The Friendly Society of Artistic Labourers

This project brought together students from different subject areas across the creative arts at Weymouth College to make a new collective work exploring the potential of co-working and cross disciplinary practice.

Led by Simon Lee Dicker this partnership with Weymouth College and Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum (Dorchester) enabled over 150 students to learn about collaborative and cross disciplinary practice through artist-led activity with a public outcome. Through support and guidance from a team of professional artists and educators the students made new work that was exhibited and performed at Shire Hall in March 2020.

The name of the project takes its lead from the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the birth of the Trade Union Movement during the agricultural revolution. A group of six agricultural labourers from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset were convicted at Shire Hall Court House in 1834 of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers.

Rather than a collection in a traditional sense, Shire Hall brings over 200 years of justice and injustice to life, through the stories that are scratched into the walls of the cells and echo through the grand architecture of the restored courtroom.

Students studying the creative arts at Weymouth College, including fine art, photography, costume, dance and music, came together to create new work inside and outside the historic courthouse. The creative actions explored ideas of ‘the value of art’ through the production of banners, paintings, publications, performances, acoustic sound works and a large scale collective action, in the form of a procession, that took place throughout Dorchester Town Centre.

Special thanks to Sam Jukes and all the staff and students at Weymouth college, the visiting artists including Megan Calver, Gabby Hoad and Laura Hopes, and the long list of artists that contributed the call out for quotes relating to the value of art that were subsequently used on the banners.