Jarvis Cocker launches art trail to mark Kinder Scout’s ‘Mass Trespass’
On the morning of April 24, 1932, roughly 500 men and women met in the small village of Hayfield before heading towards Kinder Scout, the highest point in the Peak District.
Once at the top of the mountain, they enjoyed a celebratory meetup with a separate contingent of walkers from Sheffield before the groups headed back down together. It might be hard to believe today, but this seemingly innocuous act of comradeship was in fact a defiant breach of law due to large swathes of the moorlands being owned by the upper gentry. Backed by a series of Enclosure Acts which allowed common land to be easily secured by the wealthy, vast open spaces would be used for occasional grouse hunts and gamekeepers employed to keep the lower classes consigned to a small selection of easily congested footpaths.
The event was a pre-planned, politically motivated protest against class discrimination and later became known as the ‘Mass Tresspass’. During the march, demonstrators sang the ‘Red Flag’ and engaged in hand-to-hand scuffles with wardens and police attempting to keep the group away from restricted areas. Upon their return to Hayfield, five men were arrested (six detained overall), charged with riotous assembly and some later received jail sentences ranging from two to six months. Such heavy-handed treatment caused outrage amongst a wider section of society, exposing the greed of wealthy landowners and highlighting the injustice of land ownership laws at the time.
Fast forward 86 years, one of Sheffield’s most famous sons has marked the event with a new art trail. Jarvis Cocker’s Be Kinder walk features artworks along the route that the protesters took, beginning with a jukebox full of protest songs.
Jarv, who worked with Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller on the project, told BBC Sheffield: “I remember coming out here on school trips being forced to walk in the countryside and complaining bitterly at the time. In later life I’ve been glad of that.
“People might not know the story of the mass trespassers. That’s really what led to people being allowed to walk in this area [Kinder Scout], before that the land was very restricted access.”
Today’s ramblers can follow pink markers on the trail, which features images of the protesters along the route as well as an art installation in Edale Chapel. The trail is the National Trust’s People’s Landscape programme which runs until September.