Jessica Beck (2019)
The Women Musicians at South Place Ethical Society
Jessica’s research is based on the South Place Ethical Society archives, currently held at Conway Hall, London. The Society was originally set up as a unitarian organisation but has long been associated with humanism and now holds the largest humanist library in the UK. Today, the Society is an educational charity which hosts a number of exhibitions, debates, educational courses and other activities that fit with their aims to promote intellectual, political and cultural life in London.
Since 1887, the society has also run the South Place Sunday Popular Concert series, which was originally formed for the purpose of ‘increasing the popularity of good music by means of cheap concerts’ (an ethos that still remains), and is now the longest running chamber music series in Europe.
Jessica is using the archives to discover the impact of the women musicians within the society and the concert series, as well as to look at whether or not the society in turn helped their musical careers in any way. She is especially interested to find out whether the society’s radical standpoint had a unique effect on the role of women within a musical environment. In order to achieve this, she will also be exploring musical activities at other concert venues and radical societies within London, to place the opportunities that the South Place Ethical Society offered women in the context of musical life in London during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.