THOMAS SPENCE BIRTHDAY EVENT 21ST JUNE 2016

 























TUESDAY 21ST JUNE 2016 12PM NOON AT THE THOMAS SPENCE PLAQUE, BROAD GARTH, QUAYSIDE, NEWCASTLE



POETS AND MUSICIANS ASSEMBLED AT THE SPENCE PLAQUE SHORTLY BEFORE 12PM



INTRODUCTION AND POEM BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG


A FEW WORDS FROM THE LORD MAYOR  COUNCILLOR HAZEL STEPHENSON


SONG BY GARY MILLER


POEM BY TREVOR TEASDEL


POEM BY ROBERT LONSDALE


POEM BY TREVOR LEONARD


POEM BY DOMINIC WINDRAM


POEM BY PAUL SUMMERS


POEM BY DAVE ALTON


POEM BY GORDON PHILLIPS (READ IN GORDON’S ABSENCE BY DAVE ALTON)


SONG BY THE SAWDUST JACKS




FOLLOWED BY DRINKS IN THE CELLAR ROOM, THE RED HOUSE PUB, SANDHILL, NEWCASTLE FROM 12.30PM WITH INFORMAL READINGS AND SONGS IN HONOUR OF SPENCE'S BIRTHDAY - AND, INCIDENTALLY, THAT OF KEITH ARMSTRONG!





FOLK SONG FOR THOMAS SPENCE


(1750-1814)



Down by the old Quayside,

I heard a young man cry,

among the nets and ships he made his way.

As the keelboats buzzed along,

he sang a seagull’s song;

he cried out for the Rights of you and me.


Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,

he gave up all his life

just to be free.

Up and down the cobbled Side,

struggling on through the Broad Chare,

he shouted out his wares

for you and me.


Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,

he was a man the likes you rarely see.

With a pamphlet in his hand,

and a poem at his command,

he haunts the Quayside still

and his words sing.


His folks they both were Scots,

sold socks and fishing nets,

through the Fog on the Tyne they plied their trade.

In this theatre of life,

the crying and the strife,

they tried to be decent and be strong.


Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,

he gave up all his life

just to be free.

Up and down the cobbled Side,

struggling on through the Broad Chare,

he shouted out his wares

for you and me.


Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,

he was a man the likes you rarely see.

With a pamphlet in his hand,

and a poem at his command,

he haunts the Quayside still

and his words sing.




KEITH ARMSTRONG





(from the music-theatre piece ‘Pig’s Meat’ written for Bruvvers Theatre Company)




SPEECH BY DR KEITH ARMSTRONG AT THOMAS SPENCE PLAQUE, BROAD GARTH, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE ON 21ST JUNE 2016, SPENCE’S BIRTHDAY:


On behalf of The Thomas Spence Trust, I’m delighted to welcome you here today at the plaque of that great free spirit, utopian writer, land reformer and courageous pioneering campaigner for the rights of men and women, Thomas Spence to celebrate the day of his birth in his home city of Newcastle upon Tyne. Myself and other members of our Trust campaigned for well over 10 years for some kind of memorial to Thomas Spence and it is with great pride that we assemble here with you today.

We know that Spence was born on the Quayside on June 21st 1750.  We know that his father Jeremiah made fishing nets and sold hardware from a booth on Sandhill and his mother Margaret kept a stocking stall, also on Sandhill, but it has not been possible, all these years on, to pinpoint the exact location of Thomas Spence’s birthplace, which is why this plaque was installed here at Broad Garth, the site of his school room and debating society and where he actually came to blows with Thomas Bewick because of a dispute over the contentious matter of property. Bewick gave Spence a beating with cudgels on that occasion but, surprisingly enough, they remained lifelong friends. As Bewick said of Spence: ‘He was one of the warmest Philanthropists in the world and the happiness of Mankind seemed, with him, to absorb every other consideration.’

In these days of bland career politicians, Spence stands out as an example of a free spirit, prepared to go to prison for his principles - the principles of grass roots freedom, community and democracy, for the human rights of people all over the world.

Spence mobilised politically in taverns in Newcastle and later in London. That is why this afternoon, after this short event, you are all invited to join us across the road in the Red House to raise a glass for Thomas.

The plaque beside us puts Thomas Spence on the map for all of those pilgrims who hold human rights and political freedoms dear. It does not trap his free spirit rather it gives his life and work fresh wings.

Thanks to you all for coming this afternoon to join the Thomas Spence Trust in marking the birthday of the legendary Thomas Spence in this fine city of ours.

