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Behold Ye Ramblers

Behold Ye Ramblers

Sat 15 Feb
19:00 - 21:30
Doors open 18:00

From the voices of ramblers and campaigners to the songs and poetry inspired by past and current struggles, “Behold Ye Ramblers” is a new play about The Clarion newspaper and the organisations formed by its readership, including the famous rambling club, The Sheffield Clarion Ramblers. Along with the Clarion Cyclists, these early Edwardian pioneers promoted healthy outdoor pursuits, organising expeditions across open moors and mountains whilst campaigning for the right to roam, bringing them into conflict with landowners’ hunting and shooting activities and laws that prioritised private property over the wellbeing of others. 

It’s the latest show from theatre company Townsend Theatre Productions, previous shows have included Rouse Ye Women!, We are the Lions, Mr Manager!, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and Dare Devil Rides to Jarama. Working closely with the Society for the Study of Social History (SSLH) and the Clarion Cyclists, this new production continues Townsend Theatre’s focus on powerful social historical narratives that highlight working class histories and workplace experiences.

Written by Neil Gore, who has also wrote the music and lyrics, it’s directed by Louise Townsend, with lighting and projection design by Daniella Beattie. It’s performed by Neil Gore.

From the voices of ramblers and campaigners to the songs and poetry inspired by past and current struggles, Behold Ye Ramblers is about the rise of The Clarion newspaper and the organisations formed by its readership, including the Clarion Cyclists, Clarion Vans, Clarion Vocal Unions and Bands as well as rambling clubs like the famous Sheffield Clarion Ramblers. 

These late Victorian and early Edwardian pioneers promoted Socialism and healthy outdoor pursuits under the banner ‘Fellowship Is Life’. Many organised regular cycling excursions as Clarion ‘Scouts’, handing out leaflets and selling newspapers to promote Socialism, and others organised expeditions across open moors and mountains to protect footpaths whilst campaigning for the Right to Roam, bringing them into conflict with landowners, gamekeepers and laws prioritizing private property over the wellbeing of others. 


At its height The Clarion regularly sold between 30,000 and 70,000 copies a week and was popular because of its informal and accessible approach with features on poverty and workplace exploitation mixed with a range of stories, jokes and verses; it had a huge influence upon public opinion.

Behold Ye Ramblers traces the founding of The Clarion by Robert Blatchford; the persuasive power of its journalism demonstrated by the conversion of ‘Daisy’ Greville, the Countess of Warwick, to Socialism; the development of the many Clarion Vans by Julia Dawson that toured the nation to promote Socialism; and, the inspirational leader of Sheffield’s Clarion Ramblers, GHB Ward.

Writer Neil Gore said: “Behold Ye Ramblers” has themes within it that are relevant today, in that at the time The Clarion was first published, in 1892, the majority of the population were living in a very tight economy with low wages and appalling working and living conditions. The newspaper sought to highlight these issues, as well as raise questions about the reliability of those thought to be ‘masters’ or ‘prominent leaders of society’, along with a capitalist system under scrutiny by those who felt it was responsible for massive and growing inequalities in society. These themes will resonate with many working and living in our current regime of austerity with a cost-of-living crisis, where wages and working conditions are squeezed and where many struggle for the basic necessities of life in the midst of spiraling rises in the cost of living and housing. Meanwhile the richest in society just seem to be getting richer. Another important aspect of the Clarion movement was the dream for a better life for all through promotion of various cultural, social and leisure activities by way of an offer of a complete way of life away from workplace toil and crowded living conditions. A work/life balance important for people today.”

Director Louise Townsend added: “The production aims to reflect those changing times through the use of some hard-hitting songs from the time from such great writers as William Morris and Edward Carpenter, and projection of early photographic images of people at home, at work, at play and campaigning for social, political and cultural change.”



£14.00 /  

*  It is suitable for 11 years+

The running time is 70 minutes plus 15 minute interval 

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One of the most wonderful weekends of my life. Thanks to all at the Birnam Book Festival, Guest of Honour, author and musician.

Peggy Seeger   |   Birnam Book Festival 2018

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