Unsung - a play about the extraordinary life of Edward Rushton
Directed by Matt
Held at the old Unemployed Centre, Hardman Street
Saturday 16th November 2013
Painting of Edward Rushton by Mike Jones (from the mural in the old Unemployed
Anyone wondering what became of the old Unemployed Centre will be interested
to know that there is an occupant who still takes notice of proceedings
from his place high up in the dome. He may not be too happy that plans
for this building include luxury flats, but he’s sure to welcome
the use of the building for radical art staged by the Everyword
Festival in partnership with DaDa Fest
and Turf Love.
Edward Rushton, Liverpool's Blind Poet, Revolutionary Republican and
Anti-Slavery Fighter will be giving a wry smile as he listens to the first
reading of a play, a work in progress, about himself, to mark 200 years
next year of his death.
Until recently Rushton was not part of the written history of this city,
although his story was passed down by word of mouth. So it is a credit
to all the people who have discovered his tale, in archives scattered
Rushton’s life story is rich with events – from his rescue
of a ship out in the Mersey Bar at the age of sixteen, through his tragic
loss of sight from a disease he caught as he helped slaves, to his hatred
of any injustice such as the pressgang. He wasn’t afraid to stand
up for the rights of the oppressed, in a city obsessed with squeezing
vast profits from the slave trade, which attacked anyone who challenged
their right to do so.
This reading – the first half of the play – takes us up to
the fall of the first abolition of slavery bill in 1791 and Rushton’s
drafting of a letter to US President George Washington (who still owned
“Shame! Shame! That man should be deemed the property of man; or
that the name of Washington should be found among the list of such proprietors.”
We meet many of the well known characters of Rushton’s day including
William Roscoe and Thomas Clarkson, who is travelling the country gathering
evidence from seafarers about the trade in ‘Black Gold’. We
also meet Rushton’s wife Isabella and, as in the rest of his life,
Rushton is uncompromising with her pleas not to be so confrontational,
although his stubbornness does waver under her urgings to think of the
As the actors leave the stage we are nicely set up for the second half
of this play. Rushton has just dismissed the paternalistic philanthropy
of his contemporaries, led by Roscoe, who want to concentrate on the single
issue of making a better life for the slave. He shouts:
“The fight for right to vote, Catholic emancipation, the right
of workers to combine in trade unions, liberty from slavery everywhere.
All these struggles are connected!”
After this inspiring glimpse of the play a feedback session led by Ruth
Gould of DaDaFest begins with the writers John Graham Davies and James
Quinn. Steve Binns, the local historian, gives his usual gritty, and witty,
assessment. And Alex Robinson, who is still gathering material about Rushton,
talks about his poetry.
A reading of the whole play will split the air at
the Bluecoat on Tuesday, 26 November 2013.
For more on Edward Rushton click here:
For a copy of the book about Edward Rushton, ‘Forgotten
Hero’, written by Bill Hunter, call in at News from Nowhere on Bold
Comment left by johno on 19th November, 2013 at 11:32
the everyword is the everyman and playhouse who now own or have the building
will it be used now? see Liverpool post this week photo of mural and story. btw is willy Rushton related to him?
Comment left by diane on 22nd November, 2013 at 12:13
What time at the Bluecoat on 26 November 2013 and how much? It is not listed on The Blucoat site.