Events

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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Walking The Thames To London #3

WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #3
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

And on Thursday 6th February, I started the first day
On my Thames Path Food Bank Pilgrimage:
Day One Thursday 6th February 2020 Source to Cricklade

Frost, fog, mist, sunshine, sunrise 7.31; sunset 16.57; carbon count 413.90; remembering the remarkable Allen Davenport of Ewen, one mile on from the source of the river; swans, herons, twitcher all in camouflage secreted behind a tree, ridge and furrow, flooded water meadows, meandering broken banked Thames, wading waist-deep on one occasion; 13 miles. Cricklade 3pm.

Remembering Allen Davenport of Ewen:

One of ten children in a handloom weaver’s cottage: ‘I was born May 1st, 1775, in the small and obscure village of Ewen … somewhat more than a mile from the source of the Thames, on the banks of which stream stands the cottage in which I was born … I came into existence, while the revolutionary war of America was raging …’

He taught himself to read by learning songs; then saving up to buy printed versions. He taught himself to write: ‘I got hold of a written alphabet … I tried my hand at black and white … and to my inexpressible joy I soon discovered that my writing could be read and partially understood’.

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Virtual Walking

KEEP FIT WHEN SELF-ISOLATING by pretending to walk the Thames to London. Join me for a virtual walk and measure your steps inside your house. As many of you know, I have been walking the river piecemeal towards London to raise funds for the Trussell Trust and food banks. I’ve got as far as Wallingford in reality and have now walked to Tilehurst in a pretend way. Join me if you wish and I’ll let you know what you’ve seen along the river banks. The next stage is from Cholsey to Tilehurst which is about twelve miles.

It may be that you might want to send me a sentence or two about your ‘walk’ in exchange, as we build up a journal of this new plague year. The first two posts about walking from Stroud are up here – please see below.

I have reached the conclusion that individual, family and public health considerations mean that I will now walk the Thames in a virtual/pretend way.

How will I do this?

By laying out the route-map for the day and by measuring the required distance on my phone. I will walk within my home and within my immediate locality, but far from the madding crowd: 19 corvids rather COVID-19, as it were.

By using imagination and memory rather than observation. By following my usual practice of blending reflections on topographical, historical, and contemporary contexts, with the Trussell Trust and food banks always in focus.

By all virtual means, please join me.

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #2

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

So here I am walking from Walbridge in Stroud,
Along the Thames and Severn Canal,
To Trewsbury Mead and the source of the Thames,
The prologue to my pilgrimage
To the Celestial City.

Prologue: Wednesday, 5th February 2020 Stroud to Source

It’s a great walk down to Capel’s Mill from my house,
Past old ridge and furrow and tenterhook hedgerows,
Teazles here and there to raise your nap,
Imagining the patchwork quilt of fields of two centuries ago:
You pass an old oak sentinel to reach the River Frome,
Railway viaduct and canal-bridge close at hand,
And there is the dell that once was Capel’s Mill:
Trees clambering down the steep riverbank to shroud the waters,
The remains of the mill sluice quickening the river’s pulse,
Rusting iron work still visible,
The steady drip down from the railway arches,

The echo of the 1839 Miles Report:

The weavers are much distressed; they are wretchedly off in bedding; has seen many cases where the man and his wife and as many as 7 children have slept on straw, laid on the floor with only a torn quilt to cover them … children crying for food, and the parents having no money in the house, or work to obtain any; he has frequently given them money out of his own pocket to provide them with a breakfast …These men have a great dread of going to the Poor Houses, and live in constant hope that every day will bring them some work; witness has frequently told them they would be better in the (work)house, and their answer has been, ‘I would sooner starve.’

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Terminalia Beating the Bounds of Rodborough

It was a pleasure and a privilege to have the company of Alison Fure of the Walking Artists’ Network join us on Sunday. Here’s a link to her insightful wordsmith weaving:

https://alisonfure.blogspot.com/2020/02/beating-bounds-at-rodborough.html

Bio

Alison Fure has spent 22 years working as an ecologist informing land managers of the wildlife interest on their holdings; she enjoys taking the public on wonderful walks from wildlife, wassails and more recently, Soundwalks. Please join her on John Clare’s walk from Epping to Northborough in July 2020. She writes nature blogs and chap books including Kingston’s Apple Story. https://sampsonlow.co/2017/05/26/kingstons-apple-story-alison-fure/

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #1

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists group from The Prince Albert

I’m walking the Thames to London,
Not in linear sequence:
Flooding prevents that –
But in an act of near nominative determinism,
I present the famous words of Thomas Rainsborough,
From down by the river bank at the Church of St Mary the Virgin,
From the Civil War Putney Debates of 1647:
‘For really I think that the poorest … that is in England
Hath a life to live, as the greatest …’
What would Mr Rainsborough make of the need
For food banks, four hundred years later?

I’m not a great one for sponsorship,
Tbh,
My mantra is ‘Parity not Charity’:
I’m rather more of a supporter of tax,
Not regressive taxes such as VAT,
Where everyone pays the same,
Irrespective of income,
But progressive taxes such as income tax,
So as to redistribute wealth from the rich;
Oh, and another thing about charity:
I dislike the virtue-signalling,
And Americanisation
Of our society, with chuggers in the street,
And the incessant rattling of tins,
And that apparently self-validating cry:
‘Charidee!’

I do give, however, in a random way:
Domestic appeals, national appeals, international appeals,
Beggars in the streets,
Big Issue (not a charity),
Food banks …
Even though it’s a piecemeal patchwork,
Random and uncoordinated:
A personification of charity itself, I suppose …

So here I am in February 2020,
In the year of our Lord of Paupers’ Burials,
In the year of our Lord of Bet Fred,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Credit,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Cruelty,
In the year of our Lord of the Five Week Wait,
Pragmatically doing my bit
For the Trussell Trust,
Which, I think, also feels ambivalent
About its work – as its website says:
‘94% of people at food banks
Are in destitution.
This isn’t right.’

‘Destitution’, now there’s a throwback
To a Victorian lexicon:
‘Poverty so extreme that one lacks
the means to provide for oneself’.
Synonyms for destitution include:
Penury; privation; indigence;
Pauperdom; beggary; mendicancy –
Isn’t it interesting to notice,
How many of these synonyms
Seem like archaisms?
Our semantic field for poverty is reluctant
To acknowledge the impact of modernity:
Universal Credit, the gig economy,
Zero hours contracts and so on,
It likes to pretend that poverty is old hat,
Dickensian: Scrooge before redemption;

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Radical Stroud Walks programme 2020

Some walks confirmed – others will have dates confirmed on this website – others more tentative – walkers may need to check social media etc or Good on Paper for precise details. After discussing it with Radical Stroud members, we can’t do Saturdays, I’m afraid.

Wednesday January 29th: A hidden colonial landscape – from the Archway arch to the blackboy clock in Nelson Street. Empire, imperialism, the nation-state of the UK then and now. Meet at the arch at 9.30.

Sunday February 23rd: Rodborough (see website)

MAY DAY Chalford to Stroud – how late 18th and 19th century national politics affected Stroud – Thelwall and Spence – green roots of socialism – the radical lessons of 1790-1820 for today, both in terms of state repression and radical responses. Stroud Labour Party May Festival MAY DAY

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