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Durham e-Theses
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English Folk under the Red Flag: The Impact of Alan Bush’s ‘Workers’ Music’ on 20th Century Britain’s
Left-Wing Music Scene

ROBINSON, ALICE,MERIEL (2021) English Folk under the Red Flag: The Impact of Alan Bush’s ‘Workers’ Music’ on 20th Century Britain’s
Left-Wing Music Scene.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Workers’ music: songs to fight injustice, inequality and establish the rights of the working classes. This
was a new, radical genre of music which communist composer, Alan Bush, envisioned in 1930s Britain.
At the time, Bush was an established figure of the musical elite and was well known for his highly
modernist, serial compositions. Yet he began theorising a new cultural movement, one which would
diametrically oppose pre-existing musical norms found in capitalist-driven, bourgeois-influenced
society. His radical vision prompted new compositions, concerts, events, publications and recordings
in the run up to the second world war. Due to the inaccessible nature of the materials and its topical
subject matter, much of this music has been disregarded in academic literature. Yet, by tracing the
development of the movement, this thesis attempts to shed light on its pivotal role in the left-wing
music scene. It considers how it continued to grow and diversify in the postwar era, even whilst Bush’s
ambitions for workers music reached a hiatus. It argues that Bush’s theories, which underpinned the
socialist concept of workers’ music, were an elemental component of the work which cultivated the
Second British Folksong Revival. The approach taken in this study is twofold: on the one hand it
interprets vast amounts of unpublished, undocumented archival materials and, on the other, it goes
on to contextualise such material within contemporary historical and cultural movements.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 Mar 2021 09:55

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