The Northern Weekly Salvo 280
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. 280 June 3rd 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
Well, that’s May gone…and a very May-like month it was, in some ways. Except that it didn’t rain, you couldn’t go out much, and trains and buses were out of bounds to most of us. At least I was able to get out on the bike, quite a lot too; and the garden is looking good. I’ve been working on my next production – a centenary celebration of Allen Clarke’s Lancashire classic, Moorlands and Memories. More on that below, but hoping for September publication. Meanwhile, sales of the novel (The Works) are fairly steady, and I’m hoping to do a couple of ‘real’ events later this summer.
I’m reluctant to enter into the political fray, but oh – go on then. Dominic Cummings is obviously an easy target. I wonder if Johnson is regretting employing him? I suspect not. My impression of DC is that he is brilliant at organising campaigns but running a country isn’t part of his, or Johnson’s, skill set. Maybe we’ll end up with Rishi Sunak as PM, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Typical of the Tories to have the first female PM and probably the first Asian as leader of the country. That is if there is a ‘country’ left to lead in the next few years. Scotland’s moves towards independence have been given a big push by the last two months, but more on that later.
As for Labour, Starmer seems to be doing a competent job, but is that enough? Not an easy time for him to be taking on the job I admit, but – and it’s a big but – it’s an opportunity to develop some new and radical policies that can capture the popular imagination. That means ditching much of the last few years’ thinking, not least the ridiculous ‘rail policy’ launched in April by the outgoing transport secretary. So far, we are not seeing much more than platitudes. And I wish Annelise Dodds (shadow chancellor in case you haven’t noticed) would get some media training, her performance on TV is embarrassing. She might have some good ideas, but so far it’s not at all obvious. The beacons of sanity in all this are Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas and Adam Price. Andy Burnham purports to ‘speak for the North’ but the reality is that nobody does, and that’s our problem.
A gentle cycling revolution
Anyone involved in public transport, whether as an operator, planner or policy-maker, ought to be extremely worried at the moment. After spending several weeks of being told not to use trains or buses, the likelihood of people returning to public transport in the volumes we were used to, for a long time to come, seem small. Various studies have been done reflecting people’s current attitudes and likelihood to use trains or buses, but the reality is that nobody knows what is going to happen, until it does. What I, or you, might tell a market researcher now could turn out very different, post-pandemic. It isn’t just that we’ve got out of the habit of using trains or buses (I haven’t been on either for over two months now), people will also be scared of using public transport because of continuing fears of infection. We can fulminate about the rights and wrongs of this, but that’s how a lot of people will think, and act.
The winners will be the car, home-working and – the bicycle. As far as transport goes, the bicycle revolution is the one heartening thing, as far as transport goes, to emerge from all this. It’s become a cliché to talk of people getting the old bike out of the shed, giving it a bit of oil and pottering around the streets, or further afield. Bike shops have done a roaring trade and I’ve heard of several local cycle shops being virtually cleared out. I’m surprised that no fruit-cake has suggested the Chinese orchestrated the pandemic to increase their bike sales. Or maybe Halfords.
But will that bike just go back into the shed in a few weeks’ time? Some might, but others will stay in operation. Why so confident? Two things really. Getting into cycling involves two big leaps – physical and mental. Riding a bike for the first few days can be uncomfortable, but it steadily gets better. Your bum will stop aching after a while. At the same time, starting to ride a bike needs confidence, which you only get through practice. If you were starting from fresh, or after a long gap of not cycling, it will take a few weeks of regular cycling (depending I suppose on age and general fitness) to have the confidence and physical well-being to cycle around towns and cities.
But it isn’t just an individual thing – you need to have the right infrastructure in place to really encourage the growth of cycling. In the UK, London is way ahead, but Greater Manchester is starting to do the right things. There’s a whole package of measures that are needed including reduced road space for cars, dedicated cycle lanes, car-free streets and wider spaces, as well as places where you can safely leave your bike. There needs to be a concerted effort to change car drivers’ thinking as well, which is currently characterised by animosity at worst, though usually just a lack of awareness.
There needs to be teams of people in local government working with employers, schools, colleges and universities to promote cycling. Rail stations should develop as cycling hubs, not just with space to leave your bike, but to have it serviced, buy accessories or rent a bike. New development – housing, industrial or commercial – should put cycling to the forefront, instead of ignoring it in favour of the car. And let’s not be sniffy about the electric bike! Or, to be more accurate, ‘power-assisted’ bikes; you still have to pedal. I had the perspicacity to buy one in early February and it really has changed my life. There should be battery charging points in workplaces and railway stations, as well as hire facilities at stations.
Three months ago this would have been dismissed as pie-in-the-sky. Now it’s starting to happen, with government money to back it up.
Who will speak – and act – for The North?
