A short account of a rowdy anarchist intervention in a Luddite historical reenactment and its repercussions.
200 years after the Luddite rebellion that erupted in West Yorkshire and other parts of the country a crowed of around a hundred people gathered in the small Pennine village of Liversedge to unveil a statue to the Luddite martyrs. The event was organised by the local Civic Society but present also, uninvited was a group of about a dozen anarchists and others from Huddersfield many masked armed with pistols, muskets or sabres and dressed in the attire of 1812.
The speeches of the Civic Society were predictably tame for our liking, interspersed with shouts of ‘Long Live General Ludd’ and ‘For an English Republic’ form the Luddite re-enactors. When the chairperson of the Civic Society condemned the ‘senseless murder of William Horsfall ‘, a Huddersfield mill owner bent on the destruction of the Luddites, the cry went up ‘ It was an assassination not a murder’ and ‘how many were killed in the wars by King George’. All hell breaks loose and the constable, in the form of a couple of PCSOs, were called for who side with the Luddites. Harsh words are exchanged as the Luddite re-enactors read a roll call of the Luddite martyrs and some members of the Civic Society are outraged whilst others are amused, nay pleased by the injection of genuine 1812 rowdiness brought to these proceedings by these masked strangers. Later the re-enactors are barred from the Civic Society commemoration event at the historic Shears inn but the landlord nonetheless provides them with food and drink in the beer garden and is keen to discuss Luddite history.
Despite the argy bargy and harsh words, two years later the re-enactors now known as the Fraid Knot are back in Livesedge, this time at the invite of the same Civic Society that barred them from the Shears previously. The rowdiness, heckling and upfront arguing in the spirit of 1812 had added to the previous event and paid off in the move of reconciliation from the Civic Society who made a mock up shear frame for them to smash in the same demonstration that occurred at the 2012 Anarchist Bookfair in London. A good time was had by all, children were photographed with the Luddites and the most important local part of local history was celebrated by people of different backgrounds. This was another example of theatrical, humorous and direct goings on of anarchists in Huddersfield getting a message across and having a good time to boot.
Many thanks to Spen Valley Civic Society for helping to keep the memories of the Luddites alive.