A Concert for Chile

Richard G. Smith

Published June 2024


This is the cover of the programme for a concert staged at the Dominion Theatre, London, on Sunday May 1st, 1983, in solidarity with the people of Chile living under the brutal Pinochet civil-military dictatorship. The bold, almost cubist design on the programme cover deftly combines a guitar with a screaming, yelling, protesting face. The line-up comprised two folk music groups, Chileans Quilapayún and the Scottish-Irish group, Boys of the Lough. Bringing politics to the stage that evening was a speech from Alex Kitson, then Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, supporting the international Chilean Solidarity campaign. The year 1983 was the tenth anniversary of the violent coup d’état in Chile that overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende, ushering in the brutal seventeen-year civil-military dictatorship headed by General Augusto Pinochet. 




In Chile, politics and protest have long been accompanied by music, dance, chanting, car horns and the range of noises involved in a cacerolazo, the wonderful word that does not quite capture the cacophony of pots and saucepans being banged, clattered and rattled across a cityscape. The music that is perhaps most associated with protest in Chile, as in other parts of Latin America, is that rather broad genre ‘folk music’ or folclórico. Musicians such as Víctor Jara, Inti-Illimani and Quilapayún were closely associated with Chilean President Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity coalition in the early 1970s, and their music again figured prominently in the Plaza de la Dignidad protests of 2019 against the dictatorship-era constitution, imposed in 1980 by Pinochet.


Chile Solidarity Campaign

The coup that overthrew Allende on September 11th, 1973, led to the brutal murder of Víctor Jara in the Chile Stadium and the exile of many Chileans, including the members of Inti-Illimani and Quilapayún. Both groups joined the multinational anti-dictatorship Chile Solidarity Campaign and toured unceasingly until they were able to return home in the late 1980s. Liverpool, with its strong tradition of trade unionism and left-wing politics, was prominent in that campaign from the start, with politicians and trade union leaders sending a telegram to the UK Prime Minister on September 13th, and the first march and demonstration in Liverpool was in November 1973. From the beginning, music was an important component of the international Chile Solidarity Campaign. In the UK, this included events ranging from high-profile concerts in big venues by the likes of Paco Peña and John Williams to smaller gigs in pubs and clubs and music played at regular meetings. The concert programme cover captures the quintessential vivid style adopted by the musicians and music groups involved for album covers, cassette inserts, and other promotional material related to the Campaign. The programme opens out into a striking poster.



Robert Pring-Mill Collection

The programme is part of the Robert Pring-Mill Collection of political music and related ephemera from Latin America and the Caribbean in the Institute of Popular Music (IPM) Archive. Pring-Mill taught and studied Spanish and Latin American literature at the University of Oxford. His interest in politically committed songs and poems dated from a visit to Chile in 1948. He preferred to refer to the music as música de esperanza y lucha (music of hope and struggle) rather than protest music. He believed that people protested against something, whereas this music was striving to improve things, be that via agrarian reform, better housing, universal education and adult literacy, or grassroots democracy.

The Pring-Mill Collection includes music by artists such as Víctor Jara, Quilapayún, Inti-Illimani, Los Prisioneros, Violeta Parra and others, all of whom were important to the anti-Pinochet resistance in Chile between 1973 and 1990 and were again significant in the recent campaigns for constitutional, political and economic reforms in Chile. In 2019, songs such as the anti-Vietnam war anthem El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (The Right to Live in Peace) from 1971, 1986’s rock anthem El Baile de los que Sobran (The Dance of those Left Behind), and the beautiful El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido (The People United Will Never Be Defeated), first recorded three months before the bloody coup, once more rang out across Santiago, Chile’s capital city.


Music, memory and migration

The Pring-Mill Collection underpins a project on music, memory and migration called ‘Chile En Liverpool’, led by the Institute of Popular Music in collaboration with the University’s Libraries, Museums & Galleries which care for the Collection. Working closely with the Chilean community in the Liverpool City Region, researchers have been using the collection to explore music’s role in the transmission of memories between generations, and its influence on a sense of place, identity and well-being. Archive items have been engaged with as part of a series of project activities, including workshops and music performance events organised in collaboration with the local community, and workshops with local school pupils and university students. The project has led to a documentary, a podcast series, virtual and physical exhibitions of material from the Pring-Mill collection, and written publications.


Richard G. Smith originally trained as a chemist before a career in consumer product innovation took him all over the world, including three years living in Buenos Aires and many more working and travelling across the length and breadth of Latin America. Subsequently, he studied Spanish, French and History at the Open University and obtained an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Liverpool in 2016. His PhD, awarded in 2022 and also from Liverpool, concerned the student opposition to the Pinochet regime in Chile. He was a Visiting Fellow at CLACS, University of London (2022-23) and, as well as continuing his doctoral research interests, he is part of a project digitising a collection of political posters in Santiago, and one exploring music and memory with Chilean exiles and other migrant communities in Liverpool.

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Please refer to the copyright information given on the Greatest Hits Exhibition main page. 'Chile Solidarity Campaign presents A Concert for Chile' programme is reproduced here for purposes of illustration in support of exhibition for non-commercial public benefit and education. Use of images seeks to remain proportional, insubstantial and fair. Limited quotation is provided for the purposes of criticism and review, as permitted by Section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988). If you are a rights holder and feel copyright has been infringed, please refer to our Takedown Statement and Procedure.