'The Manchester rambler': Ewan MacColl and the 1932 mass trespass

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Best known for his post-war work in theatre, radio, folk music and song writing, Ewan MacColl was born in 1915; the 1930s was a key decade in terms of his political and cultural development. It was in the 1930s that he cut his teeth as a Young Communist League activist, as an actor, and as a writer for both radio and theatre. His lifelong passion for rambling also took root in that decade. In the 1930s rambling was a mass sport of working class youth and the organized left played a decisive role in campaigning against the draconian laws which restricted public access to the British countryside. The flashpoint in the campaign was the Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout of April 1932. This article sketches in the institutions that coordinated that struggle, and picks out the part played by MacColl. It also foregrounds the degree to which music and singing were integral to the day's rambling culture and explores how this politicised social setting provided an audience for the young MacColl's singing and an impetus for his songwriting. It concludes by looking at three songs-some of the earliest MacColl compositions to have survived-that he wrote for and about rambling. © 2005 Oxford University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-228
Number of pages9
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


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