Concert in Leeds will pay tuneful tribute to memory of the Barnbow lasses

Harp and a Monkey.
Harp and a Monkey.

A concert taking place in Leeds later this month will pay a noteworthy tribute to the victims of the single largest loss of life in the city’s history.

Folk music and storytelling group Harp And A Monkey are performing at the Heritage Centre in Crossgates Library on Saturday, September 30, as part of their efforts to mark the centenary of the First World War with shows at unusual venues connected to the conflict.

They picked Crossgates as the location for one of the concerts as they wanted to honour the memory of the 35 women killed in the area’s Barnbow munitions factory explosion of 1916.

The hour-long performance will include reworkings of traditional and contemporaneous songs as well as audio recordings of interviews with war veterans.

Band frontman and First World War historian Martin Purdy said: “This show gives us the chance to talk about the infrastructure of war and the factory work at home and the dangerous nature of it to those – usually women – who had to carry it out.

“The explosion at Leeds was by no means unique, and it is important that people remember that the sacrifices of conflict are not exclusive to those involved in fighting on the frontline.”

The band’s First World War project has also seen them performing in venues such as the site of an old aerodrome and a prison that housed conscientious objectors.

Their Crossgates Library show – which is taking place with the support of East Leeds History and Archaeology Society – starts at 1pm and is free and suitable for all ages.

Space will be limited and people wanting to attend are advised to arrive early.

Barnbow opened in 1915 and, as increasing numbers of men were called up to fight in the war, women eventually comprised the majority of its workforce.

The factory’s remains were recently added to the national heritage list by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Barnbow Canaries, a play inspired by the explosion of 1916, was staged to widespread acclaim at Leeds’s West Yorkshire Playhouse last year.

PIC: James Hardisty

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