The Broadside Day is the annual one-day conference for people interested in Street Literature in all its fascinating aspects - broadsides, chapbooks, songsters, woodcuts, engravings, last dying speeches, catchpennies, wonder-tales, almanacs, fortune-tellers, and all kinds of cheap printed material sold to ordinary people in city streets, at country fairs, and from pedlar's packs up and down the country in past centuries. The Day consists of short papers, presentations, displays, discussions, and is suitable for beginners and experts alike, who will all enjoy its lively and informal atmosphere.
Street literature, in the form of broadside ballads, was first produced in the early 16th century, and was at first concentrated in London, but later spread to every part of the British Isles and lasted into the 20th century. But its glorious heyday was in Victorian times when tens of thousands of items were produced every year by jobbing printers everywhere. The material was often very badly printed, on the cheapest quality of paper, and might be genuine news or a complete fiction, but for most of this time it was one of the only forms of reading matter readily available to the poor, and is therefore tremendously interesting to a wide range of modern-day researchers and enthusiasts.
This year’s Broadside Day will be hosted by the Rare Books Department of Cambridge University, which is home to the biggest single collection of 18th and 19th century broadsides in Britain, comprising over 30,000 ballads compiled by Sir Frederic Madden, Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts at the British Museum.
Proposed topics include:
The subjects of the material (songs, stories and news items)
Street literature collectors
The role that street literature played in spreading literacy, propaganda and dissent, and in keeping the poor entertained and informed.