In 2002 Calder Valley Voices hosted the National Street Music Fesitval in Hebden Bridge on July 5th – 7th. On the Friday night, choirs enjoyed a concert in the Hebden Bridge Picture House featuring Coope, Boyes and Simpson, Peter Coe and the Deep C Divas. Workshops took place over the whole weekend and on Saturday there was a mass sing and busking sessions throughout the day. Here’s a complete PDF of the event, including lists of participating choirs.
The final event of the 2002 Festival took place in Hardcastle Crags, the beautiful wooded valley just to the north of Hebden Bridge. This has been a popular place for generations, and for many years from the 1890s onwards was the location of annual open-air rallies, arranged by the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and later by the socialist choirs and cycling clubs associated with the Clarion movement.
Our event was designed as a celebration in song of the long history of the English radical tradition. It included the first performance of a new song A Vision of Jerusalem (song for the Calder Valley), written by Andrew Bibby and arranged by Lesley Lear and Gilly Fordham, which commemorates the 1896 Hardcastle Crags rally and in particular the life of one of the main speakers, Caroline Martyn. The text of A Tribute to Caroline Martyn, a short dramatised reading of extracts from contemporary sources, is available here.
The National Street Music Festival started in 1983, in Sheffield, as the Street Bands Festival. A group of street bands, who existed mainly to play in the big marches and demos that characterised the 80s’ radical politics, decided to meet in each other’s towns and cities once a year. Their intention was to bring politics on to the streets in ways that would be creative, engaging, thought provoking and fun.
As the 80s progressed, the bands were joined by a few of the newly forming political choirs, and the event became known as the Street Music Festival.
Until 1991, street bands from all over England took turns at organising the festival. In 1991, the London festival was jointly organised by a band and a choir for the first time. In each subsequent year, the number and range of participating choirs has grown and community, as well as political choirs are now included.
In 1997, separate festivals for choirs and bands were held, and so the event continues to change with time.