Poplarism! Digital Festival | Saturday 1 – Sunday 2 May 2021
Poplar Union and the Finborough Theatre presents:
A DIGITAL ARTS FESTIVAL CELEBRATING THE CENTENARY
OF THE POPLAR RATES REBELLION OF 1921
Curated by Beth Watton of Poplar Union and Neil McPherson of the Finborough Theatre.
“Marching to the High Court and possibly to prison…”
Saturday 1 May – Sunday 2 May 2021 | YouTube
Poplar Union has joined forces with Finborough Theatre in west London in a cross-London digital festival celebrating the creativity of both communities in response to the historical milestone of the Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921.
Poplarism! is a unique collaboration between two very different venues in two very different parts of London – Poplar Union, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, one of London’s most deprived boroughs, and the long-established Finborough Theatre, located in one of London’s wealthiest areas, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
We have selected 10 submissions from an open call which will be streamed on our YouTube channels over the 1-2 May, 2021, followed by a live online Q&A at 7pm with the contributing artists from that day (both will be BSL interpreted).
Fluid in their artistic expression, ShumGhostJohn is a Hong Kong trio making performance works across disciplines, previously trained in language, ballet, computer science and biology. Met in 2017, they devise storytelling works that recognise Hongkonger identity, power of being a collective and the nature of interdependence. Their research topic includes use of technology in democratic society, folklore and contemporary art practices and object-oriented ontology.
The trio’s performance has been seen across Hong Kong, London, Vienna and Antwerp, in renowned venues and festivals including ImPulsTanz, The Place London and Genee. Their performance in Vault Festival at “Freedom HI” with Papergang Theatre has been awarded Show of The Week. They won a championship in Kangaroo Cup (Hong Kong) 2017 Lyrical/Contemporary. They received their MA Contemporary Dance at London Contemporary Dance School and are now based between London and Hong Kong.
@ShumGhostJohn | ghostandjohn.art
Emily & Jodie
Emily Stone and Jodie Adams are both long-term residents of Tower Hamlets, working extensively in the arts both independently and for a range of organisations. They are practitioners and facilitators with experience in visual arts, live performance and media production, and have worked together previously on community-based projects. They have been friends for years, and enjoy walking the borough together and unearthing its heritage.
Jodie: @bodesbodes | Linkedin
Emily: @emilypebble | Linkedin
Kim Waxham is 59 years old and come from Bow, East London. This is her first creative commission as a poet. Kim applied to Poplarism! As her maternal Great Grandfather was Robert John Hopwood, who was one of the Poplar Councillors imprisoned during the Poplar Rates Rebellion.
Sam Tannenbaum is an early-career theatre director and writer who aims to create socially and politically engaged work that helps audiences to understand the world and so reimagine our places within it. Having previously studied Music at Cambridge where he gained experience directing opera, Sam is now studying on the Masters in Theatre Directing at Mountview in London. Sam’s work is focused on creating theatre that is politically subversive, following on from the legacy of Brecht and the Berliner Ensemble. He is currently working with Tom Lodge on a piece of new writing that will be premiered in London in July.
Eliot is a musician, songwriter and producer born and based in London.
He cut his teeth as a performer touring with bands in London, the Uk, European and festival circuits.
Experienced as a composer and producer, working from his South London studio doing various types of recording projects and collaborations with up-and-coming artists, he keeps busy during the day listening, learning new skills into the night.
Music is a lifeblood that gives purpose, determination and commitment to experimenting with different styles in music, as well as finding connections to other types of media.
Pushing the boundaries and envelope gives him and the other people he works with a platform to explore and realise creative output.
A genre-fluid mix-digital media artist and sound sculptress/musician. As a resident of Tower Hamlets for around 10 years a lot of my work within this period has been inspired by my experiences and discoveries within the borough.
With a background in film production, Marianne Badrichani has been directing French classic and contemporary plays in new translations in the UK since 2000, working with the Young Vic, the National Theatre, and in the West End. Trained with Katie Mitchell and at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, she also creates immersive performances in unusual venues in response to commissions (The Show in a Shop Window, La Peau de Chagrin, Blue Beard). She is part of the Cross Channel Theatre Group, launched by the Institut Francais to promote French New writing in the UK.
Her latest productions include: Sacha Guitry, Ma Fille et Moi, Ionesco/Dinner at the Smiths (London, Paris), Trois Ruptures/Three Splits (The Coronet Theatre, Theatre 9 in Beijing)
She developed For Your Ears Only, a series of one and one live performance over the phone, in 2020 in response to the first lockdown, and Giles, a Live Zoom Play in response the second.
