Last week traditional music group Faustus launched their exclusive EP CD release, Cotton Lords, at two events in London at the Slaughtered Lamb Inn, Clerkenwell, and in Manchester at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation Centre. The CD is the culmination of two years collaboration between the University of Exeter’s AHRC-funded Lancashire Cotton Famine poetry project and one of Britain’s most respected traditional music groups. Four of the five tracks on the CD are based on texts already featured on the database, but ‘Wrongs and Rights’ is part of the huge batch of poems still being processed for eventual inclusion. The other four tracks are ‘Cotton Lords’ (known as ‘Food or Work’ on the database), ‘Lancashire Operatives (Starvation)’, ‘Lancashire Factory Girl’, and ‘I Would This War Were Ended’. The CD is an important commemoration of one of the most devastating economic periods in Victorian history and the poetic response of ordinary people. It includes a booklet of extensive notes giving an overview of the history of the period, an account of Faustus’s involvement with the project, detailed notes on each of the tracks, and lyrics. The CD also contains a bonus video of Faustus’s rousing adaptation of an 1840s Chartist poem, ‘Slaves’.
The launch events in Manchester and London, on the 13th and 15th of May 2019 respectively, were deeply appreciated by attendees, some of whom were Faustus followers and others who were encountering the band’s musicianship and dynamism for the first time. The focus on the five Cotton Famine tracks and a general theme of social commentary from working voices from the past made these events particularly interesting and many people stayed behind afterwards to ask questions of the band and the project’s Principal Investigator, Dr Simon Rennie, who had given a short contextual talk before each performance. The project is extremely grateful for the involvement and support of Faustus – Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose, and Paul Sartin, and sound engineer Matt Williams who produced the CD, and record company Westpark Music’s Ulli Hetscher. People in several countries are engaging with the texts the project has uncovered in various ways, but this collaboration with Faustus, and the legacy of this recording, is a particularly notable and distinctive outcome for our research.
You can buy Faustus’s Cotton Lords EP CD here: https://faustusfolk.bandcamp.com/
Dr Simon Rennie
University of Exeter