The roots of Socialism’s environmentalism go way back: Thomas Spence, for example, who thought enclosure and what we call now call factory farming should be replaced by ‘People’s Farms’.
John Thelwall – ‘that Jacobin fox’, ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’ – associate of Coleridge and Wordsworth, who stayed here in the summer of 1797. His studied observations of ‘Nature’ would foreground working people too. It wasn’t just the cult of the picturesque and the sublime for him.
The Chartists, too, had a programme that involved a back to the land strand. They saw the environmental degradation caused by unbridled capitalism, industrialisation and urbanisation. Let’s not forget the 5,000 who met on Selsley Common in 1839.
Then, of course, we have William Morris. Visit Selsley Church to remind yourself of his influence! And sit and reflect on the long history of Socialism’s embrace of environmentalism. Then read the below!
Circles without Class Ceilings
Why can prehistory be so entrancing?
Why do some people find prehistory so entrancing?
Why do they become so spellbound
When walking by, let’s say, a long barrow?
How do they become so transported in time and space?
What’s it all about?
Is it because a standing stone, a circle,
A tumulus, barrow, or whatever,
Demonstrates the fragility of knowledge,
The equivocal nature of understanding,
In a sense, the ‘negative capability’ of John Keats:
Being conscious, simultaneously,
Of knowing and yet not knowing?
The recognition that sometimes any presumption
Of understanding the meaning of an edifice,
Can only be speculative
(Despite the accumulation of evidence and artefacts,
Despite measurement, mensuration and comparison,
Despite a commitment to the rigours of empiricism),
And a reflection of who we are in the here and now –
Or can Homo sapiens merely develop
A restricted trope of meanings, recognizable
And familiar, across time and space …
So some speculations are bound to be valid …
Or is signification, itself, a trope of modernity?
Nature and Nurture:
How circumscribed are we by time and space?
And how universal are we across the same?
What do these structures reveal and indicate
About what is quintessentially human?
So, prehistoric structures,
In an a priori, apostrophizing, manner,
The manner of an innocent wonderer,
As yet unread on the subject,
I question your meaning:
What were you for?
As the traffic rumbles past on Cotswold roads,
It’s hard to hear the chip of stone on flint,
Or the croak of corvids with their blood-drip beaks,
Or the breaking of the bones of a skeleton,
Or smell the rotting flesh on the capstone,
Or taste the ashes of the dead on the nightfall wind,
Or see the blood red sunset behind the silver river
Or the standing stone’s silhouette,
But try hard on a winter’s afternoon,
And you might just slip down a wormhole of time,
To rituals of death and memory,
And recognize the prehistoric past
For what it is and was:
Not something primitive and alien,
But something shared.
Did you get bored in your history lessons?
Endless facts and dates.
A dreary litany.
Prehistoric Britain …
The Romans …
Those Anglo-Saxons and those Vikings …
Then came the Normans …
WELL HERE’S A NEW APPROACH
A RADICAL RETHINK
Questioning what we were taught and why
What did the great unwashed have to say?
A four-week course presented by
Stuart Butler and the Stroud Learners’ Circle
The Exchange, Brick Row
Wednesday November 6 th : Prehistoric Gloucestershire – why are we fascinated by prehistory? What can we find? Where?
Wednesday November 13 th : What have the Romans ever done for us? A local probe and a national question.
Wednesday November 20 th : The imprint of the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings upon the county landscape.
Wednesday November 27 th : Domesday Gloucestershire, feudal Gloucestershire, the landscape and the Peasants’ Revolt
Booking essential – only £30 for the entire course.
Contact Gail Snyman to book at 01453 765955
or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Pedestrian Excursion Through Several Parts of England and Wales
John Thelwall’s account of his rambles
Between the years of the naval mutinies
of 1797 and the 1801 Peace of Amiens:
‘The cottages in general, are small, wretched and dirty. Some of them are built of brick, others are plastered and may exhibit nothing but miserable mud walls, equally naked without and within. They are wretchedly and scantily furnished; and few have even the advantage of a bit of garden. To complete the catalogue of misery, there is a workhouse in the parish, in which a number of deserted infants are consigned to captivity and incessant application…’
And even though Citizen John was being pursued,
Followed and shadowed by spies,
With consequent anxiety,
Thelwall could still write that …
‘The vivacity of conversation made the miles pass unheeded under our feet. We canvassed various subjects of literature and criticism, the state of morals and the existing institutions of society. We lamented the condition of our fellow-beings, and formed Utopian plans of retirement and colonisations. On one subject, and only one, we essentially differed – America. I cannot look towards that country with all the sanguine expectations so frequently cherished. I think I discover in it much of the old leaven. Its avidity for commercial aggrandisement augurs but ill even for the present generation; and I tremble at the consequences which the enormous appropriation of land may entail upon posterity.’read more
Free, but just a few places left only – contact me if you wish to go: 9.45 – approx 13:00 FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 13TH
A leisurely walk along the towpath follows past old mills to Bowbridge and thence Stroud.
Uncovering a colonial landscape whilst in the footsteps of that ‘Jacobin fox’, ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’, John Thelwall, who left London, fed up with William Pitt’s prying spies, and walked to Nether Stowey. He stayed with Coleridge and Wordsworth for ten days, in that hectic summer that would lead to the Lyrical Ballads, before walking to Stroudwater.
Here he stayed with sympathetic clothiers and dyers, visiting Chalford, Uley, Nailsworth and Bowbridge, writing poems on the hoof.
We recreate his stay in that annus mirabilis of 1797, with a performative walk from Chalford to Bowbridge, whilst uncovering a colonial landscape.
John Thelwall was a colleague of THOMAS SPENCE – and we have a show about Thomas as part of the Stroud Theatre Festival in the evening.
Peterloo Memorial Walk 2019
About thirty of us braved Manchester weather on August 16th on a performative walk around Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt’s birthplace in Wiltshire. Pictures here tell the picture of the day.
We carried out a dialogue between 2019 and 1819 as we processed: the poem below from Robin Treefellow gives a flavour of how memorialization of Peterloo can reach out to the new Extinction Rebellion generation.
Chalk and Treason
To the chalk
we must go walk.
On the chalk where vipers bugloss brightens
we must go to rebel, debate, and reinvent
This green island
owned by a small land owning minority.
So depart that moribund Houses of Parliament
mired in out-dated oppositional bun throwing.
To the high dreamy chalk we must go like the bees to nectar
discovering what Britain dreams:
dreams like a giant with ammonites in its beard.
When we have lost our way,
when the ways are all privatised,
when society is manacled to linear profit centred greed:
to the chalk we must go walk.
In walking by the yellow of toadflax and melliot
there is waking,
with waking we can change.
This green island where feudalism has gone on too long,
the earth common to all,
we must learn from the biotic knit of ground sward
and abandon the tenure under our hidden landlords.
For Britain dreams!
The land will be free of chemicals,
to breath and flourish.
So shall our life return
Rude and willed,
modernisation discarded by the road where mugwort grows.
O Albion calls us all
freedom, green of leaf and brown of root.
freedom, bright as flowers by the way.