the industrial revolution, specifically from their home town, Manchester. The old broadsides are given the full Edward II upbeat, rock-steady treatment complete with horns, fabulous harmonies and fiery melodeon melodies, and give remarkable insights into the lives of our those living through a time of great change almost 200 years ago and celebrating the working people who really forged Manchester and transformed Britain into an Industrial powerhouse.
Manchester’s Improving Daily will be launched in Manchester Central Library on 18th February at 6pm. The band and local born singer Jennifer Reid will be performing songs from the album and David Jennings will present the historical context of the songs. Details can be found on their website.
They are also performing at several festivals over the coming months but if you can’t make the launch or the festivals then you could listen to our folk show, Hermitage Folk on community radio station 99.2 Hermitage FM in Leicestershire where you can hear the excellent single that has already been released, Victoria Bridge on a Saturday Night. It will be on the show on 25th Feb 6-8pm (repeated Sunday 6-8pm) or better still buy the album.
Folk music, libraries and reggae; chuck in a decent pint of real ale and that’ll do me!