Sunday, April 05, 2020

Edward Carpenter at Millthorpe

This photo of the socialist writer, speaker and activist Edward Carpenter was taken at his home in Millthorpe in Derbyshire where he lived between 1883 and 1922.  Millthorpe being only three miles south west of where I live in Dronfield. It is currently covered by our Dronfield and District Branch of the Labour Party. So we can be proud to have Edward Carpenter as part of our socialist heritage.. 

A pamphlet entitled "Sheffield and Socialism" has recently been published by Principle 5 : Yorkshire Co-operative Resources Centre, Aizlewoods Mill, Nursery Street, Sheffield S3 8GG which provides  an extact from Edward Carpenter's important work "My Days and Dreams" which was first published in 1916 when he was at Millthorpe. The pamphlet can be obtained at a cost £2 from Principle 5. Tel: 0114 282 3132.

For people in the Sheffield and North Derbyshire area the pamphlet is a valuable feed into the work of Edward Carpenter. For it was very much his move to our area which arose from his developing commitment to socialist values. Initially he had become a curate in the Church of England, but he left the Church when he was 30 and moved to Leeds to engage in University Extension work, seeking to draw people from deprived areas into higher educational avenues. But when he discovered that too few people were being drawn into studies from such backgrounds, he moved into more grassroots forms of activity in our area. First, he had a year in Chesterfield, but soon moved to Sheffield where he built solid links with working class people who were pressing for social improvements.

With his inheritence on the death of his father, he purchased property and market gardening facilities at Millthorpe in 1883. It was his home base for the best part of the next four decades. And as you will see from the above photo he also developed a commitment to the making of sandals.

Although he involved himself in international travels and drew from the values and ideas of intellectuals such as Walt Whitman, he mixed considerably and regularly with working class activists. He was an advocate of rights of women and of homosexuals in an era when such views were very unpopular. On top of which Yeats, EM Foster, GB Shaw and HG Wells all visited him at Millthorpe. And he addressed 3,000 railway workers at Sheffield Corn Exchange along with Ramsay MacDonald in 1907. 

If the publication "Sheffield and Socialism" appeals to those who read it, then the book "Edward Carpenter : A Life of Liberty and Love" by Sheila Rowbotham (Verso - first published in 2008) is likely to be absorbing. The index gives no less than 97 page references to Millthorpe and 71 to Sheffield.

Carpenter also had at least 36 main works published. The best known being "Towards Democracy". My copy is over 400 pages long and much of it is a poetic style in its presentation. But whether its   approach is likely to appeal to readers will be indicated by the taster of his work as shown in "Sheffield and Socialism". Why not try it out ?

In Dronfield - on the right hand of the three people shown at the front of this photo is Edward Carpenter in the area of Sheffield Road. (Hat tip "Dronfield Through Time").
   No photo description available.

There is also this -  click here

Thursday, April 02, 2020

60 Years Ago Today - Manny and Me

 Emanuel Shinwell MANNY SHINWELL

As then Secretary of the Peterlee and District Fabian Society it is 60 years ago today since a Day School which I had organised was held at the Easington Colliery Secondary Modern School - where I was then a 23 year old school governor.

The topic was on the issue of the re-nationalisation of the Steel Industry, although the meeting was held in a solid coal mining area. 63 people attended with the Women's Section of the Easington Colliery Labour Party serving food and drinks during the break. I was also the Secretary of the Easington Colliery Labour Party at the time and activists from the Women's Section used to form half of our Branches normal attendance of 30 or so.

The speakers I arranged to address the meeting were (1) Ronald Parker the Vice Chair and Political Education Officer of the Cleveland Divisional Labour Party who had sound knowledge about the Steel Industry and (2) Manny Shinwell our local MP who when Minister of Fuel and Power in 1947 (when I was a 10 year old) had nationalised the Coal Industry.

I am having technical difficulties at the moment, but I am attempting to link into a connection which will show a 60 year old item from the Northern Echo which shows a photo of five of us at the event. These are the two speakers and three of our branch officials - Bill Horsfield our Treasurer, John Alderson our Chair and myself. John had taught my wife English at school, although it would be a further three years before I met her. I will adjust this paragraph if and when I resolve my tarchnical problems. (It is page 89 of the Journal shown here - which is page 91 according to the numbering of the site :   )

Manny Shinwell had a big influence on my life. I had gained a clear interest in politics from my experiences of the harsh nature of life for many Iraqi people when I undertook my National Service at Basra in 1955-56. Then I was demobbed in the middle of Suez Crisis and the Russian Invasion of Hungary - a dramatic political era. But as I was not impressed by Gaitskell's leadership of the Labour Party I held on a year before deciding to apply for Labour Party membership. In the meantime, I went to a variety of left-wing political discussion meetings and wrote regular political letters to the Northern Echo, the Sunderland Echo and the Durham Cronicle. I became an associate member of the national Fabian Society (attending their discussion meetings in Durham) and a member of the International Society of Socialist Studies established on an initiative by GDH Cole, whom I heard address them at a meeting in London.

