May 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of the Ely & Littleport Riots, an important local historic event. To mark the anniversary, Ely Folk Festival (with support from City of Ely Council) has commissioned a performance blending narrative and ballads based on the Ely & Littleport Riots. This performance will take place in marquee 3 on Sunday.
Gareth Calway is an author and performer whose historical works include ‘Bound for Jamaica’ (Collins Education, 2012, about the Atlantic slave trade) and ‘Doin different, 39 new ballads from the East of England’ (Poppyland, 2015.) He writes regular features for the Eastern Daily Press and other East Anglian journals. Andy Wall is a director of the Ely Folk Festival and a veteran of the folk circuit, recently performing in Folkstock’s East of England showcase and a great favourite wherever he performs. ‘Bread or Blood’ is the first collaboration of Andy and Gareth and both will be appearing separately at this year’s Folk in a Field festival in Norfolk as well as touring ‘Bread or Blood’ in East Anglia culminating at the Ely Folk Festival in July. Download the poster with details of performances of Bread or Blood around East Anglia – Bread or Blood Poster (Gradient).
Recorded live at the Ely Sessions House on the 200th anniversary of the death sentences handed down there: https://soundcloud.com/gaz29-1/littleport-riot-song https://soundcloud.com/…/march-of-the-fen-tigers-calway-wall
The Ely and Littleport riots of 1816 occurred between 22 May and 24 May 1816 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. The riots were caused by high unemployment and rising grain costs, much like the general unrest which spread throughout England following the Napoleonic Wars.
The Littleport riot broke out when a group of residents met at The Globe Inn. Fuelled by alcohol, they left the inn and began intimidating wealthier Littleport residents, demanding money and destroying property. The riot spread to Ely where magistrates attempted to calm the protests by ordering poor relief and fixing a minimum wage. The following day, encouraged by Lord Liverpool’s government, a militia of the citizens of Ely, led by Sir Henry Bate Dudley and backed by the 1st The Royal Dragoons, rounded up the rioters. In the ensuing altercation at The George and Dragon in Littleport, a trooper was injured, one rioter was killed, and at least one went on the run.
The rioters were tried in the assizes at Ely in June 1816. 23 men and one woman were condemned, of which five were subsequently hanged on 28th June.