Based in Earl’s Court, she is also an associate of BOLD ELEPHANT a new venue welcoming performances, workshops and rehearsals in Elephant and Castle.
Phoebe & Roger Wagner
Phoebe is Roger’s Daughter: a poet and theatre-maker living in Mudchute, Tower Hamlets. She published her debut poetry pamphlet ‘The Body You’re In’ with Bad Betty Press in 2019. She’s performed for organisations like the National Literacy Trust, National Maritime Museum and Omnibus Theatre. She runs Crep Project (@crep.project) an arts collective that explores trainer culture with young working class people. They create workshops, host conversations, exhibitions and performances that look deeper at the hidden moments in their kicks.
Roger is Phoebe’s Dad: now retired, living in Croydon, but originally from Yorkshire and settled in South London since 1971. He practised as a Secondary/College teacher of History, Economics, Business and Music (1975-2019). He is a published scholar of Southern African history and a recorded rock/blues/roots musician/songwriter. He’s a long-time collaborator with Dave Curtiss, writer of Madonna’s hit ‘Ray of Light’ and hosts jam sessions in local pubs. Since 2017 he has been secretary of the ‘SaveTheGlam’ Croydon campaign to protect public house ‘The Horse & Groom’ from an opportunist developer.
Shkembe Soup is a troupe of ten musicians, singers and dancers who perform delicious live music and swirling dance. We perform songs from around the world (ancient and new) from many genres including Arabic, Folk, Rock n Roll, Balkan, Klezmer. We sing, dance, and play guitar, djembe drums, violin, mandolin and more. We are very much a community group, based in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
I Sis Poet
I Sis is a poet Afrikan born in Trinidad and Tobago based in West London and has an MA in Black British Writing. She describes herself as an Eclectic Afrikan Centric Poet and draws inspiration from her lived experience and activism. She is passionate about WORDplay, the elasticity of language, playing with words, language is the prize of the victor, the tool of the oppressor.
More information about the festival to follow….
A bit of history
Led by George Lansbury, former Mayor of Poplar and future leader of the Labour Party, the Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921 was one of the milestones of local London history where local government stood against central government on behalf of the poor and the least privileged in society.
“Poplar will pay its share of London’s rates when Westminster, Kensington, and the City do the same.”
Poplar (now in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets) in 1921 – as it is now – was one of the poorest districts of London, and there was no government support to alleviate the high unemployment, hunger, and poverty in the borough. That work had to be funded by local ratepayers – who also had to pay contributions to four cross-London authorities – the London County Council, the Metropolitan Police, the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the Metropolitan Water Board.
Poplar Borough Council’s Labour administration was elected in 1919 to undertake a comprehensive programme of social reform and poor relief, including equal pay for women and a minimum wage for council workers, which could only be funded from the rates. Because Poplar was a poor borough, Poplar Borough Council had to set a much higher rate in order to produce the same amount produced by low rates in a wealthy borough. Poplar called for complete equalisation of the rates, so that the same rate brought in the same income both to Poplar and to a wealthier West London borough.
In 1921, faced with the prospect of a further massive increase in the rates, Poplar Council decided to hold them down by not collecting the contributions which should have passed on to the four cross-London authorities. The London County Council and Metropolitan Asylums Board responded by taking the Council to the High Court. The council’s response was to organise a procession of 2,000 supporters from Bow, led by the borough’s official mace-bearer, to the accompaniment of a band and a banner proclaiming “Poplar Borough Council marching to the High Court and possibly to prison”.
Thirty councillors, including six women, one of whom, Nellie Cressall, was pregnant, were sent to prison indefinitely for contempt of court. George Lansbury’s son, Edgar, was imprisoned. He went on to become the father of legendary actress Dame Angela Lansbury who is also the patron of this festival. One of the jailed women was Edgar’s first wife, suffragette Minnie Lansbury, who due to her imprisonment, developed pneumonia and died at the age of just 32. She was one of five councilors said to have died early due to mistreatment in prison.
The revolt received wide public support. After six weeks’ imprisonment, the court ordered the councillors release, to great rejoicing in Poplar, and a bill was rushed through parliament that more or less equalised the tax burdens between London’s rich and poor boroughs.
Supported by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Arts Grants Scheme