Then Shinwell ran an essay contest for Labour Party members in the Easington Constituency on nationalisation. So I joined them in order to enter. The first meeting I went to was to collect my prize of £3 for coming in second in the contest (my essay being numbered 16). The first prize went to John Alderson who appears on the photo I refer to. It was a packed constituency meeting held at nearbye Blackhall with Shinwell presenting the prizes.

Within a few months of joining the Labour Party I became Secretary of the Easington Colliery Branch of the Labour Party, persuading them to have a speaker with a discussion at alternative monthly Branch Meetings. Then four of us competed for the role of Constituency Secretary and I was the runner up.

The Peterlee and District Fabian Society first meeting was held on 7th February 1958, just over two years before our Day School at Easington. It was addressed by Bill Rodgers the Fabian Society General Secretary, who later became one of the Gang of Four defecting from Labour to set up the Social Democratic Party. I discussed the event with him years later and was impressed by how well he remembered it.  Later speakers included Sam Watson the leader off the Durham Miners, Shinwell and Jack Dormond who was eventually to follow on from Shinwell as our local MP.

During the 1959 General Election I acted as a local election agent, covering the Easington Colliery and Easington Village area on behalf of Shinwell. It was the first General Election in which I had a vote.

Then from October 1960 I obtained a place to study full-time at Ruskin College. Shinwell had written a reference to them on my behalf and pushed my cause. I had earlier been selected to attend the 1960 Labour Party Conference, but backed off as it clashed with the start of my studies and I was substituted. Yet I had moved and carried a ban-the-bomb resolution at our Constiteuncy Party. A stance (amongst many others) which led to Gaitskell making his famious "fight, fight and fight again" speech in the other direction.

Where I now live in Dronfield (although living at Sheffield at the time) I became a member of the Contact Club when it moved to it present and purpose-built facilities. As a Trades and Labour Club it was officially opened on its new site by Shinwell himself on 12 August 1967. Unfortuneately, I missed what was a key event for me because I was away teaching at an Adult Education Summer School at Colegh Harlech at the time. It would have been ideal if the events had not clashed.

I hold five books written by Shinwell. Two contain his signature and another was his gift with a label as a presentation copy. Then I have two other books written about him.   

Shinwell was first elected to serve what was then the Seaham Constituency with the count taking place at the Easington Colliery Infant School in 1935 - the year before my birth. He defeated Ramsay MacDonald who had been the local MP and Prime Minister, but who had defected from the Labour Party. The 1935 count took place at the Easington Colliery Infant School. But there were separate Infants Schools close to each other for boys and girls. So I am not sure if it is the one I later attended.


Monday, March 30, 2020

In Memory of Joe Ashton

I am very sorry to hear about the death of Joe Ashton the former Labour MP for Bassetlaw. Although he served longer as an MP than I did we were both MPs together over a shared period of 14 years from 1987 to 2001, during which time I got to know and admire his work.  In his memory, I re-produce below a report of a fine Discussion Meeting which I arranged for him to address in Dronfield back in January 2009.  

Joe, The Shop Steward For Former MPs

First, Joe in full flight. Then, Christine Smith (Chair, Dronfield Labour Party), Joe Ashton and me.

The photos are from our latest discussion meeting, which was addressed by Joe Ashton. He has always been a popular speaker in Dronfield, having in the past addressed a local May Day Rally and a packed public meeting. It was no surprise that he doubled the average size of our attendance.

Joe was the MP for Bassetlaw in North Nottinghamshire for over 32 years. After he left the Commons, he helped to establish the Association of Former Members of Parliament gaining a positive response to his initiative from Michael Martin, the Speaker of the Commons as well as from many of his past colleagues.

A survey of former MPs was conducted on behalf of the Association by the School of Politics and International Studies at Leeds University where 343 members of the Association were issued with a questionnaire. Copies of the Leeds University report which was published in October 2007 were circulated at our meeting. As were copies of the Associations magazine "Order! Order!".

Although some MPs (as I did) announced their retirement well in advance and prepared to move into either retirement or a fresh career, others faced the trauma of losing their jobs in the glare of often adverse publicity. This can occur contrary to expectations, with a former MP often then having immediately to start from scratch to build a fresh life.

