The Northern Weekly Salvo
Incorporating Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.
Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk
No. 278 March 19th 2020
Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats, pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.
“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015
A week is a long time in a pandemic, as well as in politics. Since the last Salvo we’ve now got a Keynesian government trying (reasonably well to be fair) to respond to a rapidly deteriorating situation. Everything that was happening now isn’t, to summarise forthcoming events. This includes Thursday’s ‘Enterprising Railway’ evening conference in Manchester organised by The Rail Reform Group and my book launch in Horwich on Friday.
Necessity is the mother of invention and we are putting together some papers that would have been delivered at the Manchester event. There will be a link from The Salvo and they’ll be published on Linked In. Part of me feels slightly relieved at not having seven or eight meetings a week to go to, with time to get stuck in to the various writing projects that I’ve got on the go. And nobody is going to stop me going out on the electric bike, with which I’m increasingly besotted. It’s an ill wind, indeed…
Politics, debate, controversy
The coronavirus pandemic has closed down wider political debate and there has been a welcome shift towards cross-party collaboration, which is no bad thing. There’s a remarkable degree of unity across the UK, with the nations and regions taking a broadly united stance. We really don’t know where all this is going to lead but you get a sense that there will be some very big changes in our way of life once it’s all over, whenever that might be. So far, the crisis has brought out the best, and some of the worst, in us. The scenes of panic buying were quite pathetic, arguably provoked by sections of the media. At the same time, there are lots of people getting together via social media to promote ‘mutual aid’ in helping people in their communities to get access to food and medicine. Kropotkin would have been delighted (and vindicated) by this demonstration of local solidarity. Be good to see panic-buying copies of his Mutual Aid. It’s interesting to see the local corner shops round here with well-stocked shelves doing a reasonable trade. Support them!
Local railways and The Corona Virus: an opportunity?
The corona virus crisis poses some very big challenges for the transport industry as a whole – and the more peripheral parts of the network in particular. The ‘community rail sector’ is now a mature movement. It has been going for over 25 years and we’ve some very impressive achievements to our credit. Some of its perspectives are of particular relevance in making sure that local rail survives the current crisis, and is perhaps put on a stronger footing. Now’s the time for radical thinking, rather than sitting back and just managing a worsening crisis.
Writing in mid-March, we don’t know how the pandemic will affect the UK as a whole, let alone our part of it, in rail. But it’s fairly clear that there will be (in fact already is) a major reduction in travel demand. If the pandemic worsens and more and more people are infected, fewer trains will be able to operate because there won’t be the train crews to operate them nor the staff to maintain the trains. From an infrastructure perspective, track maintenance gangs will be depleted, together with more specialist teams. In that situation, it is inevitable that train companies and Network Rail will be pushed to concentrate on their ‘premier’ routes and possibly reduce or even suspend services on more marginal routes, leaving already struggling communities isolated. It’s the wrong thing to do. A further issue for railways is their normal strength – of forming a network with inter-connecting services – can become a problem if passengers with infections spread the disease across the network.
Could the coronavirus be an opportunity to implement some of the ideas that we’ve talked about since the early 1990s, for locally-managed railways, at least as far as the peripheral network is concerned? A starting point could be some relatively self-contained routes around the UK which have a sufficient density of population and number of services. I don’t want to start any hares running by identifying particular routes or networks but most people with acknowledge of the railway network would know where I mean. Many are in the North of England, coming under the recently-created ‘Northern Trains’ run by Government-owned Operator of Last Resort (OLR).
Northern Trains, Network Rail, Government and the Community Rail sector should grasp the opportunity to create locally-managed business units that are relatively autonomous bodies responsible for train operations and infrastructure, under the umbrella of Northern Trains but with their own dedicated staff and rolling stock. They should be completely responsible for all services which start and end within their defined area, to minimise the spread of infection, i.e. no through running. This implies testing of intending passengers before getting on the train, something that is unprecedented in railway history as far as I’m aware. Having dedicated rolling stock and staff will help ensure high standards of hygiene and cleanliness, avoiding – or at least minimising – passenger and staff fears about infection. Ensuring the health of all staff, including customer-facing employees – will help keep the trains running when in some more densely-populated area train companies might struggle.
A crisis situation could act as the midwife of other long-desired changes, i.e. real integration between train and bus, with stations functioning as railheads for connecting bus, minibus and taxi services. The possibility of a serious growth in cycling to and from stations is also a real possibility (I’ve suddenly become a convert to electric bikes – their potential is vast, but so too is the humble ordinary push bike). Once the crisis has receded, the area covered could re-invent itself as a sustainable tourism exemplar, with bike hire at stations and a network of walking and cycling routes radiating from them. The station itself becomes a tourism hub with shops, cafes and other facilities.
Making a start
There’s a real risk that the nation gets into a mindset that everything is going to shut down, for possibly months, and there’s nothing we can do. But to do nothing would be irresponsible – and we can do something. I’m not minimising the seriousness of the crisis for one moment, but there will be some things that we will need to continue doing, which includes running essential services but also making sure there is food in the shops. We could do them differently, and better. Again, rail could have a role to play in more geographically remote areas, taking on new commercial activities which we’d all assumed it had surrendered decades ago and would never come back. Can food and other goods be brought in by rail to local distribution centres for onward local shipment to shops and village communities, using bike-carts as well as motorised vehicles?
