Jennifer Reid is a fan of 19th century ballads. In her new eBook “A Selection of Nineteenth Century Broadside Ballads from Collections in Manchester” she says “While broadside ballads physically had no staying power, being sheets of cheap paper, the songs and ideas they contained maintain their relevance to the present day and can teach us a lot about our history.” She chose this selection of ballads because they represent a slice of life for people during the Victorian period; “the pressures of industrial society, differing kinds of leisure activities, unwary visitors, crime and punishment, and visions of the future”.
Jennifer is from Middleton in north Manchester and was influenced by folk legend Mike Harding and the Oldham Tinkers who have used broadside ballads in their repertoire. “I met with Mike Harding for some background from the folk world on broadside balladry and he gave me his thesis which was very informative and furthered my understanding of them.
Rejecting a university education Jennifer has worked as a volunteer at Chetham’s Library in Manchester and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford where she has been involved in giving a new life to these ballads.
Middleton is from where Sam Bamford, radical and poet, led a group to St Peter’s Fields, to attend a meeting in August 1819 pressing for parliamentary reform and the repeal of the Corn Laws. The violent reaction from the establishment led to 18 people being killed and hundreds injured. Sam was arrested at Peterloo and spent a year in prison. Jennifer is a member of “Enlightenment Middleton” which reminds people of their local hero and the importance of Peterloo to the radical history of the northwest.
Jennifer feels that Peterloo should be better known and the annual event should in her view; “Wake up (people)to how Peterloo affected them and the process of liberty in this country.” She has become well known in the northwest for performing at many historical and community events that commemorate different aspects of the region’s history.
Recently Jennifer has worked with Jeremy Dellar on his exhibition ‘All that is solid melts into air.’ “Here I shared knowledge of the ballads, recommended ballads to place in the exhibition, appeared on Newsnight alongside him singing ‘A Prophecy for 1973’ and gave a talk at a Manchester Art Gallery event.”
Next month she is performing at the 56th Venice Biennale “All The World’s Futures” as part of Jeremy Deller’s “All that is solid melts into air” & “Factory Songs”. Apart from performing clog dances she will be teaching a group of Italian singers to perform Lancashire ballads! Easy!!
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