Saturday, February 01, 2020

Remembering Paisley's Radical History

On April 1 1820 an Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland compiled by activists who formed a Provisional Government called for workers to “desist from labour” until their rights as free men were recovered. Almost immediately, around 60,000 people took part in the strike in Paisley and Glasgow where the ‘almost the whole population of the working classes’ obeyed orders. The Paisley weavers were at the “vanguard of this new radicalism”, according to historian Sir Tom Devine. The town became a hotbed of protest and anti-established feeling as living standards sharply declined and call for reforms went unnoticed.

A month after the Peterloo massacre, around 15,000 workers gathered on Meiglemoss Moor on the outskirts of Paisley to protest against events in Manchester. Flags were flown, pipes play and drums beaten. Later, the Glasgow contingent returned to the city in a ‘menancing manner” with police officers attacked with brickbats and windows smashed. Back up was called for an the military arrived with canons guarding the bridges. Some calm was restored but “outrage and confusion was renewed” the following day. Magistrates were hissed at as they went to church and, later, open violence erupted once again. Innocent bystanders were wounded, windows broken and street lamps torn down.
As post-Peterloo fervour intensified, committed radicals began to meet in secret in counties from Ayrshire to Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire
Paisley Book Festival will celebrate Radical Stories and Rebel Voices across the town from 20th to 29th February 2020. 

An opening night event celebrating Renfrewshire Rebels will feature an exclusive reading from Scottish radicalism author Maggie Craig, poetry from Renfrewshire born Jim Carruth, and music from Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Heir of the Cursed.
As part of the festival, playwright and artist John Byrne will return to his native Paisley for a Big Birthday Bash celebrating his 80th year. The event has been described as "part retrospective of his incredible body of work and part a raucous knees-up". The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers - aka an all-star line-up of Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre, Mark Billingham, Doug Johnstone, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste - will swap murder for music an perform a special gig. 
Meanwhile, broadcaster Kirsty Wark will be in discussion with Ruth Wishart about her new novel and her life at the forefront of political reporting, as part of the University of the West of Scotland’s Inspiring Women series.

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