Whilst in our current era of the credit crunch and major job-losses, people may not see MPs to be a special case; Joe is keen that a body should be maintained which can seek to further ex-MPs' concerns and draw upon their past experiences. The average shelf life of an MP on the parliamentary benches is only 8 years, so the rapid turn over is likely to involve many hidden problems. On top of this, former MPs have developed interests and areas of expertise that should not just be thrown to one side.

Joe was christened as the MPs' shop steward during his time as an MP. It is, therefore, entirely appropriate that he should continue that role during his own retirement on behalf of his fellow former MPs.

As would be expected, the bulk of the time at our Dronfield discussion meetings is taken up with debating our speaker's presentation. However as Joe was well known to everyone as a former columnist, author, playwright, frontbencher and Sheffield Wednesday supporter; the discussions were bound to go well beyond the initial scope of his presentation. But as with all worthwhile discussion meetings, people left buzzing and continued their own discussions in groups. Which is exactly what discussion meetings are supposed to be about.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Easington Colliery - Past and Present.

Easington Colliery Disaster, 1951 | Crowds waiting in the st… | Flickr
Easington Colliery Pit Disaster 1951 (when I was 14).

In 1936 I was born at Easington Colliery in County Durham. It was my home base until 1963, although between 1954 and 1956 I was pulled away to undertake my National Service in the RAF, mainly in Basra in Iraq. After then settling back in Easington I later became an adult student being away from home during term times between 1960 and 1963. I then married and although my wife Ann came from nearby Shotton Colliery, we moved to Yorkshire then Derbyshire. But my parents continued to live at Easington until their deaths in 1993 and 1999 with my wife, myself and then our two children regularly visiting them.

The Easington I remember was a vibrant community, living a coherent if often harsh communal life based fully on the operation of its coal mine. For apart from quarrying and farming, little had existed in the area until the pit was first sunk in 1899. Then the initial progress was slow as much of the coal to be extracted came from under the sea. It took until 1910 before coal was finally extracted and the community then expanded and developed.

Life drew almost entirely from Easington's mining operations. When teachers, shop-assistants, railway workers, doctors and others moved into the area they did this essentially to service the mining community. Communal facilities grew mainly to meet the needs of miners and their families. There came to be a Miners' Welfare, a Workingmen's Club, Pubs, a wide range of Churches and Chapels, Colliery Houses, Age Miners Homes and Council Houses, a Welfare Park with its main football ground opened by Ramsay McDonald when he was the local MP and Prime Minister, annual cricket contests for made-up local teams and at one time three cinemas with long queues especially at the Rialto on a Sunday evening and for children's programmes at the Hippodrome on a Saturday morning.

The social bond was added to by important helpful social responses to the harshness of pit life. On top of numerous mining injuries, 192 men and boys where killed in the pit starting with a sinker in 1900 and ending with a power loader in 1991. With 83 being killed in the pit disaster in 1951. My father only surviving because he was in a different seam from the explosion.

Yet in spite of the tough nature of mining life; miners, their families and others providing commercial and social needs helped to build important social bonds. Here is an important article which I have just come across which shows the serious social decline which has hit the Easington Colliery community since the pit was closed in 1993 -

And whilst coal mines can't function for ever, action needed (and still needs) to be taken to ensure that the communities they helped to build are preserved, re-built and improved. For there are alternative avenues to coal mining.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Unite Community calls for help for the most vulnerable

Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Unite Community

Contact name:    Colin Hampton
Contact tel:         07870387999
Embargo: none 

Unite Community Calls for help for the most vulnerable

At its monthly meeting Unite Community in Chesterfield has called for immediate assistance from the government for the most vulnerable in the present coronavirus crisis.
Unite Community, part of Unite the Union, brings together people, students, claimants, pensioners, those not currently in work, and allows them to organise giving them a voice.
‘As the coronavirus crisis deepens we need clear and decisive action to prepare health services and protect the most vulnerable in society’ said Colin Hampton secretary of the local branch. ’This crisis will impact most on those with the least and the Government has had very little to say about this.’
The branch members had outlined at their meeting how years of underfunding had weakened essential public services and the social security systems that many need to survive.
Unite Community in Chesterfield and North Derbyshire is calling for the Government to respond positively to the demands for
·        Full sick pay for all workers making sure that the many workers in precarious employment are given financial security preventing destitution. Thousands of workers now fall into this category including the many bogus self-employed in the gig economy as well as those on zero hours or minimum hours contracts.
·       There should be no benefit sanctions and the five week wait for Universal Credit should be stopped.  Those currently on benefits and the thousands who will lose their jobs as businesses close down need social security.
·       There should be immediate end to evictions for rent arrears across both social housing and the private rented sector with provision for a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments.
·       Emergency provision should be provided for the homeless who will be particularly at risk during the crisis.
·       There must be support for families and children where school closures take place.  Many of our most vulnerable families rely on free school meals to feed their children.
‘Our community came together to support the miners and their families during the great strike 35 years ago.  Today we face an even bigger task, and the cry of ‘They will not starve’ must be heard again with community coming together to make sure all of us get through this crisis’. Colin went on to say, ‘People have to rally round but Government at all levels must play a key role with immediate emergency funding and support.’

