Faith and Fear: an experiment in history, music, and film

Pete David, singer-songwriter of the acclaimed Sheffield Americana band The Payroll Union, finds inspiration in an unlikely place: the nineteenth-century United States. The band’s first album, The Mule and the Elephant (2012), explored the seventy years that followed the Declaration of Independence, with songs about democracy, slavery, and empire-building. Now, with the help of an Arts Enterprise grant, Pete has joined up with filmmaker Cathy Soreny from Optical Jukebox and Andrew Heath in the History department to work on an album set in antebellum Philadelphia: decades in which a city founded by Quakers as a haven of religious tolerance became (as one contemporary put it) “the most anarchical metropolis on this side [of] the Atlantic”.  Focusing on the racial, religious, and social strife that brought civil war to the city’s streets, the project combines film, music, and historical scholarship while asking questions about how we tell stories about the past. After previewing some of the songs at the Sensoria Festival in September, The Payroll Union officially launched Faith and Fear at the Harley on 21 October, and over the next few months there will be several events leading up to the recording of the album in April. If you’re interested in finding out more, please get in touch with Andrew Heath.

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