Shouting from the rooftops - See the faces behind the songs of protest

Rise Up and Sing advert with Simon Floyd and John Street

Simon Floyd and John Street are joining forces to give the city a voice to sing songs of protest. - Credit: Submitted

A university researcher and a creative director are joining forces to voice their opinion on the current state of the government.

Simon Floyd, director of the Common Lot, was approached by John Street of the University of East Anglia (UEA) to write lyrics as part of their overall research into the history of protest songs.

Simon explained: "Originally John wanted us to write a couple of songs, but we wanted to take it that step further and create a show.

"We're looking to write about four new songs, while including five or six songs from John's research and weave a historical note throughout the show.

"The history of protest songs is fascinating and we're really excited to work with John on the project."

History of song of protest poster

John Street and his research team will be holding a talk and exhibition in conjunction with their song of protest project. - Credit: Simon Floyd

Simon is no stranger to raising their voice to those in charge.

"People are pretty hacked off with how the government has treated us, so if people are as angry as we are, they have this outlet to release all that frustration.

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"We're looking to take the show around Norwich; from Whiffler Castle, Haymarket to Anglia Square and a few parks in and around the city."

Simon Floyd, creative director of the Common Lot.

Simon Floyd, creative director of the Common Lot, is looking for people who are unsatisfied with how the country is being run, to raise their voice in solidarity. - Credit: Nick Stone

John Street, principal investigator of the research team at UEA, approached the Arts and Humanities Research Council to fund their project.

He said: "We spoke about how protest songs date much further back than what a lot of reports have suggested - being the 1940's.

"We believed they were missing a trick and the history of protest songs in the UK go back as far as the 1600's."

Songs of Hope and Protest Advert

Advert for Songs of Hope and Protest - at The Phoenix Centre, starting February 7. - Credit: Simon Floyd

The website set up by the UEA research team, 'our subversive voice', provides 750 songs of protest over the years but John says there are "thousands more".

John added: "We think the website is a great way to show the diversity of songs over time in relation to politics.

"We're trying to draw attention to the number of ways people communicate in politics - whether it's leaflets, meetings or social media - we don't seem to recognise how important song is.

"We believe it can give a voice to those who may think they don't have one."

John Street, principal investigator for the UEA's history of protest song project.

John Street, principal investigator for the UEA's history of protest song project. - Credit: John Street

History of the protest song

John Street gives a brief history on songs of protest past and present.

He said: "It’s often been assumed that the protest song is a post-war American export.

"Indeed, The Specials, the performers of ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, released an album of protest songs last year, almost all of which came from the US.

"But in 1619, people sung ‘The Powte’s Complaint’ in protest at the draining of the Fens.

"Then, as now, songs bemoaned the behaviour of their rulers. In later centuries, thousands joined in the singing of ‘The Gathering of the Unions’, a song that proclaimed the rights of workers, and was co-written by Harriet Martineau of Norwich.

"And so it continues today, where protest songs complain at the conditions in Amazon Warehouses or at the destruction of the environment or the conduct of the political class."