Loveless in Hobart Town
Article by Margaret Walters
This is a historical drama about the experiences of convict, George Loveless, in Tasmania - and it was one of the highlights of the Cygnet Folk Festival The festival at Cygnet is held annually in January in the lovely Huon Valley in the south east of Tasmania.
The performance by the Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir who not only researched, composed, acted and sang but did so in costume a triumph of teamwork. This was the debut of the show and it is to be hoped that it has many more airings.
George Loveless was one of the six agricultural labourers who became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs. These six were transported to Australia in 1834 from Dorset in England for seven years. These men had had their wage, reduced again and again and tried to form a trade union to improve their lot: part of the ceremony of joining the union involved swearing an oath and this - with the collusion of local officials and landowners - was the technicality on which they were convicted. George Loveless was the only one to end up in Van Diemen's Land. There were numerous protests back in England and the men were eventually, pardoned but it took some years before they were aware of the situation and their passages home arranged.
In the local production "Loveless in Hobart Town", the story unfolds in a series of songs and extracts from primary sources including court documents and correspondence between Loveless and his wife, and between the bureaucrats in London and Hobart. Loveless is revealed as a calm, steadfast man, determined to stand by his principles and refusing to be a pawn in the political games between the Whitehall and Governor Arthur. Loveless worked at the Government Farm at New Town as a convict, and at Grass Tree Hill near Richmond after his ticket-of-leave was granted. A stone cottage occupied by Loveless is still in use as offices by the Tolpuddle Vineyard (Glen Ayr).
Eight of the ten songs were composed by members of the Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir Peter Hicks, Geoff Francis, Simon Cocker, Maureen Lum and Matt Woolley, with musical direction by Annie Parsell and script by Simon Cocker.