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Remembering Stroud’s Conscientious Objectors from WW1

‘How do you prove you have a conscience?’

You came to me via a pdf,
Out of the blue,
Via a Facebook message,
On a hot afternoon in late July,
With names, occupations, addresses and ages –
A bit like a census, in a strange way:
Official, bald, and bureaucratic
In your modernity,
No telegrams today.

Eighteen conscientious objectors
Whose courage, principles and politics,
Whose ethics, morals and steadfastness
Enabled them to stand up against the crowd,
In those heated days before and after July 1916,
And before and after November 1918.

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Walking and Podcasting: The Tempest, Sapperton, Cirencester and Walking Practices

Sometimes a walk is as powerful as a play or film or football match,
You can’t sleep afterwards,
Your mind keeps revisiting snatches of conversation,
Or landscape technicolour pictures appear in your head,
Or memories of moments but they’re not memento mori,
It’s all alive and vital,
Not Coleridge’s Lime Tree Bower My Prison,
Instead, a diorama of recollection:
We talked, inter alia, of the following:
The Sublime, the Gothick, the Picturesque,
The unacknowledged ubiquity of slavery money,
And its Keynsian multiplier effect,
Both immediate, delayed or submerged;
Slavery:
‘The Shame that dare not speak its Name’;
Alexander Pope, Coleridge, Wordsworth,
King Arthur, fable, myth, memorialisation,
The invention of tradition,
Heritage and Counter-Heritage,
The Grand Tour,
‘Rule Britannia’;
A Celtic monk’s marginalia as we passed a puddle:
‘In the water’s canvas bright sunshine paints the picture of the day’;
Tobias Smollett, Daniel Defoe, Tristam Shandy, Ozymandias,
Sapperton Tunnel, the source of the Frome, the Slad Brook,
The watershed at Miserden,
The edgelands around the Thames and Severn Canal,
King George the Third’s visit to the tunnel,
18th century sight-seers,
Inland navigators, canal leggers, bricklayers;
Ecophilia, Topophilia, Logophilia,
Ocular-centred walking and the visually impaired,
Podcasting and the recording of …
The senses when out walking,
The squelch and oozing of water beneath one’s boots,
The fragrance of spearmint,
The cry of a buzzard,
The taste of spring-water,
The sharp touch of a nettle,
Learning how to describe what we see when we see …
The Blake-like vision of the universe within the palm of one’s hand;

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Stroud Fringe Walk: Place, Space and Time

Beneath the pavement, the beach! For here we have a line of houses called Streamside, And up there, beyond the Fountain pub, Lies Springfield Road and a plethora Of constant, subterranean springs, Springs! The genius loci of Stroud …

We walked down Lansdowne, To cross the Slad Brook, at Mill House, In search of the edgelands, Puddles, brooks and panel beaters, Car dealers, buddleia, car parks and cinemas, Past the Dickensian Omar L. Cottle, Monumental mason, The nominative determinism of a park, Named after a Park, Past strange continuities in the street: The chemist’s on the corner, Where in 1872, A chemist by the name of Joseph Banks Campaigned for a farm workers’ trade union, And no more payment in truck: ‘In sterling money, not fat bacon …or a couple of swedes’,

Then to Badbrook and weavers’ riots, ‘We had been working ever longer time for ever cankered pennies all the year. Something needed doing. So we laid our shuttles and looms to rest and joined the Stroud Valleys Weavers Union. This is my true and faithful account. I cannot dissemble. The Good Book tells us that we should get our bread by the sweat of our brow. We had the sweat but no bread. What could we do?’

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Colonial Countryside? Disenchantment?

Disenchantment: The Picturesque Cotswolds and ‘Colonial Countryside’
A Walk in the Park

David Olusoga: ‘Few acts of collective forgetting have been as thorough and as successful as the erasing of slavery from Britain’s “island story”.’

The following descriptions from the internet describe the beauty of Cirencester Park. There is no mention of something else … more of that, later.

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Searching for the Soul of Forest Green Part Two

‘We think place is about space but in fact, it is really about time.’
(Rebecca Solnit)

When I first went in search of the soul of FGR,
I wandered through fields and lanes and hills and hedgerows,
Trying to find FGR’s elusive genius loci,
A topographical version of the soul,
Interwoven with local history,
Only to reach the conclusion that this soul
Might just be found in the imagination,
An invented fey ley line,
Emanating from the Jovial Forester,
Stretching up to The New Lawn Another Way
Down through the old hamlet of Forest Green,
And along the valley to the River Frome,
And thence to the River Severn,
A gateway to a world far beyond the Five Valleys:
In short, a Janus-like conjoining
Of both introspection and extrojection.

But a reading of Tim Barnard’s FGR history:
Something to Shout About
Gave me something to think about,
And grounded me further in time as well as space,

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Heritage and Counter-Heritage

Heritage and Counter-Heritage in Stroud and the Five Valleys

The text below is what I think is important when considering SDC’s consultation on Stroud’s ‘Heritage’:

‘I think it is important to reflect on the whole notion of counter-heritage, too. By that, I mean a practice that goes beyond the visible and the archived: following the EP Thompson/Raphael Samuel historiographical process of giving a voice to the forgotten, ignored or marginalised, and not just foregrounding the ‘drum and trumpet’ outlook. Any new heritage strategy should consider this – for example: Stroud’s current heritage boards: the one in the Shambles gives a brief mention to food riots, with no contextualisation and explanation, and then we’re away on the ‘Great Man’ view of the past and naval war.

This counter-heritage should not just be about the lower orders – women and men – of Stroud: the spinners and weavers confronting the march of technology rather than just submitting to it; the Chartists; the poachers; Captain Swing and so on; it should also raise questions about the possible involvement of Stroud scarlet in the slave trade. It is vital that Stroud addresses and presents a multicultural history in the 21st century.

The heritage board near Lechlade, by the canal/Thames interchange at Inglesham , implicitly mentions this – nowhere in Stroud does.

A few slave owners in the district received compensation when slavery was abolished in 1834 – and that injection of capital helped fuel the industrial revolution. The Keynsian multiplier effect from the East India Company – opium, tobacco, slaving – also helped transform our landscape. The Bathurst slavery link also contributed to what is called a ‘colonial countryside’.

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