Colin Hampton
01246 231441

Also from -
A basic income alone is not going to get us out of this. But it's one piece of the puzzle that will give people what they need right now - and can bring us closer to remaking the public realm and creating a new political and economic settlement for the future. 

In solidarity,


Sunday, March 08, 2020

Adult Education and Life Long Learning

Ruskin intake 1962_Page_1Ruskin College Students and Staff 1962. Shortly after I had completed my studies there.

In pursuit of Adult Education and Life Long Learning a campaign was established last year. It marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of a similar campaign which had a measure of success from the time of the First World War, but has been hit since by developments from the era of Thatcherism. The modern campaign aims at the development of adult education and life long learning in 21st Century Britain. See its major publication here -

The new campaign has four main themes. (a) To establish a Commission on the basis of the old one. (b) To conduct research around the history of adult education. (c) To preserve the remaining records on previous adult education – some of the past records having been destroyed from the former Adult Education College at Ruskin which I attended in its best days - the intake before the photo above. (d) Exchange knowledge on the significance of Adult Education.

Stress is placed on the need for Local Authorities to have a statutory duty to provide adult education, with each individual having their own learning account.

Then Universities need to give second chances to rejected applicants.

Currently the new campaign also provides a list of the following 18 recommendations.

  1. The Government needs a Adult Education Lifelong Learning Strategy, with people having the rights to literacy, nursery and digital skills. This should also be open to those who are unemployed or part of the gig economy.
  2. There should be a Government Minister appointed with specific responsibilities to see that the above is delivered.
  3. There should be an Adult Learning Partnership drawing together local and regional government, universities, colleges and local employers on such matters aided by national media campaigns.
  4. Funding should be provided for local authorities for such services.
  5. Funding should be increased for Adult Community Services and Further Education Colleges, especially to aid those who have missed out.
  6. Additional resources should go to the Workers' Educational Association and to other institutes of adult learning.
  7. All Universities should provide Adult Education and Life Long Learning.
  8. There should be an information campaign to motivate people to engage in such provisions.
  9. Basic skills and strategies needed in the workplace need to be covered.
  10. There needs to be a community learning account of £50 million per annum rising to £100 million in three years.
  11. Further Education Colleges should have representation on their boards from local authorities, community organisations and trade unions.
  12. An innovation and development fund of £50 million should be established to spread best practice, rising to £100 million in 3 years.
  13. There is a need to use non-profit bodies such as the Open University to provide a digital platform.
  14. Apprenticeship laws need to be balanced and flexible.
  15. Employers should provide paid time off work for studies.
  16. Employers should facilitate workers learning-representatives in the workplace.
  17. Employers should submit annual reports on their educational and training provisions.
  18. There should be funding in the gig economy for access to education, without loss of earnings.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Labour And The Island Of Ireland

 Ireland political map
The Irish Labour Party had a spell in politics when it was as successful in electoral terms as Sinn Fein has just now become. Sinn Fein having acquired 37 seats, which is the same number which Labour acquired in the 2011 General Election and when a Fine Gael-Irish Labour coalition was then founded. I give below a link to the Irish Labour Party's recent Election Manifesto, which seems to me to have attractive features. But Irish Labour have only now obtained six seats. There should be scope in the politics of the island for Labour Party activities to be aimed at establishing a good relationship between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. But although people in Northern Ireland can now join the UK Labour Party it has no similar constituency structure to the rest of the UK. When Dick Spring was the leader of the Irish Labour Party he pointed out that it was easier to unite one set of people living on two islands than to unite two sets of people living in one island. But as the majority of the people in Northern Ireland are not currently in favour of a united Ireland, two mobilised Labour Parties across the island could fruitfully work together to extend and improve relationships. This is especially required given Brexit, where within the EU the Irish Government needs to be pressed to work to overcome any future form of border controls. Given Sinn Fein's history and its hard line united Ireland stance, socialists should be looking instead for the alternative avenues I suggest. I need to find out whether any of the candidates for our Labour Leadership agree with me. See -
Hat tip: - the source of the above map.