Edwin Waugh: Home-life of Lancashire factory workers during the cotton famine

The ‘Cotton Famine Poetry’ project, which is being directed by Brian Maidment from LJMU and Simon Rennie from the University of Exeter, has moved into an exciting new phase and is garnering considerable media attention. The first 100 poems, all with audio versions and most with annotations, are now available on the website available here.

The project’s overall aim is to create a database of all the available poems about the cotton famine from the early 1860s gathered from magazines, newspapers, books and broadsides and to use the poems as the basis for a series of events and publications that will reach out to schools, museums and the general public. The impact of the project has already led into unexpected areas, greatly helped by articles in the Guardian and Sunday Times and Simon’s interview on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. The traditional band Faustus are recording musical versions of some of the poems, the Manchester based singer Jennifer Reid has included songs drawn from the project in her performances, and the team are currently working with a Liverpool based private press in order to produce broadside versions of some of the poems.

Members of the team recently gave a joint presentation about the project at the British Association for Victorian Studies conference in Exeter, and they will also be appearing in the Manchester Festival in November. A recent visit to Quarry Bank Mill in Styal has also led to new work with their staff on a number of possible projects. A number of people have, on discovering the project on the web, sent in additional poems which are now incorporated into the web site.