We are inspired by the Blanketeers who set off from Manchester in March 1817, on a March to London, to highlight the desperate hardship faced by textile workers in the North West. The March was one of a series of events culminating in the Peterloo massacre two years later, and led to parliamentary reform, and many of the rights that we now benefit from in the UK. The marchers each carried a blanket to identify them as textile workers, to gain support, and to sleep under on those cold March nights.
Hundreds of Blanketeers started the March, many were turned back by the cavalry, a very large number were arrested, and one man was killed, all of this before they reached Macclesfield, some 20 miles away. One man, Abel Cauldwell, reached London.
To recognise their bravery and celebrate their intention, three artists from the North West will set off from Manchester on 29th July, to walk the 250 miles to London. We will also carry blankets, created by Lauren Sagar.
We are aware of other parallels between us and the Blanketeers; we too work in a craft based, creative industry, we also want the, often undervalued, voices of the North West to be heard in the capital city so that more regional centres influence what is going on in Westminster.
Like the Blanketeers, artists are in a moment of evolution. The displacement of the city’s artists due to intense property development is stimulating a number of artist led projects to become autonomous and sustainable, this is our way to create some change.
Art improves wellbeing, and contributes to regeneration and the economy. Artists are often unseen, and risk being lost from within our communities and cities. We will encourage the value of artists by engaging people directly with how we work and create art.
The Blanketeers carried a petition for the Prince Regent, we will bring artist testimonies told to us in debates and interviews, and share these with people we meet, continue the discussion.
The March of the Artists raises awareness of the artist labour force and its contribution to society by engaging with many people over a slow and sustained period.
It will be like a movable, inclusive festival of creativity.
We will do performances in people’s living rooms, libraries, pubs, on the tow path, in galleries.
We are very pleased to say that the Arts Council England is part funding the project. Their contribution will enable the walking artists to pay their bills and rent whilst missing a month of earnings.
It will also pay for an experienced co-ordinator to track the walk and keep everyone up-to-date every day throughout August. She will also publicise our activities so that we can reach as many people as possible along the way, in person and online.
By supporting the every day essentials, your valuable contribution will make it possible. Amongst other things it will pay for essential walking equipment; boots, water proofs (we are in Britain after all!), socks, plasters, and go towards a good night’s sleep so that we are ready to walk and talk the next day.
Lauren Sagar, Eve robertson and John-Paul Brown are experienced and accomplished in their own right as creative professionals.
Lauren is known for her art project the Chandelier of Lost Earrings (created with Sharon Campbell in 2013) which has been touring the UK, form London to Glasgow, and has won 2 national awards; the National Lottery Award for Good Causes (voted by the public) and the British Women Artists Award. Over 3000 single earrings were contributed to the project from people all over Europe and as far as Australia.
Eve is currently rehearsing for a play written by Maxine Peake at Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre. She is an accomplished theatre maker, focused on making community consultation theatre work. At the centre of each process the pieces have been community led; unlocking stories to enable powerful, shared experience to be documented and be presented back to its participants, their families and a wider audience as a collective narrative.
John-Paul works professionally as a photographer, and has his own artistic practice that spans photography and sculpture.
Artists are hard working, brave and tenacious. They frequently work for no pay, and often have to do two or three additional jobs so that they can continue with their artwork. They add curiosity, colour, new perspectives and much more to our environment, often from the background, unseen.
If we don’t champion them we risk losing their input.
Risks & Challenges
Each artist will be taking the whole month of August to complete the walk to London, away from friends and families, and challenged with a physically demanding activity. We know there will ups and downs, and possibly a few disagreements, however, we want to keep our eye on the goal and give people we meet a really true picture of what it is to be an artist in this country currently.
We hope that people will join us sometimes to keep us going, and that staying in peoples' homes will offer us some nourishment and healing from a hard day walking.
What We Need
We just want to make sure that we reach as many people as we can along the way, and that we do it safely.
1. Accommodation. Some nights we will be calling on friends and supporters to give us a bed for the night, just like the Blanketeers did in 1817, but we'll also be staying in hostels and B&B's where that's not possible.
2. Equipment. Walking gear. Boots, socks, waterproofs, plasters, poles, sun cream
3. Events to raise awareness. We want this project to reach out to everyone, so we'll be inviting you to join us along the way at a series of mini-debates and get-togethers. This may involve hiring a room and providing a hot-pot for example, and we'd like to do this as many times as we can. Monies raised through this campaign will enable us to do this.
4. A support team. Just one person and a vehicle to be honest, but someone to look after our stuff, ensure we're fed and watered, and be there with the first aid kit.
5. Food and contingency costs. Always expect the unexpected. We'd feel safer if there was money in the kitty for emergencies.
Other Ways You Can Help
Please don't feel that there is nothing you can do if you're not in a position to pledge funding.
You may be able to put us up for a night, or offer us a meal.
Simply by spreading the word to your friends and families will support us massively.