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A Socialist Arts Group meeting was advertised in Aberdeen Peoples Press in December 1974. The meeting was ‘to discuss contributions for political comics and future projects’.

References: advert in Aberdeen Peoples Press, December 1974.

Sources: unknown.

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Songs for Socialists

A key part of a protest is having a slogan to shout or a song to sing. The most common amongst socialists is The Red Flag, with words written in 1889, by Irish socialist Jim Connell.

Yet, in 1890 the Scottish Land and Labour League/Socialist League (Aberdeen branch) published a pamphlet called ‘Songs for Socialists’ (Songs for Socialists, James Leatham, Aberdeen, 1890, 3 editions), based on the earlier ‘Chants for Socialists’ published by William Morris and The Socialist League. Before The Red Flag was prominent, there were other songs sung such as: No Master (William Morris), The Marseillaise (with words by D.J. Nicoll) and When the Revolution Comes (J. Bruce Glasier).

It was common after a meeting to hold a musical programme and the Aberdeen socialists even had a choir. The main song was the French anthem ‘The Marseillaise’ which was sung after meetings, on May Day marches and also when Henry Hyndman visited the city in August 1891. The Revolutionary Socialist Federation (who had split from the Aberdeen Socialist Society and were soon to be renamed the Aberdeen Anarchist Communist Group), also sang ‘The Marseillaise’, but they also sang ‘No Master’.

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Founded in 1903 by Albert Mansbridge, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) was created to promote the higher education of working men and women at a time when few educational opportunities existed for the working class. The WEA is a national, voluntary organisation which provides adult education based on democratic principles.

In 1905, the first WEA branch was founded in Scotland in Springburn. It was followed by branches in Edinburgh in 1912, Glasgow in 1916 and Dundee and Ayrshire in 1917. The Aberdeen and District branch was founded in 1913 with Joseph Duncan, President of Aberdeen Trades Council and founder and Secretary of the Scottish Farm Servants Union, as President. The close connections between trade unionists and the WEA continued when Jimmy Milne, Secretary of the Trades Council, became a member of the WEA Executive Committee in 1966.

The range of subjects taught by the WEA has always been extensive and often focussed on social purpose, especially to marginalised and disadvantaged parts of the community. In the 1970s for example there was a particular programme developed relating to women’s rights and a crèche service was established, for daytime classes, conferences and community activities. Also, in the mid-1970s, the Association in collaboration with others such as Aberdeen Peoples Press, started a theatre project called ‘Playtime’, which brought socialist and community theatre to the city. Topics included subjects such as the Paris Commune, the role of women and cuts to social services.

There have been numerous structural changes, resulting in name changes as well: in 1946 the branch became part of the WEA North of Scotland District, which extended from the river Tay to Shetland. Then in 1993 the Districts merged to form the WEA Scottish Association and new local associations formed in the North-East, Moray, Inverness and North Highland.

The WEA had offices at 36 Albyn Place, later at Kittybrewster Shopping Centre and then in 1979 moved to 163 King Street (where they are still located today) sharing space with Aberdeen People’s Press, a wholefood shop (Ambrosia Wholefoods/Cairnleith Croft) and a bookshop (Boomtown Books).

References: website and Pairts: A Story of the WEA in Aberdeen and the North East 1913 – 2013 (WEA North-East Local Association, 2013).

Sources: some papers are held at Aberdeen City Archives (from c.1970 – 1993) and also at the National Library of Scotland. The UK central archive is managed by London Metropolitan University and attached to the TUC Collection.

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