Turner prize nominee, Glaswegian artist Luke Fowler’s latest work The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the deluded followers of Joanna Southcott focuses on the work of the Marxist historian Edward Palmer-Thompson, who from 1946 (at the age of 24), was employed by the Workers’ Education Association (WEA) to teach literature and social history to adults in the industrial towns of the West Riding. These classes provided education to people who had been historically unable to access a university education.
Fowler’s film, commissioned by The Hepworth Wakefield, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Film and Video Umbrella, through the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award, explores the issues that were at stake for progressive educationalists. Like E.P. Thompson, many desired to use their teaching to create “revolutionaries” and pursue the original WEA values of delivering a “socially purposeful” education. This film captures a moment of optimism, in which E.P. Thompson’s ideas for progressive education came together with those of the West Riding and its existing tradition of political resistance and activism.
The film draws together archival material from television, the University of Leeds Department of Extra-Mural Studies and the Workers’ Education Association. These archival documents are set against present-day film footage and sounds gathered on location in the former West Riding region of Yorkshire.
The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the deluded followers of Joanna Southcott is on show at The Hepworth Wakefield until the 14th October 2012. You can watch a preview of the film above.