You will now hear a few songs and poems dedicated to Thomas Spence by local poets and folk musicians.





A, B, C



You landless horses have you heard

The power of the written word

By making clear what once was blurred

I’ll raise you up above the herd


Like you I come from poverty

But grammar brought me liberty

Now with my grand repository

I’ll break your chains of slavery


Pronounce with me

These words you see

It’s as easy as A, B, C

My alphabet will set you free

It’s as easy as A, B, C


Rhyme and rhythm and repetition

Real reading made easy by definition

It’s my passion, it’s my mission

All it needs is your permission


Believe in me

And you will see

It’s as easy as A, B, C

Our language offers mastery

It’s as easy as A, B, C


So when you escape your desert isle

Spread the word through rank and file

The Spensonian Method is worthwhile

In teaching through phonetic style


Who needs elocutionists

Wordsmiths or philologists

For your mother tongue she now insists

You can all be cunning linguists


Come read with me

To your own degree

It’s as easy as A, B, C

Words and sounds in recipe

It’s as easy as A, B, C


Say after me

“I will be free”

It’s as easy as A, B, C

Knowledge is power, just turn the key

It’s as easy as A, B, C




Gary Miller




"Dare to be Free"



Where is Thomas Spence?, his song needs to be sung. Born in poverty, died in poverty, imprisoned for his ideas. He wrote the real Rights of Man. He was the bane of tyrants, the scourge of pirates, the man behind the pen.

Where is Thomas Spence? The end of aristocracy, public ownership of the land, a social gurantee for those not able to work, the rights of all and infants to be free from abuse and poverty. Where is this man who gave his life so the people could be free?

What thinks Thomas Spence about the progress that's been made? Tax havens for the rich, Council tax, income tax and VAT for all the rest. He'd see that nothing much had changed beneath the fancy rhetoric. Just desparation for the poor, the lame and all the sick.

Where is Thomas Spence now we need his utopian thought? A country run for crooks will never cut the cake. A people tired of lies and schemes, distracted by a press half baked is not the kind of world you saw. Where are you Thomas Spence? We need to hear your voice once more!




Trevor Teasdel




THOMAS SPENCE


A humble son of Newcastle,

Born in 1750 into discriminating grim poverty,

He looked destined for the Great North scrapheap,

Instead, he grew to be someone of immense utopian vision,

Integrity, courage and righteousness:

A pioneering true socialist, a minter of coins, a printer of pamphlets,

A champion of the working classes, a martyr to the common man.

He wrote and spoke passionately about human rights, the abolition of slavery,

Cruelty, justice and land for all long before it became fashionable or cool.

He constantly challenged undemocratic government practice,

He tirelessly railed against aristocracy’s unpardonable moral corruption

and tyranny.

Truly inspirational beliefs that, regrettably, were completely rejected by the powers that be.

Dynamic campaigning took him only along the prejudiced, tumbrel track

Towards imprisonment and ostracism.

Parliament’s persecution outrageously robbed him of a rightful place.

I often wonder, and hope you all do too,

What the Workers' World would be like today

If Thomas had not been shunted unceremoniously into bleak anonymity.

A memorial black plaque on a Quayside wall does not tell it well

Or adequately describe the life of a unique man born ahead of his time.




Robert Lonsdale





FOR THOMAS SPENCE



Language

Universal benefit

Freedom and passion

A common wellbeing

We are indebted

A visionary of Tyne

Thomas Spence

Shelter for all

Glorify the council house





TREVOR LEONARD





In Memory Of Thomas Spence



I believe you will not disappear.

You will not die; in children’s hopeful eyes;

In every living human heart

That dares to dream beyond its scope

Beyond the grateful peasantry

Of this compliant Kingdom.


The old, rampant tribes are beating their chests

Raising their flags & their fists against the tide;

But I still cling to the singular rose of your vision

Amidst the ruins of tainted modernity


If you were alive now you would weep great rivers.

If you were here now you would advice us to:

Awaken from the deep sleep of self servitude;

Awaken from gleaming crass consumer dreaming;

Awaken from the mass media’s circus of distraction,

Awaken from the spellbinding delusions

Of sordid symbol manipulators

& awaken with the sun of new born awareness.




Dominic Windram





the hive of liberty


G?d gav th? Ir’th too u

And n?t unto a Fu

B?t aul M?nkind


& still we build

drone & dreamer


beyond each epoch’s

bleak indenture


making & amending

each pristine cell


to house the progeny

of our rights


a scaffold thatch

of vehement words


the lathe & daub

of hope & want


each glossed with the blood

of a ranter’s raw throat




Paul Summers





The Ballad of Thomas Spence

 

Thomas Spence strolling through a wood

When a bounty there he found,

Of ripe nuts fallen from the trees

And scattered across the ground.

