Event: ‘Sheffield: City of Protest’, 27 May, Bank Street Arts, 6-8pm

To celebrate the legacy of Sheffield’s 18th-century radical press this very special event will bring together activists, campaigners and commentators from across the city to ask what makes Sheffield such a vibrant city of protest!

In the final decade of the 18th century the editors behind Sheffield’s radical press put everything on the line to stand up for the city’s citizens. Fearing that the actions of their monarchy and government represented a shift towards tyranny and a general lack of interest in the welfare of British citizens outside of London, Joseph Gales and James Montgomery took to the press to hold their social masters to account.

Silhouette of James Montgomery (currently held in Sheffield Archives)
Silhouette of James Montgomery (currently held in Sheffield Archives)

In the pages of the Sheffield Register and the Sheffield Iris Gales and Montgomery would present a different poem each week, many of which were written by Sheffield residents, addressing their biggest concerns and imploring local and national government to consider reform. Many of these issues remain prescient today. Together they campaigned for political representation and access to education for all, workers’ rights and racial and religious tolerance.

For this, Montgomery was twice sent to prison for publishing allegedly treasonous material. Gales was charged with ‘conspiracy against the government’ and was forced to flee British shores and start a new life abroad as a fugitive. Nevertheless, despite the best efforts of the authorities, Gales and Montgomery were successful in establishing Sheffield as a city of protest more than happy to campaign against anything it perceives as wrong or unfair.

The young James Montgomery.
The young James Montgomery.

Coinciding with the launch of a new digital anthology of protest poetry printed in Sheffield at the end of the 18th century this special event will bring together a host of speakers involved in activism and literature across the city today. We will hear from the people involved in campaigning for difference right now, whilst also asking what it is about the Steel City that has made it such a hot-bed for protest and activism for (at least) the past 300 hundred years. Tracing legacies from the work of Sheffield’s 18th-century radical press to the remarkable work still taking place across the city today, this promises to be both an entertaining and engaging evening and a fitting celebration of this fantastic city.

Speakers will include:

  • Drs Hamish Mathison and Adam Smith (Sheffield University, Sheffield: Print, Protest, Poetry, 1790-1810 Project)
  • Julia Armstrong (Sheffield Star)
  • Dr Sam Browse (Sheffield Hallam University, Campaigner)
  • Reverend Deacon Andrew Crowley (Sheffield Interfaith Network)
  • Karl Riordon (Poet, Campaigner)
  • River Wolton (Poet, Campaigner, Stories of Activism Project)
  • Prof Sue Vice (Sheffield University, Barry Hines Project)

The event will close with a wine reception marking the official launch of our new digital anthology.

The Register's 'Repository of Genius', dubbed by readers: 'Poetry Corner.'
The Register’s ‘Repository of Genius’, dubbed by readers: ‘Poetry Corner.’

This is a University of Sheffield School of English Event, Generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Counsel

The event is free but spaces are limited so please book your place here to avoid disappointment.

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