John Boocock will be bringing his stirring presentation of 'What Happened In Leeds' to Mekonville, and will be joined by a few familiar Mekon faces.
What is known as “The Leeds Peace Convention” took place on Sunday July 3rd 1917. The meeting followed on from an earlier “Russia Free” meeting held in London at the Royal Albert Hall on the 31st March 1917. An organising committee of thirteen prominent members of the British Socialist Party and the Independent Labour Party was tasked with organising the June 3rd meeting in Leeds.
The meeting faced a number of hurdles ranging from opposition within some trades unions down to accommodating delegates and problems with the venue in Leeds and dealing with the Defence Of The Realm act being enforced on key part of the event: the planned evening rally in Victoria Square. These hurdles were eventually overcome and the meeting went ahead in The Coliseum in Cookridge Street. The original venue was to have been the Albert Hall (now Leeds Museum) but the booking was cancelled after lobbying of the Management Committee by members of the British Empire League.
If anything the meeting was just one of the events which would hopefully lead to the planned Peace Conference in Stockholm later in June 1917. Stockholm ultimately did not take place and this raises the question of “what if Stockholm had taken place?” The background to Stockholm and why it failed to occur is another story and one which, to his mind, determined the role of Socialism in the inter war years.
As regards Leeds, contemporary accounts in both the right wing press and the official account “What Happened At Leeds” sit alongside the accounts given by attendees, including that of Tom Welch in the British Socialist Party’s newspaper “The Call”. From these accounts it is possible to gain a fairly wide view of what various participants and observers though of the event and it is these views that John has used in my presentation of events.