Peter Branson

BELIEVE!
2019: bicentennial of The Peterloo Massacre

“Rise, like lions after slumber” – Shelley,
The Masque/Mask of Anarchy’, 1819 (first pub.1832)

We meet to talk about low pay,
Our masters own the time.
We swear an oath of secrecy;
That is our only crime.
A living wage, fair shares for all,
For bread and liberty.
Tolpuddle way, we reap and sow;
We will, we will be free.

The mills round here are silenced now;
We import all our clothes
From sweatshops crammed with kids and mums
Where labour costs are low.
A living wage, fair shares for all,
For bread and liberty.
Sing “We are many, they are few”;
We will, we will be free.

They shut down all the steelworks here;
They say we can’t afford.
They argue it’s more sensible
To buy in from abroad.
A living wage, fair shares for all,
For bread and liberty.
We’ll work with nature, not destroy;
We will, we will be free.

When Thatcher plots to close the pits
In nineteen eighty-four,
She’s out to break the unions
And flout our civil law.
A living wage, fair shares for all,
For bread and liberty.
Same health provision, rich and poor;
We will, we will be free.

There’s homeless people, others toil
On zero hours low pay,
Denied the rights we’ve struggled for,
I’m talking now, today.
A living wage, fair shares for all,
For bread and liberty.
So “Shake your chains to earth like dew”;
We will, we will be free.

You Diggers and you Levellers,
Trades unions, Chartists too,
Who fought for hard-won workers’ rights,
Those slain at Peterloo,
A living wage, fair shares for all,
For bread and liberty,
We’re “Children of a wiser day”;
We will, we will be free!

Peter Branson lives in Rode Heath, a village
in South Cheshire. A former English teacher
and lecturer, he now organises writing
workshops. Until recently he was “Writer-
in-residence” for the “All Write” project run
by Stoke-on-Trent Central Libraries.