The last three months have emphasised the complexity of this ‘United Kingdom’, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland diverging in some quite significant ways from the approach/es adopted by the Johnson Government. It’s easy for England-based politicos to dismiss this as political posturing, but nobody could accuse the Stormont Government of wanting to make life hard for poor Boris. The reality is, the devolved nations (whether you can call ‘Northern Ireland a ‘nation’ is a moot point so let’s leave that for now), have had their own specific issues which were not being addressed by Westminster. But what about the North of England? The impact of the coronavirus has been far from uniform across England, yet English towns and cities have been expected to adopt identical policies to those that suit London. So schools are being told to go back in towns like Middlesbrough and Barrow where there is still a high risk of infection. Andy Burnham has fulminated about ‘one size fits all’ approaches but the reality is that The North (editors please note the capital ‘N’) has its own interests, alongside the devolved nations.
But there is no democratic ‘Northern’ voice and Andy Burnham, at best, only speaks for ‘Greater Manchester’ (or ‘Manchester’ as lazy journalists describe it, wrongly).
Maybe I’ve had too much time to think these last few weeks, but every time I pick up The Guardian, Observer, Times, New Statesman and so many other influential magazines and newspapers, it’s glaringly obvious that The North is completely marginalised and patronised by London-based media. We’re just a geographical entity, not even dignified by a capital ‘N’! Compare that with Scotland, which has three ‘national’ newspapers (Scotsman, Herald and The National). It helps having two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, avoiding the country being too heavily skewed towards one or the other (I’m sure Aberdonians and others fulminate against undue power in both).But the fact is, Scotland feels – and is – very different from England; Wales too, perhaps to a lesser extent.
I suspect that the North of England would have responded differently, and suffered less, if it had its own devolved government. We’re a long way from achieving that, but maybe it will be time, post-Covid – to ramp up the campaign for elected regional government for the English regions. To could be a vote-winner for Labour and the Lib Dems, though there seems little enthusiasm amongst Labour ranks at present. And I wonder if the ‘city region’ mayors would see it as a threat to their power base?
A century of Moorlands and Memories
Lancashire writer Allen Clarke produced his finest book, Moorlands and Memories, in 1920.It was based on a series of articles he’d written for The Bolton Journal and Guardian. As the title suggests, it is more than a book about ‘the moorlands’.
The memories go back to his childhood and upbringing in mid-Victorian Bolton. It is an intensely personal account, speaking of people he knew and loved. It is a truly remarkable collection of anecdote, history, literature, philosophy and fine descriptions of Lancashire scenery.
Some of the articles were written when the First World War was still raging. It was published less than two years after the war had ended, leaving millions of dead and even more bereaved families. It casts a shadow across the book, though Clarke is never despondent. His attitude towards ‘the war to end all wars’ is sadness, and at times outrage. There is no glorification of it, nor mindless jingoism.
The book introduced me to some forgotten aspects of Bolton’s political and cultural history: the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896 and the remarkable story of Bolton’s links with Walt Whitman.
I’ve written a celebration of the book, called Moorlands, Memories and Reflections, which I’m hoping to publish in September. It isn’t so much a ‘then and now’ book, more of a conversation with Allen Clarke about places which we both love. Cycling and walking is at the heart of both books, and places like Entwtistle, Rossendale, Anglezarke and Pendle. It features the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896, Lord Leverhulme, The remarkable ‘Larks of Dean’, Edwin Waugh’s Well and Bolton’s links to Walt Whitman. It includes a chapter on the great ‘Barrow Bridge Picnic’ of 1901 in support of the locked-out Bethesda quarrymen. The new book will be hard cover and well illustrated, probably selling at about £25.
It would be good to get the original Moorlands and Memories re-printed, but depends on costs. I’m looking round for a suitable sponsor, so suggestions are very welcome. The last re-print was done in 1986, in a joint venture between myself and George Kelsall of Littleborough.
Delivering The Works
I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my new novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail. I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session! It has been positively reviewed by Anthony Smith of Transport Focus in Rail Professional (https://issuu.com/railpro/docs/april_2020_issuu) and The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/
If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk
Next projects: The Red Bicycle
The other big project is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably an early 2021 publication.
I’m also working on an update of Socialism with a Northern Accent. It was first published by Lawrence and Wishart in 2012. Not sure quite what shape it will take, yet!
Community Rail News: Steph is Bolton and South Lancs’ new Community Rail Officer
Dr Stephanie Dermott has been appointed as the new Community Rail Development Officer for Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership and took up the post this week.
The community rail partnership is one of the newest of the rail partnerships in the UK, having been formed last year. It covers the routes from Bolton into Wigan, Manchester, Preston and Bromley Cross. The new post will be about strengthening links between the railway and local communities.
The post is for two years initially and is funded by Northern, with additional contributions from CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and Bolton at Home. Other key partners in the CRP include the University of Bolton, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, TransPennine Express and Bolton Council. A growing number of community groups are involved with the CRP’s work. The CRP is part of the national Community Rail Network (formerly Association of Community Rail Partnerships).
