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The Skelmanthorpe Flag Project 


In July 2019, Commoners Choir and friends will be walking and singing to remember and celebrate people's solidarity, resistance and persistence, from 1819 to today. 

The Skelmanthorpe Flag is one of the most impressive survivors from the early days of organised labour. It was made in Skelmanthorpe near Huddersfield in 1819 to honour the victims of the Peterloo Massacre who had been attacked and slain by the yeomanry during a peaceful demonstration at St Peter's Fields in Manchester.

The flag was paraded at mass meetings throughout the area, including a Chartist rally at Peep Green near Hartshead, which was attended by an estimated quarter of a million people. At a time when the government was increasingly worried at the prospect of a popular uprising, the flag was frequently kept hidden from the authorities (including, for a time, being buried underground) and only revealed at rallies and marches.

As part of the commemoration of Peterloo in 2019, Commoners Choir will create a walking, singing reminder of the reasons why the Skelmanthorpe Flag was first created and carried. The centrepiece of the project will be a near-exact facsimile of the flag which will be carried from the village of Skelmanthorpe, across the Pennines, to Manchester, where the Peterloo commemorations will be taking place. 

The Choir have been hosting banner-making workshops with textile artist Catherine Long. Taking the Skelmanthorpe Flag and the movements at the time of Peterloo as a starting point, people have produced flags that express their own modern-day struggles and solidarity. These flags will also make the journey across the Pennines.

Together with Shepley Singers (from Skelmanthorpe district) and She Choir, Open Voice and WAST asylum seekers choirs (from Manchester) and with schoolchildren from primary schools in Skelmanthorpe, we are rehearsing a specially-written piece of choir music based upon the lines written on the flag:


May never a cock in England crow

Nor never a pipe in Scotland blow

Nor never a harp in Ireland play

Til Liberty regains her sway’


The piece sings of the history of the flag, tracing its journey up to the present day as a symbol of support, collaboration and solidarity, and features the repeated refrain ‘We’ve more in common than divides us’ in echo of the words of MP Jo Cox.

The walk begins on Thursday July 4that 4pm, where the song will be sung in the open air in the village of Skelmanthorpe before members of all three choirs set off to walk around 50 miles on footpaths across the Pennines to Manchester, carrying the flag. This will be a three-day walk with invitations for members of the public and supporters to join for as little or as much as they feel able. 


Full details of the walk, performances and itinerary can be found below as a PDF


The walk reaches central Manchester on Saturday 6thJuly, where the walkers will sing as part of the Manchester International Festival in Albert Square. On the following afternoon (Sunday 7thJuly) all the choirs will together perform a concert featuring the Skelmanthorpe Flag Song at the People’s History Museum (3pm). The flags will be on display and there will be a projected slide show of the walk. The People’s History Museum is displaying the original Skelmanthorpe Flag as part of its Peterloo Exhibition.


People’s History Museum:https://phm.org.uk/events/50-miles-100-voices-200-years/


BELOW IS A CLICKABLE PDF THAT HAS ALL THE INFORMATION YOU'LL NEED ABOUT THE WALK. IF YOU'RE INTENDING TO JOIN US FOR ANY PART OF THE WALK (OR ALL OF IT), PLEASE READ ALL THE INFORMATION CAREFULLY. 

Walk summary 50 100 200.pdf Walk summary 50 100 200.pdf
Size : 257.145 Kb
Type : pdf
Below are links to GPX files detailing the Skelmanthorpe Walk routes 
There's a new video of our song 'George Orwell Meets The Commoners On The Road To Wigan Pier', filmed up in the Yorkshire Dales when snow lay thick on the ground and we went yomping across the hills armed with map, compass and flag. 

It's on our YouTube Channel, have a look.

Shoot straight over to the Writing page for an exhaustive (and possibly exhausting, get yourself a cup of tea before you start...) round-up of how 2018 dealt with Commoners Choir. Essays on gigs, events, rehearsals and what-have-you by a wide assortment of Commoners.

There's a new section on the website – see the list of pages above now includes 'Study', which is exactly that: an academic study of Commoners Choir, its inception and its links to the radical history of singing and walking. It's written by Lisa Taylor (Leeds Beckett University) and is published in Leisure Studies, a collection of academic papers. It's called:

Real change comes from below: walking and singing about places that matter; the formation of Commoners Choir

...and is a detailed look at how this bunch of ne'er-do-wells came together almost three years ago to sing 'Get off your arse!' and walk up some big hills, all in the grand tradition of William Morris, the Clarion Clubs, and countless other determined folk. 


The 1932 Mass Trespass at Kinder Scout. Walkers stop near the summit to listen to some stirring speeches.

C h o i r a l   S c r a t c h    

7" vinyl EP

Six singalong Protest Songs in a fold-out sleeve – 

Available now: See SHOP for details

Commoners Choir also have a Facebook page (where we post news of upcoming events etc) and a YouTube Channel (full of videos and short documentaries about what we've been up to).

We are a strange yet open and inclusive choir that meets in leeds. We come from all over the place, and try to act more like a band or a gang than a choir. we sing our own songs, about the world immediately around us, about inequality, hope, and tory politicians. we have an album available for purchase here on our shop page. for more information about us, about who we are and what we do, look around the website and visit our facebook page.  

if you're interested in joining the choir, drop us a line via the contact button above.

album available now!

21 tracks of protest, anger, humour and hope – 

Commoners Choir's debut album now in the shops.

also available to order direct from our online shop.

a short trailer for our album

happy to say that the commoners choir tour of libraries was a real success (in whatever way you want to measure it). There's a write-up of it here.

(ABOVE) A SHORT FILM by phil moody OF COMMONERS CHOIR'S tour of northern english libraries.

(above) 'mechanical movable type' • a short film of commoners choir's event at leeds central library, november 2016.

'boris johnson' BY COMMONERS CHOIR, february 2016 • FILMING AND EDITING BY PHIL MOODY • SONG WRITTEN BY BOFF WHALLEY, PERFORMED BY COMMONERS CHOIR

'three boats' by commoners choir, october 2015. 

song written by boff whalley, performed by commoners choir –animation by josh sutton. 

FOR AN ACCOUNT OF THE castleford boat trip, ALONG WITH PHOTOGRAPHS AND A SHORT DOCUMENTARY FILM OF THE DAY, SEE REHEARSAL/PERFORMANCE

FOR AN ACCOUNT OF THE MAGNA CARTA COMMEMORATION EVENT, ALONG WITH PHOTOGRAPHS AND A SHORT DOCUMENTARY FILM OF THE DAY, SEE REHEARSAL/PERFORMANCE 

commoners choir (no 'the', no apostrophe) is a choir dedicated to singing about the world around us, its inequalities and injustices, and our (4-part vocal harmony) opposition to such injustice. commoners choir is also dedicated to reclaiming the fun of making a big noise together without lugging a vanful of instruments and amplifiers around with us. we're based in west yorkshire but we gather and sing wherever seems fitting. all together now (deep breath) –

writings, blogs and rants about commoners performances - as they happen - can be found on the writing page.