The Fight for Freedom and Justice Is Never a Lost Cause

Worker songs – From battle hymns to protest songs

In 2018 the Rudolstadt Festival highlighted the tradition and topicality of worker songs. The thematic focus of the renowned folk and world music festival aimed to establish a link between the classical worker song and today’s protest and political songs. The festival programme included an exhibition, a concert at Heidecksburg Castle, a conference at the Rudolstadt municipal library and a “songposium” with international artists at the Landestheater Thüringen.
The concert programme featured a broad spectrum of ensembles and musicians from Italy, Egypt, Poland, Ireland, the United States and Germany who regard their art as a means of political expression. The Egyptian Ramy Essam’s song “Irhal” was written as a hymn for the Arab Spring. The Bella Ciao ensemble from Italy has performed old partisan and worker songs whose lyrics remain as true and topical as ever. The acoustic-punk quartet Hańba! from Poland has sung songs written in the 1930s which are surprisingly contemporary.
The exhibition at Heidecksburg Castle has focused on the cultural legacy of the worker song from 1848 to 1933. The exhibits highlighted such aspects as metaphoric imagery, battle phrases and the balance of power. The conference “Songs of Work and Protest Across the Globe” had invited international experts from the areas of science, music journalism and music to participate in a joint discussion. The songposium is a special performance format which combines scenic and musical elements, film and an academic lecture. The songposium on worker songs has traced the progression from protest chants of the Industrial Revolution to the displacement of human workers by modern electronics.

Artistic directors: Bernhard Hanneken, Steffen Mensching

Curator: Matthias Harder
Author: Jürgen B. Wolff
Stage director: Dieter Beckert
Conference director: Martin Butler
Artists and participants: Bella Ciao (IT), Ramy Essam (EG), Mark Gregory (AU), Hańba! (PL), Eckhard John, Lankum (IR), Richard MacKinnon (CA), Jan Raabe, Stahlquartett, Wenzel & Band

Additional Venues:

Academic conference – library, Rudolstadt: 6 Jul. 2018;
Songposium – Landestheater, Rudolstadt: 6 Jul. 2018;
Workshops and lectures – library, Altes Rathaus and others, Rudolstadt: 6–8 Jul. 2018;
Concert –Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt: 8 Jul. 2018


  • 29 June, 2018 to 29 July, 2018: Exhibition

    Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt