The Weekly Salvo

No. 3                                   June 6th 2011

Paul Salveson’s weekly digest of news, comment and trivia

Who said this, where and when?

“The people who work the railway and the people who use the railway should own the railway. Socialism, as plain as I can put it, means the merging of all land and industry into co-operative ownership.” See answer at end of the Salvo.

Pop down to Poppleton this summer

Poppleton, near York, is home to a truly unique railway social project – a community railway nursery. It was the last railway-owned horticultural nursery, set up during the Second World War, and closed in 2006. It re-opened as a not-for-profit enterprise in 2009 thanks to help from Northern Rail and site owner Network Rail. Today it’s blooming and supplies a growing range of station friends’ gardens, which include several on the Settle-Carlisle Line as well as Starbeck on the Harrogate Line. The nursery is working closely with York NHS to provide horticultural therapy sessions for a range of groups including people recovering from head injuries and others with mental health problems.  It holds regular plant sales each Saturday morning until July 9th. The plants are of excellent quality, all grown on site, and are amazingly good value for money. The project is always looking for volunteers as well as sponsorship. See www.poppletoncommunityrailwaynursery.co.uk or these pages.

Return to Farnworth

Farnworth is one of the smaller Lancashire ‘cotton towns’ on the edge of Bolton. It’s where I was brought up and I still have a lot of affection for the place. It has seen better days and makes my present-day home of Slaithwaite, another former mill town, seem prosperous. But some good things are happening. It’s one of the four locations for the Northern Rail ‘community ambassadors’ scheme. It’s about engaging with socially excluded communities and encouraging people to use the train. All too often it’s assumed that rail travel is expensive, but it’s often extremely good value for money. Farnworth’s ambassador is Simon Abbott, a conductor with Northern for half his working week. His ambassadorial colleagues in Rochdale, Brierfield and Blackburn, have been recruited from outside the railway industry and are from the communities where they’re working. The team is managed by Eddie Fisher, another conductor with Northern, on a year’s secondment. The enthusiasm of Eddie and Simon is so refreshing – and the scheme is already reaping benefits. It also involves Transport for Greater Manchester, Lancashire County Council and DfT. Long may it continue.

Colne Valley Labour Party is 120 next month!

Colne Valley Labour Party is 120 next month. It was formed on July 21st 1891 in a terraced house on Nabbs Lane. The constituency which elected Victor Grayson on a platform of undiluted revolutionary socialism, in July 1907, will be celebrating its birthday with a Garden Party at 90a Radcliffe Road on Sunday July 24th. Other events are being planned, and will be announced in subsequent Salvos.

Glossop Station Volunteers

One of the North’s premier station friends group is FOGS – Friends of Glossop Station. They’ve been taking a gradualist approach to developing the station, building good relationships with Network Rail and Northern. Their latest achievement is to gain access to the embankment area, previously seen as off-limits as it adjoins the track. A small team, assisted and supervised by Network Rail, has been busy creating a new garden area. Meanwhile the volunteers at Hindley, near Wigan, have been hard at work developing their station gardens; a major assault on a hitherto-neglected area is planned for next weekend. More news of station gardening exploits welcome!

ACoRP is organising a conference in Liverpool on July 21st specifically aimed at station adoption groups, with opportunities to share good practice. The event is sponsored by Merseyrail and Merseytravel and there’s a social event the night before. For more details, go to the ACoRP website www.acorp.uk.com or ring Hazel on 01484 847790 for more details.

Northern Super-region?

Interest in the idea of strong regional government for the North, to balance the successful devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and London, is gathering interest. One Labour MP has suggested that instead of basing regional government on the standard planning regions (North West, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North-east) there might be a case for going for a ‘super-region’ covering all of the North and pulling major powers out of Westminster, complementing and supporting the emerging city-regions such as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield and improving connectivity between them, as well as the more rural areas. The Northern Socialist Network is at a very early stage of development but will aim to stimulate debate on the potential for a revived Northern regionalism, particularly within the Labour Party and trades unions. If you want to be on the circulation list, email me at paul@paulsalveson.com

Mali’s amazing Rail Band

I’m off down to London on Monday to give a talk to the Retired Railway Officers’ Society, that venerable body chaired by my friend Chris Austin. The topic is ‘Railway Art and Literature’, sub-titled ‘a mess-room perspective’. As well as highlighting the work of several British railway workers, including drivers, signalmen and guards, I’ll play some of the music of Mali’s Rail Band. This was a group of track workers who used to perform in the station buffet at Bamako and revolutionised modern African music. If you know of other railway workers’ bands, artists, choirs or whatever – historical or contemporary – please let me know. One day I’ll write a book about it.

