The battle for the ballot

by Quiet Loner

supported by
Lisa Black
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Lisa Black I absolutely love this album. I feel very privileged to have seen Matt perform it at Tolpuddle 2016 and to have gained insight into the stories behind the songs. It is hard to choose a favourite song as it works so well as a whole. I have listened to it a few times now and it still makes me feel all the emotions from despair to joy, but mostly joy. I am sure I will have these songs and stories and the history they tell in my mind next time I go to the ballot box. Favorite track: Banners held high.
  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    The Battle for the Ballot album on Compact Disc. Comes in a gatefold digipack with an 8 page booklet that explains more about each of the songs and the story of how the vote was won.

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Dust of St.Peter's field The crowd is so packed it's hats touching hats, barely the room, for a soul to breathe The air standing still in high summer heat, as it carries the sound of snarling teeth 'Cause here come the horses, the deadly armed forces of magistrate, captain and king To contest and arrest us, to curse and disperse us, sworn to bring order but it's chaos they bring A vicious, pernicious, malicious militia, of shopkeepers, millowners, a voluntary force A respectable rabble, strapped to the saddle, neck-oiled landlords with unsettled scores The hooves as they circle, kick up a dust storm, a clawing taste of clay and of earth with grit in our eyes, hear the screams and the cries. It sound like a death but it could be a birth Now the wicked have drawn out their swords and cast down the needy and poor and the silks we once carried lie tattered and buried in the dust of St.Peter's Field Mrs Elizabeth Farren carries her child desperate to find an escape She recognises her neighbour Mr Tebbet the soldier, but by then it's simply too late His sabre held upright as it catches the sunlight then swooshes and swings, down into the dust Casually cutting her best sunday clothes, down through the skin and finally to bone CHORUS A woman, her face all bloody and razed, with her bonnet hanging down by a string She cradles some gravel in the hem of her apron as she fashion herself a sling Launches a stone at a soldier but her aim isn't true and she's sliced through the shoulder as her body falls through She is shoved down and pushed, she is cut at and crushed, her daughter beside her as their flesh is divided CHORUS As the dust finally clears, a dread sight appears, like they opened the gates up to Hell The ground strewn with caps, shawls , shoes and hats, and bodies slashed, splintered and smashed An infantry man wipes blood from a bayonet as a smile crawls on his face He grabs a banner as a souvenir, of all that he's done here, the mob are back in their place CHORUS
Hannah 04:23


FREE DIGITAL DOWNLOAD. When asked simply enter your price as Zero.
CD digipack with 8 page booklet - Released on May 26th 2017.


‘Hill’s stint as songwriter in residence at the People’s History Museum spawned Battle for the Ballot, an absolute gem. Hill is an incredibly talented writer and these superb songs and his slow measured voice paint pictures that celebrate all those who campaigned and fought for our right to vote.’MORNING STAR (Album of the year)

‘A brilliant evocation of the fight for British democracy. It made me feel humble and inspired.’ AMERICANA UK

‘Hill is a canny story teller, he has a very contemporary style making these tales very listenable indeed. If Matt Hill never writes or sings another song ever again he can die a happy man for creating this masterpiece.’ ROCKING MAGPIE

In an era of voter apathy and low election turn out, comes an album that's a timely reminder of the sacrifices made in the fight for the right to vote.

The Battle for the Ballot was born from a unique collaboration between a museum and a songwriter. As part of an Arts Council funded 'songwriter in residence' project at the People's History Museum, Matt Hill / Quiet Loner was tasked with exploring the story of Universal Suffrage. The ten songs on this album tell the story of the men and women - reformers, revolutionaries, campaigners, chartists, suffragists and suffragettes - who fought for our right to vote, which was finally achieved in 1928.

This is more than just a dry history lesson, by drawing on historical source materials and first hand testimonies, Hill has brought back to life voices from the past. Working alongside museum curators, Hill took inspiration from physical objects in the collection. The wooden desk on which Thomas Paine wrote 'The Rights of Man' in 1792 became the starting point for album opener 'Nothing less than revolution'. But it is the people, associated with the objects and artifacts, who populate these songs.

Guest vocalist Tracey Browne (singer-songwriter and sometime member of Thea Gilmore's touring band) brings to life voices such as radical writer Mary Wollstonecraft (Nothing less than revolution), suffragist Hannah Mitchell (Hannah) and an anonymous suffragette prisoner (Paint this Prison). Whilst there are songs of struggle here, such as the harrowing 'St Peter's Field' (describing the events of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre and based on the testimony of radical Samuel Bamford) there are also songs of joyful solidarity (Banners held high) and shared purpose (Half a dozen demands).

Hill's dexterous use of words has long been a signature of his songwriting style ("The wordplay is pure Costello. Delicate songwriting, with hints of folk and Americana.” Uncut **** ) and it is evident here on tracks like 'St. Peter's Field' (a vicious, pernicious, malicious militia) and 'The sly suffragette' . Producer and arranger Mike Harries has brought a broad musical pallet to give the songs emotional depth ranging from marching brass bands (Banners Held High) to Sun records rockabilly (Railings) to chapel hymns (Election Day).

Launched for Manchester Histories Festival in June 2016 ‘The Battle for the Ballot’ began as an acoustic live show, combining the songs with visuals from the museum collection. Now with this album release, Hill has finally followed up on 2012's 'Greedy Magicians', and made a record that shares many of the themes of its predecessor – the value of standing up and speaking out, the importance of knowing your history and how rights are never given, they must be fought for.


released November 27, 2016

Matt Hill Vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, banjo
Mike Harries Drums, piano, organ, electric guitar, brass and string parts, backing vocals
Tracey Browne Vocals
Dave Harries Bass and resonator guitars

All songs written by Matt Hill

Produced by Mike Harries and Matt Hill

Recorded at Electric Caveman Studio, Bwlch, Brecon Beacons.
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mike Harries
Additonal Recording by Tracey Browne
Brass and string arrangements by Mike Harries

Artwork and design by Jacob Kirk
Photos and images used by kind permission of The People's History Museum
The writing and recording of these songs was made possible thanks to public funding from Arts Council England.


all rights reserved



Matt Hill UK

QLR (Quiet Loner Records) is home to Matt Hill a storytelling singer-songwriter and community based artist who offers a British take on folk and Americana.

‘Possibly the most important record of the year’ MAVERICK 5/5
‘An anthem for resistance’ AMERICANA UK 10/10
‘Delicate songwriting. Bleakly beautiful.’ UNCUT (4 stars)
‘Works of wonder’ R2 4/5
An absolute gem' MORNING STAR (Album of the year)
... more

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