120 Years Of The Musicians’ Union
The Musicians’ Union has celebrated its 120th year with a two-day conference in Manchester, the city in which it was founded.
The union, which formed in 1893, held a two-day conference featuring speeches from General Secretary Frances O’Grady, UK Music CEO Jo Dipple and Shadow Arts Minister Dan Jarvis MP amongst others.
The ‘MU’ was formed when Joe Williams, a young clarinetist, sent an anonymous letter to his fellow musicians in Manchester, inviting them to an informal discussion about starting a Union (pictured above). His aim was simple, “protect us from amateurs, protect us from unscrupulous employers and protect us from ourselves.”
The meeting led to the Amalgamated Musicians’ Union, which later became the Musicians’ Union. Within just six months the AMU had 1,000 members with four branches in Newcastle, Dundee, Glasgow and Liverpool; the MU now has over 30,000 members.
“The challenges that have faced musicians since Joe Williams’ inaugural meeting in Manchester have been many,” said MU general secretary John Smith. “The arrival of ‘talkies’ at the turn of the century, two World Wars, the use of gramophone recordings on radio, developing technology and online piracy all threatened the livelihoods of musicians. Through every twist and turn, the MU has stood strong, fighting the fight for those who make a living from music,” he added. “Long may that continue”.