Events

Radical Road Trip

Radical Antiquarians on Tour
The Antiquarians’ Road Trip
Plus ca change

Look! There’s Mr Jingle and Mr Pickwick in Stamford,
A town astride the Great North Road,
All tortuous turnpikes and honey stone,
Coaching inns and listed buildings:
‘GOOD STABLING AND LOOSE BOXES’;

And beyond Stamford, heading east?
There’s John Clare revenants walking the roadside,
And channels and rivulets and watercourses,
With high embankments above the roads,
And a cloud filled sky that meets the fields
In a cumulonimbus towering clasp
Across a dark shadowed numinous dreamscape;

But there, leaping out of the flat lands’ fastness,
The vaporous tower of Ely cathedral,
And all around, the oozing of the fens:
Tick Fen; Langwood Fen, Great Fen, ChatterisFen,
Ouse Fen, Mildenhall Fen, Burnt Fen …
And all around, the waters of rivers and dykes,

And a boatyard down below the cathedral,
Constant trains rattling across the freight line rails,
As twilight softness gathers around the streets,
And swifts soar high above the Maltings,
And high above the roof of Oliver Cromwell’s house,
Just as their seventeenth century ancestors did,
When Cromwell strode forth with his righteous bible,
Imagining a New Model Army
That would vanquish Charles Stuart’s Royalists,
While swifts screeched and eavesdropped high above,
And a parliament of rooks observed and noted.

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East India Company Walk

The information boards at Chalford intrigue,
Because of the lack of information:
At Chalford Vale and along the canal,
We are told about the local links
With the East India Company,
But we are not told about the practice
Of the East India Company;
The information boards are products of their time …
Times change and context is needed.

We start this contextualisation
Revealing a hidden colonial history
Within this leafy Cotswold landscape,
With a heat-wave peripatetic.

We start at Seville’s Mill in Chalford,
‘Today I would like to acknowledge
The Tory new mantra for History:
‘Retain and explain’,
Coupled with their ‘Culture Wars’ assertions:
‘You can’t change and airbrush history’,
And ‘The British Empire was a Good Thing’,
By letting the ‘Past Speak for Itself’,
From the pages of Jack P. Greene’s erudite tome,
Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism
in Eighteenth-Century Britain’:

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A Pandemic Peripatetic

A Pandemic Peripatetic April 2021
Well, I am alone, self-isolating,
And here I must remain,
This kitchen window my prism,
Reflecting and refracting the sunlight,
But also, the past, present and future,
In a virtual peripatetic.

I start my imaginary journey
In Old yet New Corruption London,
Walking the words of Citizen John:
‘Thou, Commerce, too, monopolizing fiend!’,
Filling ‘The public streets with want’s afflictive plaint’,
Making my way to the Tower and the Old Bailey,
Picturing John Thelwall with his quill in Newgate:
‘Within the Dungeon’s noxious gloom
The Patriot still, with dauntless breast,in conscious virtue
The cheerful aspect can assume –
And smile – in conscious virtue blest!’

But, now ‘Let’s all go down the Strand!’,
To catch the words of Citizen John
(Study a poem and hear a Thomas Spence song, too),

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Virtual Walking for Foodbanks

WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #9-#13
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Wallingford to Cholsey
Sunday March the 15th

Beware the Ides of March – but I’m a long way from the tidal reach of the Thames – Wallingford Castle – High Street – Thames Street – St Leonards – a glimpse of the Chilterns in the distance – Littlestoke Ferry – the Papist Way – Ferry Lane – Cholsey – 5 miles.

Springtime on the Thames

When is spring not a spring?

When Edward Thomas went in pursuit of spring,
When spring’s advance was slower,
Compared with today’s two miles an hour,
In that so-called Golden Age before the Great War,
He hadn’t endured biblical floods,
And a seeming apocalyptic pandemic,
A pandemic that has arrived in this country
After a forty-year post-Thatcherite zeitgeist,
A zeitgeist that foregrounds charity,
And emphasizes individualism,
Rather than welfare state collectivism.

And the consequence of this zeitgeist?
Panic buying, hoarding, selfishness,
And a consequent diminution
In charitable donations,
Thereby indicating the fragile
Efficacy of charity …

The Guardian 11th March, Robert Booth, Social affairs correspondent:

‘Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.’

Patrick Butler, Social policy editor:

‘Mental health charities and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of vulnerable people who were reliant on welfare benefits.’ There has been ’69 cases of suicide linked to benefit issues in the last six years’.

How will Universal Credit/Universal Cruelty,
And the five-week wait help in this crisis?
When the Department for Work and Pensions
Reply to criticisms
Highlighted by the death of Errol Graham,
Who starved to death,
Has this sentence within:
‘We always seek to learn lessons where we can’.
‘Where we can’ …

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #8

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
Abingdon to Wallingford

Abingdon to Wallingford March 12th 2020
Sunrise 6.20 Sunset 18.00
Carbon count: 413.78 Pre-industrial base 280 Safe level 350
14 miles Start 11.20 Arrival 15.25

The day after the budget the day before
(Hedge funds versus food banks),
On a train to Didcot and then a bus to Abingdon,
Past Didcot Power Station edgelands,
Pat business park daffodil roundabouts,
And a stream of greenwashing lorries,
Until I walk beneath the bridge at Abingdon,
Past medieval alms houses
(A Foodbank Pilgrimage),
Splashing through big sky open fields,
Past dovecots and manor houses,
Past bridges and weirs and locks and ferries,
Past thatch and pub and hills and woodland,
Following the line of pill boxes,
With magnolia in bloom in Shillingford,
Blackthorn and hawthorn in blossom too,
Hawk, heron, corvid, swan and skylark,
A rainbow over the church at Dorchester,
Half drowned trees and silvered puddles,
And all the time,
The relentless flow
Of the quickening, wide and turbid Thames,
Past Neolithic, Iron Age and Romano-British remains,
Past Paul Nash’s Wittenham Clumps,
Until I at last reach Saxon Wallingford,
And a bus back to Didcot,
And a train back to Stroud.

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Stroud Scarlet and William Cuffay: An Exploration

We have written before about Stroud Scarlet, the slave trade, and triangles of conjecture. (See point 5 at https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/a-community-curriculum )

But what of William Cuffay?

William’s mother, Juliana Fox, was born in Kent, whilst his once enslaved father, Chatham Cuffay, made it to Kent from St Kitts. William Cuffay, of mixed-heritage, born in 1788, became a famous Chartist leader in the mid nineteenth century and then an activist after transportation to Tasmania. ( See https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/william-cuffay for an imaginative reconstruction of William’s life.)
William is one of the first working-class leaders of colour, and possibly the most famous. There is a campaign for a memorial to honour him in the Medway area of Kent:

‘Hi Stuart …
We are working with Medway Afro-Caribbean Association to get a plaque for Cuffay in Medway, hopefully in time for Black History Month. They need at least £3000 and have been talking to Medway Council who have only offered them £1500. This is something the Trade Union Movement could (and should) easily pay for and we will be approaching local branches and national unions for support. It might even encourage them to think about some sort of memorial to Cuffay in London.

There is much more to Cuffay’s story than can be put on a plaque so we are also looking to organise some sort of annual event so that Cuffay and the Chartists, a key part of both Black and working-class history, become much better known.’

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