The first Potteries Chartist Festival, to commemorate the death of Josiah Heapy in the Chartist Riots of 1842, will take place on Sunday 20th August behind the town hall on Market Place in Burslem. It is a co-production organized by New Vic Borderlines and the People’s History Association of North Staffordshire (PHANS).
Support has been provided by Unite, the Fire Brigade Union (FBU), and Unison, including the loan of a fire engine converted into a mobile stage previously used when Jeremy Corbyn visited Hanley. In keeping with the Chartist theme, trades unions active in North Staffordshire will be present to provide information about the work they do to support working people today.
A variety of events and activities
New Vic Borderlines is an award-winning community arts programme that uses theatre to give a voice to those who have been marginalized. They will perform a play written by New Vic Borderlines director Sue Moffatt, based on the events surrounding the Chartist riots and the death of Josiah Heapy that will be performed on the day by members of the community supported by three professional actors.
There will be three performances of the play at various locations around the town, including at the Bulls Head in nearby St John’s Square.
The festival will feature music and poetry, as well as speakers, including Chrissie Gibson, a living relative of Josiah Heapy, and Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent Councillor Majid Khan will also be in attendance.
There will also be stalls run by local groups including anti-racism campaigners NORSCARF, Period Power, who work with vulnerable women in Staffordshire and beyond community support charity Better Together.
There is something for children too, with craft activities and a display of work done by local schools relating to Chartism and the death of Joseph Heapy.
Josiah Heapy and The Chartists
Josiah Heapy was born in Leek and died on 16th August 1842 when troops broke up an open-air Chartist meeting taking place on Swan Bank, Burslem, causing a riot that resulted in damage to several prominent local landmarks. In the aftermath of the riot 146 Chartists were imprisoned and 54 were transported to Australia.
The Burslem Chartist riots have been described as the ‘Potteries Peterloo’ after the more famous riots in Manchester. In 2019 a successful campaign saw a commemorative plaque unveiled in Burslem near to the spot where Heapy was killed. A street on a nearby housing development has since also been named after him.
Jason Hill, a member of PHANS, who also took part in the campaign to have a street named after Josiah Heapy, told me the festival will honour Josiah Heapy and other trades unionists who “fought for the freedoms that we take for granted today”.
He emphasised the important role played by Heapy and other Chartists in creating the trades union movement in North Staffordshire and nationally.
He believes the festival will “raise awareness of this important episode in the history of Burslem which, sadly, seems to be largely forgotten today.”
The festival will take place on 20th August at Market Place, Burslem, ST6 4AT between 11:00am and 4:00pm.
For further information contact:
Sue Moffatt: [email protected]
Aida Haughton: [email protected]
This article was first published by North Staffs News. Read the original article.