New Orleans Chuck Perkins helped me host Grevel Lindop on this trip to New Orleans in 2008.
Grevel returned the favor by hosting him in Manchester and arranging him to be part of Manchester’s big poetry festival. This led to him performing at London’s prestigious South Bank Centre on the same bill as Amiri Baraka.
Manchester and New Orleans have a DEEP connection.
Where do you think all that cotton went?
To the port of Liverpool and up the canal to the factories in Manchester. At one point, the UK produced 80% of the world’s finished cotton, an economic weapon which they used to subvert economies all over the world.
Why do you think Gandhi advised Indians “If you want freedom, turn the wheel.” This was not poetry or analogy. It was practical economic advice.
There was a third leg to this trifecta of misery: The factories of Manchester.
To describe them, poet John Blake coined the term the “satanic mills.”
Staffed by children because their hands could get in and out of the machinery, the suffering in these places was incalculable. The labor was essentially free as thousands of families impoverished by the loss of their hand weaving income gave their children up with the promise they’d become apprentices. It was not uncommon for children to be worked to death. Overseers were hired to walk the floors and literally whip children who flagged in their work.
During the Civil War, when shipments of cotton to the UK from New Orleans were blocked by Union forces, Manchester experienced a “cotton famine” and thousands lost their jobs. Despite this, the mill workers send a letter to Lincoln endorsing efforts to end slavery in the US. Details: https://areomagazine.com/2018/11/29/manchester-city-abraham-lincoln-true-sublime-heroism/
Inspired by the deep connections between New Orleans and Manchester, I made this short film.
The human spirit survived these assaults and these two communities separated by an ocean were united by music 100 years later.
– Ken McCarthy