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Chetham's Library

The Library Lectures Go To Manchester

Chetham's Library, Manchester

September to November 2017

Over the last two years the VWML has organised two highly successful series of library lectures given by leading researchers in the field, with topics ranging from Night Visiting Songs to Hammer Dulcimer Players in East Anglia. We are therefore pleased to announce a series of Vaughan Williams Memorial Library Lectures to be given at Chetham’s Library, in Manchester.

Chetham’s Library is a historic library founded in 1653, and holds an impressive collection of broadside ballads and chapbooks. They have just been awarded an Arts Council’s Designation Development Fund to digitise their collection of street literature, and it is part of this programme in which the VWML lectures will be given.

£8 per lecture | £21 for all three


Street Literature and the Folk by Steve Roud

Thursday 28 September, 7–8.30pm

Folk song is often defined as being an aural tradition, with the words and tunes undergoing variation and evolution over time and place. However broadsides, chapbooks, and other ephemeral material with the printed lyrics of many folk songs were incredibly popular between the 16th and 20th centuries at all levels of society. This talk is an introduction to that material – the types, the sellers, the songs, and the singers.

Steve Roud is creator of the Roud Folk Song and Broadside Index, and has written and edited numerous books, including The New Penguin Book of English Folksongs, and the newly released, Folk Song In England.

Online sales for this lecture have now closed—tickets will be available on the door.


Barbara Allen: Broadside Ballad, Theatre Song, Traditional Song by Vic Gammon

Friday 27 October, 7–8.30pm

Barbara Allen is a hugely successful popular song which was collected many times in the folk tradition. The first mention can be found in Pepys’ Diary in the 1660s, being sung by an actress. Broadside ballads copies of the song can be traced dating from a decade or so later. In this presentation Vic Gammon will explore the song’s history and resilience from the 17th century through broadsides, the stage, collections of traditional songs, literature and graphic art.

Vic Gammon was Senior Lecturer in Folk and Traditional Music at the International Centre for Music Studies at the University of Newcastle between 2004 and 2010.

Note: Earlier in the day Chetham’s Library will be running a free event featuring music and print inspired by the library’s broadside collections as part of their ongoing project, The Ballad of Chetham’s Library. More details to follow.




Drink, Song and Politics in Early Modern England by Angela McShane

Thursday 30 November, 7–8.30pm

Between about 1580 and 1690, early modern England experienced three interrelated developments: the growth of a successful commercial popular music industry; the development of the political parties; and a substantial increase in the per capita consumption of alcoholic drinks across all social classes. This talk briefly explores the unexpected effects of these changes on cultures of politics, drink and song across the whole period. In particular, the way song was used to encourage excessive drinking to promote loyal obedience, and the political and social denigration of sobriety.

Angela McShane is the Head of Early Modern Studies for the V&A and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sheffield. She has published widely on the subject of 17th century political broadside ballads. Her book, The Political World of the Broadside Ballad in 17th Century England, is forthcoming.