Creating an enterprising environment
Creating a locally-managed railway would free up opportunities for some radical new departures in how railways are run. It needs having the right people on board, who are motivated by a combination of service and entrepreneurship, with a motivated and determined team working with them. Developing new leisure opportunities may well be the last thing that’s on anyone’s minds at the moment, but we need to lay the ground for a resurgence in the tourist economy once the current threat has receded. A locally managed railway could be at the heart of that, functioning as a sub-regional regeneration agency, working with local tourism providers and facilitating sustainable transport links across its area.
Developing stations as community enterprise centres could form part of the medium to long term strategy. Local businesses, which will have been hard hit by the crisis, could be offered incentives to set up businesses at and around stations. This could be running a station cafe, providing bike hire at a station, a pop-up stall, or operating an on-train service. We have hardly begun to tap into the potential.
Buildings and land
The argument for bringing redundant railway buildings back into community use has been won but we still struggle with actual projects. Having an integrated local management structure could help facilitate use of empty buildings but also encourage new build where appropriate. At the same time, there is huge scope for imaginative development of redundant railway land for social housing, with a community land trust acting as developer, a local authority or even the railway itself.
Smaller plots offer huge potential for growing vegetables and fruit. The ‘incredible edible’ movement which has swept the country started off on Todmorden station. Locally produced food will become of critical importance in the coming months and there are lots of opportunities to grow, and sell, food at stations. Stations could provide space for raised beds to grow vegetables and herbs, which may become increasingly scarce.
The current crisis should not be an excuse to hunker down and do nothing, hoping it will wash over us after a few months. There is every possibility it will last for longer than we think, and it will change how we live forever. That could be a real opportunity for local rail. At the same time, the fear of infection could force people to stop using trains and buses and getting them back won’t be easy. It doesn’t have to be so. We should use the current situation as an opportunity to bring short-term support to embattled communities but create the possibility of running our local railways in a much more imaginative and innovative way, placing them at the heart of their communities – economically, socially and environmentally. This is integrated sustainable transport taken to its logical and necessary conclusion.
Now’s the time to take some risks before we get overwhelmed. Northern Trains (Operator of Last Resort) should not be an ‘Operator of Doing Nothing New’. It should seize this opportunity and make a truly positive contribution to local resilience, whilst laying the basis for strong resurgence in due course as the pandemic dies down. However, to take forward such a radical departure needs strong Government support and the backing of local authorities, the business community and the unions.
Community Rail Development Officer Post – £26,317 p.a. (full time 2 year contract, 35 hrs per week)
The Bolton and South Lancashire CRP is one of the newest community rail partnerships (CRPs) in the UK, formed in 2019. We are looking for a Community Rail Development Officer to take forward our ambitious plans to link local communities with the local railway network through creative projects that promote sustainable transport.
We are developing strong links with socially excluded communities within our area (stretching from Bolton to Manchester and Salford, Wigan and Preston) with positive relationships with local authorities and the rail industry.
We are looking for someone with a range of skills and experience who can work flexibly, with a mix of volunteers and professional colleagues. We welcome applicants with backgrounds in arts, community development, regeneration and related fields. We welcome job shares, and applications from all sections of the community.
For an application pack email Paul Salveson, chair of the community rail partnership: email@example.com. Deadline for applications is April 3rd 2020 with interviews on April 22nd. See also: https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Bolton-and-SL-CRP-Job-Pack-07032020.docx
Lancashire Authors Association: Library set to move
The annual general meeting of the Lancashire Author’s Association (LAA) took place in Chorley last Saturday, under the entertaining presidency of Sid Calderbank complemented by the business-like chairing of Judith Addison. I guess it’s the last meeting I’ll be attending for some time; and it was an historic occasion. The LAA has been around since 1909, having been formed by a group of scribes, mostly dialect writers, at a gathering in Rochdale in April 1909. Allen Clarke, probably pre-eminent amongst Lancashire writers at the time, suggested the formation of an association to meet occasionally, which would be open to both ‘writers and lovers’ of Lancashire literature. It was formally established that year on November 27th, at a further meeting in Rochdale (Woodhall’s Resturant). It grew in membership and developed a tradition of meeting in different Lancashire towns, three times a year. In 1921 a decision was made to set up a library, that could accommodate members’ work and also the ‘classic texts’ of Lancashire literature. The first librarian was R H Isherwood of Clayton Bridge. His house was large enough to accommodate the growing collection. In the early notices he encourages intending visitors to give him two days’ notice and he would make sure he was at home. Members were advised to take a train from Platform 9 at Victoria station to Clayton Bridge, from where it was a short walk. They’d probably have had the added bonus of ‘Radial Tank’ haulage on a Stalybridge local.
