Edited by Lyndon C.S. Way
[Journal of Language and Politics 18:4] 2019
► pp. 526–540
‘Get off your arse’
‘Singing newspapers’ and political choirs in the UK
Although the UK has a centuries-old history of subversive singing, since the election of a Conservative-led government in 2010 and imposition of austerity-based economic and social policies, the number of choirs with a political philosophy and mission has grown. The website CampaignChoirs lists around thirty political choirs committed to a left-wing, green or anarchist agenda, which is reflected in the music and related actions. This paper takes as its case study the Leeds-based Commoners Choir and considers how its musical decisions enable it to communicate protest politics. Using critical discourse analysis, this study adds to the dialogue on musical discourse by focusing on the speech acts contained within the lyrics; the social impact of the Commoners’ performances; and the use of dialect to root the works within a distinctly northern culture. It concludes that careful consideration of discourse can demonstrate a more measurable authenticity in an artistic act of protest.