 

He was gathering this harvest

When through the bushes there came

A Forester who demanded

To be told the poacher’s name.

 

“I’m no poacher!” said Thomas Spence,

“I take no rabbit or deer.

I have but one intention, which

Is gathering these nuts here.

 

“Would you inquire of a monkey

Or a squirrel making free

With natural sufficiency?

If not, why then question me?

 

“Do you think me inferior

To wild creatures such as these?

Do I have rather less right to

Garner what’s fallen from trees?”

 

The Forester was much aggrieved

And declared, “As you well know,

You’re no more than a trespasser

Who must answer to the law.

 

 

“The Duke of Portland owns this land

And all that grows and falls here,

He holds all the deeds and titles,

So his right is very clear.”

 

But Thomas Spence was not subdued,

“This wild wood grew here unplanned.

It has not been cultivated,

Nor planted by human hand.

 

“Therefore, this is nature’s storehouse

Where in nothing is reserved,

And the only law that applies

Is first come is then first served.

 

“So the Duke of Portland must be

Much faster and more aware

If he is to get here in time

To claim and gather his share.

 

But if he invokes privilege

Then what’s this country to me,

If by gathering hazelnuts

I commit a felony?

 

“I may serve in the army’s ranks

To defend this country, this wood,

Yet, just what of mine would I be

Then defending with my blood?


The enemy would laugh and jeer,

They must take me for a clown

Who’s not allowed to pick a nut:

I should throw my musket down.

 

“I’d say to the Duke of Portland,

And he could not ignore it,

If this wood is yours alone, then

You alone must fight for it.

 

“These nuts the hazel trees produce

Fall freely upon the earth,

It’s only when I pick them up

That my labour gives them worth.”

 

The Forester stood there struck dumb,

The argument made such sense

He couldn’t in all conscience deny

The right claimed by Thomas Spence.

 

                                                               


Dave Alton






FROM A THOMAS SPENCE FRAME STORY UNITING HIS UTOPIAN WRITINGS


1. Captain Swallow’s Return to England


I bring you news from Spensonia

glistening in the sun

of its own making,


a single speck of land

breeding and trading between republics

on Poseidon’s map.


Imagine it.

At first, the classic text,

the greatest storm


and a besieged ship -

all hands on deck –

heave, ho!  But soon floundering


at god knows where.

So pray for deliverance

or take the punishment.


But this time go one better

with a double saving,

two mariners:  brothers,


fatigued,

beached like two big wet fish

without a home.



2. The Marine Constitution.


All around them is sturdy wood,

such greenery for a canopy 

under a burning sun and monsoon torrent.


At their feet there’s much stone,

axe heads to make

and shape walls, an entrance.


One stone rubbed against the other

emits its rewarding flames,

a busy warmth for the fur-clad

corralling wild beasts, propagate.

They reseed lush fruit, in fact,

anything edible for the craggy table


while a perpetual spring

gives them such blessings,

seasonal observance.


But this is no Protestant Work Ethic,

no individual creed for Albion’s shores;

but an island of many hairy and soft hands.

Two brothers, two bearded wonders

heeded father’s advice.

In the carved words of their manifesto


it tells of a land made whole made real

just as between tall sails and wind helped guide them

so for each person’s need.




G.F.Phillips


 



Ode to Thomas Spence


A radical from the Quayside, rebellion in his bones

Speaking up for people, and decent homes

Universal suffrage - access to the land

Famous penny pamphlets and ‘The Rights of Man’


So Landlord, shove your rent book where the sun will never shine

I’ve got ‘Pigs Meat’, I’ve got Tokens, I’ve got Freedom in my mind


Education, Liberation, his Phonetics will reveal

An end to class distinction, and this one sided deal

To Hell with Aristocracy, we’ll be what we will be

A fanfare for the common man, if you dare to be free


So Landlord, shove your rent book where the sun will never shine

I’ve got ‘Pigs Meat’, I’ve got Tokens, I’ve got Freedom in my mind


Imprisoned for high treason, without a legal trial

Harassment and surveillance, in a military style

This poor man’s revolutionary, couldn’t be kept down

Spensonian Utopia, will never run aground


So Landlord, shove your rent book where the sun will never shine

I’ve got ‘Pigs Meat’, I’ve got Tokens, I’ve got Freedom in my mind




John Leslie (The Sawdust Jacks)