The library developed and at some stage outgrew Mr Isherwood’s living room – I’m still researching when that was. In more recent years it was accommodated in Accrington Library, courtesy of Lancashire County Council. Usage declined, though it remained as an important source, particularly for research in Lancashire dialect but also other books related to the county. It has some rare documents including the unique Red Rose Circulating Library, which was posted between LAA members who commented on their fellow members’ work. How much easier that would have been today! Brian Foster did a sterling job as LAA Librarian until ill health forced him to stand down from the committee at the last AGM. I was honoured to be elected to the post. At the same time, members voted to donate the library to the University of Bolton who will house it within their library as a distinct collection, open to LAA members, staff, students and other researchers.
The move opens up other possibilities to use the collection as part of a wider project to promote Lancashire Dialect Studies and develop projects that are community-based. The move will take some time to complete (not helped by wider problems with the coronavirus) but hopefully the facility will be up and running in time for the library’s centenary year, 2021. It should be stressed that the library will aim to expand, with donations from members and friends, as it has always benefited from. More details as the project develops. Membership of the LAA is open to all ‘writers and lovers of Lancashire literature’ – for details see http://www.lancashireauthorsassociation.co.uk/
LAA in Chorley
The first time the LAA met in Chorley was their March 25th 1916 gathering, at the height of the First World War. It was held in a very special place – ‘The Workers’ College’ – the Edward McKnight Institute, belonging to the Workers Educational Association, which opened in 1909. McKnight was a well-loved librarian in Chorley. It was the first building in the country to be owned by the WEA and reflected the strength of the association, and workers’ education, in Chorley. The LAA were welcomed to the college by its president, Sir Frederick Hibbert MP, who was also chairman of Lancashire County Council’s Education Committee. The college closed in 1927. I’m hoping to do a bit more digging about its history. The first reference I came across was in Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, where he describes a ramble of the Bolton Labour Church from Darwen to Chorley, over Great Moor, finishing up at the college for supper. I bet they were ready for it when they got there! The 2020 meeting was held in the St Mary’s Parish Centre, and very comfortable it was too.
A bit light this week but this one from Andrew Rosthorn is particularly interesting:
“Dear Paul, Thanks for one of the very best Salvos for a long time. Kept me hooked, especially from Salford to Colne. My great grandfather John ‘The Bobby’ Taylor, often drove the morning train from Colne taking men on ‘Change. If he made up lost time he would often be slipped a half sovereign by first class passengers who might have known he was a working class Tory from Accrington.”
‘The Works’ is ready (in case you hadn’t noticed)
Regular readers are probably sick of reading about The Works – my first novel, set around the Lancashire town of Horwich, in the former railway engineering factory where I worked for a short time in the mid-70s. Much of the action takes place in the 1970s and 80s but the story is taken through to 2025, with China looming large in the UK economy. It’s about life in a factory facing up to closure – the tensions and fears of being made redundant, as well as everyday life in a working class community.
The narrator is a trade union activist – with a secret. It’s partly a love story about his relationship with an office worker, Midge, who becomes involved in local politics and nearly gets elected as a Labour MP. In ‘real life’ the Works closed in 1983 and is now being demolished. In the novel, the factory is saved by a workers’ occupation and buy-out, with some dramatic scenes where riot police try to break the occupation. The novel links the fictitious outcome at Horwich with the actual occupation and buy-out at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, Glasgow. The novel is illustrated with photographs of the Works in the early 1980s which I took as part of a commission from Lancashire Association of Trades Councils, during the campaign to save the Works.
The story has a lot to say about local life and politics in the 1970s and 80s and Midge’s role as a community activist and councillor. Part of the story is about Horwich starting to build steam locomotives once again – for the heritage railway market – as well as making modern rolling stock. Lovers of L&Y ‘Highflyers’ please note.
There’s lots of surprises so I won’t spoil it for you. It contains strong language – and some Lancashire dialect. The planned book launches around Horwich and Bolton have all been cancelled but it’s available in (so far) three local outlets:
- Wrights Reads, Winter Hey Lane Horwich
- The Village Tea Rooms, Rivington
- Justicia Fair Trade Shop, Knowsley Street, Bolton
You can of course order it by post, signed by the author (if you want). For Salvo readers, the price is £10 plus post and packing (£2.50). Please fill in the form below.
THE WORKS SPECIAL SALVO READER OFFER :
Email………………………………………………….(for notice of book signings and updates)
Please send….copy/ies of The Works to the above address. At the special price of £10 plus £2.50 post and packing. The novel will be available from March 26th in shops price £12.99. If you live within 5 miles of Horwich I can deliver without the extra £2.50 charge.
I enclose a cheque for £…….. made to ‘Paul Salveson’. Please add £2.50 for postage (regardless of number of copies ordered) unless you’re local! Would you like it signing/dedicating? If to someone else, give details:
Post to: Paul Salveson, 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU or email this form to firstname.lastname@example.org and use bank transfer to A/C of Paul Salveson, National Westminster Bank Code 53-61-07 account 23448954 with your surname for reference
Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events
The Salvo Publications List – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk
The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1
The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.
‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15 – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25 – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.
‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.
‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.
‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.
You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/