To Henry Hunt, Esq., as chairman of the meeting assembled in St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, sixteenth day of August, 1819, and to the female Reformers of Manchester and the adjacent towns who were exposed to and suffered from the wanton and fiendish attack made on them by that brutal armed force, the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, this plate is dedicated by their fellow labourer, Richard Carlile. Manchester Libraries.


Australians are not taught about Chartism. In order to counter this neglect and understanding that many people prefer history not in a plain brown paper wrapping but encased in a ‘silvered wrapping of entertainment’, events and facts were researched, then supplemented with relevant art forms and arranged in a form suitable for a staged show. By utilising format and content akin to Chartist meetings held in 1838-48, material has been assembled for a show comprised of scripted facts, songs, dances, images and cartoons using a format labelled ‘Folk Doco’ and named ‘When Democracy Danced in Workers’ Boots’.

Next year ‘Magda Productions‘, a performing Arts group based in Brisbane will be staging the showMagda’s Productions have given many successful performances of my earlier show,  ‘Dames & Dare-devils for Democracy’ in BrisbaneCOVID permitting, the two shows linked by the real-life character of Emma Millerthe suffragist whose life story introduced me to Chartism may undertake a short tour. 

This is the song I wrote as an overture for ‘When Democracy Danced in Workers’ Boots’ with booted tap dance interludes instead of a chorus: 


Workers wearing working boots, trodden down through centuries,         

Rebels wearing working boots stepping up through time,                               

Fired by Tom Paine’s ‘Commonsense’ and the works of Thomas Spence,

Tommy Muir caused offence in the name of Justice. 

Stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance for Justice.

                     ( Booted Tap- Dance Interlude ) 

Need for action in their bones, for a changing century. 

Call of freedom in their tones, echoing through time. 

Asked of woman and of man ‘Pass the torch on when y’ can’,

Leading to a Chartist Plan in the name of Justice. 

Stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance, stepped up to dance for Justice. 

                     ( Booted Tap- Dance Interlude) 

In the convict boats and chains, victims of the century,  

Radicals and Chartists came, serving years of time, 

Starry skies Down-under blazed where William Cuffay’s work was praised,  

Where Eureka’s flag was raised, raised by Chartist Justice.  

Raised up to dance, raised up to dance, raised up to dance for justice.                 

( Booted Tap- Dance Interlude)


After a long journey of research and creation, some questions remain: 

Why is there a paucity of documentation and discourse on Chartism in Australia? 

For how long will our history curriculums continue to be short-changed on reality? 

This missing Chartist history is linked to another missed history, the history of the 

Australian indigenous peoples and the effect of colonisation on their lives and their rights.  

These two missed histories are linked, because without the growth of democracy in Australia, recognition of the gross injustice inflicted on, and negligence of indigenous people could not have begun to be addressed, even though there is still a long way to go. The ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ could lead us. 

There is a fragile fabric of pseudo civilisation that covers shaky spines, mediocre minds, and hardened hearts. It could be shed, and instead, wearing workers’ boots and stepping in the path of Chartists, knowing that they gave us a strong foundation for Democracy, we could see their heritage valued as part of our national identity. Hopefully the Australian community can repay the Chartists by electing people who share and practise such ideals.

The closing song in the new show is John Warner’s fine song ‘Bring Out the Banners’; a suitable line to end this article is:

                             ’How dare we lose what they have won?’


In pursuing this research towards the creation of her ‘folk doco’, Phyl consulted a wide variety of standard and other sources. She also spoke with many people across the country.



Tony Moore, Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported 1788 -1868

Peter Fitzsimons, Eureka: the unfinished revolution

Anne Henderson, Joseph Lyons: the peoples Prime Minister

Judith Brett, The enigmatic Mr Deakin

Judith Brett, From secret ballot to democracy sausage

K S Inglis, This is the ABC

Hard copies

Isobel Downing, Ballarat Reform League inc. (computer printout)

John Molony, Eureka and the prerogative of the people

Martin Hoyle, William Cuffay: the life and times of a Chartist leader  

Bob O’Brien, Massacre at Eureka: the untold story

Elizabeth Morrison, David Syme: a man of the Age

Other Media

Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir, Cuffay and the brother slaves – CD

Internet searches on Chartist convicts, eight-hour day, shearers strike, Labor movement, miller, Federation, Henry Parkes …



Edward Boyle, Roger Lockyer, ‘Chartism’ (seminar studies) 

Thomas Carlyle, Chartism

Julius West, A history of the chartist movement

Thomas Paine, The rights of man (illustrated)

Hard copies

James Epstein, The lion of freedom: Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Movement

Mike Leigh, Peterloo

Other Media 

Radical Tea Towel Co (UK), Tea towel – Six points of the people’s charter

The life and struggles of William Lovett, facsmile of original, British Library DVD

Numerous internet searches


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