Steph was previously employed by Bolton Inter-Faith Council as their co-ordinator. She has worked extensively with Bolton’s diverse communities and has a PhD on Religions and Theology (Faith, Social Cohesion and Socio-Religious Action in Contemporary Britain) from the University of Manchester. Her work at the Inter-Faith Council has been very much around social cohesion and community engagement. She has lots of skills which will transfer very well to the community rail partnership including event organisation such as Holocaust Memorial Day, Faith Trails, seminars, and working with a wide range of stakeholders.
Bolton Community and Voluntary Services (BCVS) worked closely with the rail partnership in the recruitment process and will be the employing body. Bolton Station Community Partnership is a core member of the CRP and focuses on developing Bolton’s large station as a community hub.
Poetry from the Platforms
Bolton Station Community Platform is launching a poetry competition. Successful entries will adorn different parts of Bolton station, and there are junior and adult sections. The theme of the competition is ‘The Journey’. The ‘over 25’ competition is now open for submissions with a closing date of August 31st 2020. The ‘under 25’ competition will be open from September 1st with a deadline of November 30th.
There are two age categories for the under 25 competition – under 16 and 16 -24. Entry will be limited to children, young people and young adults under 25 who are past and present Bolton Borough residents.
The 8 selected winning poets from across all age categories, will have their poems printed and mounted on the pillars of the railway station platforms. 50 poems will be selected to form an anthology – free to all selected poets. There will be an exhibition of illustrated poems from the under 25 category in P5 – the art gallery on Platform 5.
To read the full submission guidelines please click on the link below –
The Enterprising Railway and The Elephant on the Line
The Rail Reform Group has just published two complementary sets of papers on rail reform and development. The RRG is a small, informal group of rail professionals with a shared interest in developing new and innovative idea on how to develop our railways. We don’t have a ‘party line’; neither have we any party political axes to grind.
The most recent paper is by David Prescott, a well-known figure in the railway world and one of the key figures in enabling ‘community rail’ to happen in the 1990s. David has written a paper entitled The Elephant on the Line: has the time come for vertical integration? It is here:
It makes a strong case for re-integrating infrastructure and operations and should be required reading by policy makers and planners.
The Enterprising Railway papers are based on talks that were to be given at a seminar in Manchester on March 19th, organised by the Rail Reform Group. The theme was ‘the enterprising railway’ – aiming to look at ways of building a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer-led railway that could make a strong contribution to combating climate change.
The Manchester event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation. However, we agreed that it would be helpful to the debate about the future of Britain’s railways to publish a series of papers based on what would have been said on March 19th. At a time when ‘business as usual’ is suspended indefinitely and the railways are firmly under government control, now is the time to be looking to the longer term and not assume we will return to doing the same old things in the same old ways.
The full document is available on the Rail Reform Group’s website www.railreformgroup.org.uk
The publication has a foreword from Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director, Passenger Services at the Department for Transport:
“Over the past few weeks I and my colleagues across the Department for Transport have been impressed by how the rail industry, its’ fabulous supply chain and many of the Industry’s key stakeholders have come together to support the country’s efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. In my mind this altruistic, can-do attitude highlights everything good within the rail industry. It’s the willingness of the industry to push itself to evolve, to ask itself the difficult questions which results in exceptional and innovative ways to support and care for its customers, staff and its communities that stands out for me. …..These articles are important as they should prompt everyone across the industry to ask the hard questions of themselves and their organisations. Questions such as ‘Are our customers and our railway communities being cared for in the way we need them to?’ and ‘How can we be better?’ To my mind, asking these questions every day will help create a truly enterprising and inspirational railway.”
Rail Investment for the North and Midlands: NIC Consults
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has been inviting evidence regarding rail investment in the North and Midlands. Several groups including CPRE North-West Branch, Travelwatch North West, Cumbria County Council have submitted responses to the consultation, which has now ended. Issues that stand out across the submissions is the need to invest in the core network to increase capacity and improve connectivity within the North of England and Midlands. Pressing ahead with long-delayed electrification schemes (e.g. Windermere, Bolton – Wigan and extending Merseyrail’s operations) and addressing the fundamental problem of the ‘Castlefield Corridor’ (in fact, the Deansgate – Piccadilly – Stockport Corridor) being crucial. Links to the submissions will be given in the next Salvo.
Whitman Day celebrated in Bolton and New York
May 31st was Walt Whitman’s 201st birthday and the pandemic didn’t prevent a very enjoyable trans-atlantic gathering taking place, by zoom. It was organised by Chris Chilton of Bolton Socialist Club; the club usually organises a walk from Barrow Bridge to Walker Fold and Brian Hey, but this year we had to stay indoors. The zoom event enabled us to be joined by Caitlyn and Cynthia from the Walt Whitman Birthday Museum on Long Island and Mike and Mary Pat Robertson from New Jersey. Participants read poetry and discussed Bolton’s links with the poet. Meanwhile in New York, under Brooklyn Bridge, Karen and other friends did their annual ‘Whitman Marathon’ reading Whitman’s epic poem Song of Myself.
Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events
ALL STILL CAPED
The Salvo Publications List – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk
The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above article ‘Delivering The Works’). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5
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.lancashireloominary.co.uk