Wednesday 2 December
19:30 – 23:00
The Man Who Never Died: Joe Hill Song Night
The Old Hairdresser’s (Ground Floor Bar), 27 Renfield Lane, Glasgow G2 6PH
£7 / Unwaged: £4
One hundred years on from Joe Hill’s execution, this night will be a celebration of his songs and legacy. The Songs of ‘Joe Hill’ are celebrated worldwide. He wrote them in the period, 1910-15, the last 20 months being held in prison in Utah on a trumped-up charge of double-murder. The Songs were inspired by the ‘Wobbly’ song tradition, which satirised religious and popular song.
Joel Hagglund was born in Gavle, Sweden on 7 October 7 1879. In 1902, with both parents dead, he and his brother Paul emigrated to the USA. For the next 12 years he train-hopped as a hobo, getting employment as a mechanic, longshoreman, machinist, logger and musician.
In 1908 he changed his name to Joseph Hillstrom after being blacklisted when organising Chicago machinists. Radicalised, in 1910, he joined the Industrial Workers of the World (‘The Wobblies’) in San Pedro, California, as a dockworker. Composing songs, he travelled as an Agitator from Hawaii to Canada, taking part in Free Speech Fights and organizing all the working class in One Big Union.
Working in Utah in the winter of 1913/14, he was arrested after a local grocer (an ex-policeman) and his son were shot dead. As a Wobbly and a hobo, shot in a separate incident, Hill became a convenient fall guy.
In prison, he corresponded with IWW Orator, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and wrote songs. Despite an international campaign, the State Governor, William Spry refused to heed pleas for a retrial or clemency from the Federal US and Swedish governments. He was executed by firing squad on 19 November 1915. A funeral was held on 25 November in Chicago and his ashes were sent to every state in America with IWW locals, and also abroad to Australia and other countries.
It was a turbulent period when many IWW labour activists were assassinated, with employers using vigilante groups to liquidate unrest. But Joe Hill has become a legend and a role-model as an ethically-driven, musically-gifted lyricist, who continues to inspire those seeking social justice.
On facing execution, Joe Hill stated ‘Don’t waste time mourning, organise!’
Monorail, Mono, 12 King’s Court, King Street, Glasgow G51 5RB
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Organised by Spirit of Revolt, Clydeside IWW and The Old Hairdresser’s
Spirit of Revolt Archives of Dissent
Organising from below is the cornerstone of the Archive, which draws from collections of libertarian socialist activists in the west of Scotland. It is based in the Mitchell Library and the archive is being digitised.
Clydeside IWW is the West of Scotland branch of the Industrial Workers of the World. Founded in 1905 in the USA, its influence spread to places like Australia and Britain, where its ideas found expression in the Singers Strike of 1911. Generations later, the IWW speaks for precarious workers and union activists ‘building opposition from below’.