A research group from QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities (ICRH) hosted a conference today to look at Cross Currents in British and Irish Working Class Life.
Alongside the talks were songs, films and plenty of debate.
Sophie Long introduced the opening session which looked at Aspects of the History of the Left in Ireland. UU’s Adrian Grant contrasted the actions and success of the British and Irish Labour Parties, both of which “chased respectability” in the inter-war period. UU’s Matt Collins looked at the storyography of the People’s Democracy (PD) and the civil rights movement, non-violent protest and violent reaction. A short Q&A followed.
The conference’s keynote speaker Lisa McKenzie (London School of Economics and author of Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain) was unavoidably detained and was unable to fly across to the conference.
Sean O’Connell (QUB History) spoke about oral history and people’s history, and presented a casestudy from his work in Belfast’s Sailortown. It was good to see comments from John Clancy, the sadly deceased Bookseller of Belfast.
Chris Burgess outlined the history of The People’s History Museum in Manchester in a talk that looked at the development of political museums: moving from museums of campaigns to campaigning museums. A short Q&A followed.
After lunch QUB’s Phil Scraton (often associated with his analysis of the Hillsborough disaster) gave an extended introduction to the session looking at Merseyside Perspectives, with examples of inaccurate, prejudiced and horrible comments from many public figures who characterised the working class residents and workers in the “defeated neighbourhood” capable of no good.
Mike Morris from the Merseyside Writing on the Wall festival then delivered a lecture on the life and work (and archive handed over in a suitcase in a pub) of George Garrett: seaman, syndicalist and scribe.
Glasgow and Belfast musician Hugh Jordan lightened up proceedings with a tuneful interlude, including a topical song he’d composed for Talkback many years ago. If you’re reading William Crawley – time to bring the songs back!
In the final session, Ciara Hickey spoke about the work and resources of Belfast Exposed gallery. Her presentation included the screening of Short Films About Learning by Michael Hanna who had embedded some of the archives most striking images into a film.