The Hop Project


The Hip-Hop Pickers’ Ball

Migration between the rural and urban is conventionally thought of as a one-way process from the countryside to the city, exemplified by the industrial revolution. However, an analysis of the history of urbanisation which focuses primarily on the singular movement of rural-to-urban (rural depopulation) is incorrect. Seasonal agricultural labour and the involvement of urban labour in rural harvests offered a disruption to this process for many years. Hop picking, and other forms of agricultural migration by an urban community, presented a break in the industrial rhythm as thousands reversed the presumed one-directional rural-to-urban migrational path to travel to the countryside. Up until the 1950s, the migration from Birmingham, the Black Country and South Wales to Herefordshire and Worcestershire for hop picking was extensive. In the 1950s and early 1960s, with the introduction of hop picking machines, the standardisation of school holidays and increased competition from foreign hops, the annual ‘hopping’ migration gradually came to an end and an important rural/urban interaction was permanently lost.

The Hip-Hop Pickers’ Ball sees The Hop Project travelling back along this urban-to-rural migrational path by taking hip-hop, the original inner city urban art form, and relocating it to the countryside to explore the politics and history of hop production. The Hip-Hop Pickers’ Ball are a fictional hip-hop group who take their name from an event that would historically occur at the end of the hop harvest and the exhibition presents a series of album covers by the group and two hip hop tracks / videos. How Can I Be Stupid reflects upon the increasing role of automation in agricultural work and society more widely.

How Can I Be Stupid?

Lyrics: Chris Poolman & Elizabeth Rowe, V3rd the Great
Vocals: V3rd the Great
Production: Sound Community Music / Zion Recording Studio
Video: Caleb Steer