Sounds of Summer on the Branches

Still on a musical theme, several rail partnerships are tuning up for live music sessions on their local lines this summer. During June there is live music on the Tyne Valley, Mid-Cheshire, Penistone, Hope Valley and Glossop lines. The Esk Valley Friday evening music trains to Whitby start later this summer. More details via www.acorp.uk.com

Garden Party raises £252.50 for Jo Barnes Fund

Our Bank Holiday Monday Garden Party didn’t have the best of weather but it stopped raining by mid-afternoon. Over 30 of us were able to enjoy a live steam demonstration by Janet Jobber’s 0-4-0 saddletank, specially re-gauged for the occasion, as well as Hester’s excellent cakes (The Cake Doctor). The event raised £252.50 for the Jo Barnes Fund, which supports community environmental projects in the Colne Valley. The Fund recently gave awards totalling £600 to three local schemes: a primary school, a wind-power project and a community energy initiative. More info on my website.

Situations Vacant

Sussex Community Rail Partnership is advertising for a part-time officer to be based at Pulborough station in West Sussex. The officer would be responsible for engaging the local community, developing the Steering Group, gaining funding for projects, forwarding the actions of the Group, and creating projects which address the Group’s aims and objectives.  Closing Date for applications is  27th June 2011. For more information, to request an application pack or for an informal discussion about the role please contact Sam Bryant, Senior Development Officer on 07891 556897 or by email at sam@sussexcrp.org Alternatively view their  website at www.sussexcrp.org

Woodhead Warriors Awaken

A well-attended meeting at Guide Bridge Civic Theatre last week heard MPs and rail campaigners argue the case for re-opening the Woodhead Route between Manchester and Sheffield. Early days, but they have a strong case to re-open a line which should never have closed. www.savethewoodheadtunnel/blogspot.com

Not that we are biased

There is increasing evidence of a huge gap opening up between how the voluntary sector is coping with cuts in the North and South of England. The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North has just produced a report which shows how the voluntary sector in the North is suffering, compared with its counterparts down South.  A report called Can the Big Society be a Fair Society: A North East perspective challenges the suitability of the coalition’s flagship ‘Big Society’ agenda in a region  which has “some of the highest levels of inequality in the developed world”. Voluntary and community organisations in the South are at a “huge advantage”, the report claims, because of the reliance on business donations brought about by statutory funding cuts. Organisations based in London are nearer to the largest number of big businesses and headquarters, and therefore more likely to benefit from donations. Forty donations of £1m or more were made in London in 2009/10 compared to just six in the North East.

Publication of the week: Northern Voices

Anarchism with a northern accent – and well worth the special offer £5 subscription for 3 issues. The Spring 2011 issue carries a feature on Burnley Fish and Chip Shop artist Liam Spencer and a fascinating interview with Frank Evans, the Lancashire Matador, as well as cartoons of Cyril Smith. For more details: www.northernvoicesmag.blogspot.com

127th ‘Big Meeting’ –  The Durham Miners’ Gala

The North-East region of the WEA is holding a summer school celebrating its centenary this year and co-incides with the Durham Miners’ Gala on the weekend of July 9th/10th.  The Gala involves a huge procession with banners and bands through the centre of Durham, leading to the ‘Big Meeting’ on a nearby field with tens of thousands of people from all over Britain and the world. There will be speakers galore from the trade union and other movements and for the first time in many years the Leader of the Labour Party will also be addressing the crowd.

For details of the summer school email: northeast@wea.org.uk.

And finally:

  • The quote of the week came from Philip Snowden, future Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking to a crowd of over a thousand people in St George’s Square, outside Huddersfield station, on July 2nd 1905 (reported in The Huddersfield Worker July 21st 1905)
  • The current TSSA Journal carries two features on High Speed Rail – one by Christian Wolmar, and t’other by me. Slight divergence of opinion – the North-South divide very evident!