A social history of Britain through music
Radio and TV presenter Stuart Maconie is making his first appearance at Barton upon Humber’s Ropery Hall in March giving his take on the social history of Britain from the Second World War to the present day through records played over the last seven decades.
The People’s Songs is his most ambitious project yet and like the book of the same nameis nothing less than a post-war social history of these islands seen through the prism of pop tunes.
“I am really delighted to welcome Stuart to Ropery Hall,” said Liz Bennet of The Ropewalk. “I am sure that everyone who comes will have affection for the songs he has chosen.”
“These are the songs that we have listened to, laughed to, loved to and laboured to, as well as downed tools and danced to,” she went on. “Stuart will be looking at the songs that have sound tracked our changing times, and – just sometimes – changed the way we feel.”
This celebration of songs will tell about how we have felt about things in our lives down the eras – work, war, class, leisure, race, family, drugs, sex, patriotism and more.
In times of prosperity or poverty Stuart will be playing music that has inspired haircuts and dance crazes, but also protest and social change. These are the songs we have worked to and partied to and grown up and grown old to.
It will show us the power of pop music, one of Britain’s greatest exports.
Stuart said he felt very proud and passionate about The People’s Songs.
“It tells the story of modern Britain through the records that we listened to and loved during the dramatic and kaleidoscopic period from the Second World War to the present day. In fact the songs feature most of the soundtrack of my life”
“They are not necessarily the best 50 songs – indeed, they include Y Viva Espana – but each one represents a different aspect of British life.”
Choosing Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, Stuart has very little to say about Pink Floyd, but a great deal to say about education, and the way it’s portrayed in song.
It’s not surprising that there have been so many songs about school, he says, given that it’s an experience common to pretty much all of us.
‘Maybe what is surprising is that so many – the vast majority – have been so negative, so critical, so down on the old Alma Mater.’ School is generally used ‘either as a cipher for repression, boredom or the power of the state or, less often, as a handy metaphor for a lost world of innocence’.
Picking out other songs on his playlist he highlights Millie’s My Boy Lollipop – the record that bankrolled Island Records, no less – as a chapter on post-war immigration and the assimilation of West Indian music into British life while The Strawbs’ Part Of The Union leads into a discourse on pop’s generally unenthusiastic attitude to the workplace, while the Bee Gees’ You Could Be Dancing sparks off a discussion of Northern Soul and the rise of the nightclub.
A lifetime of listening and reading and thinking has gone into this project and if you happen to be British and listen to far more pop than is good for you, it’s an unequivocal pleasure, and highly recommended.
Stuart will be on stage at Ropery Hall on Saturday, March 21, at 8pm. Tickets, which are already selling well, cost £15 in advance or £17 on the door and can be bought online at www.roperyhall.co.uk, in person at the Craft Gallery at The Ropewalk or by calling 01652 660380.