Researching May Days

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2015 by kmflett

Researching May Days

Many labour movement activists, myself included think that the UK May Day Bank Holiday should actually be taken on the day itself, rather than the following Monday, as it is in numbers of other places around the world.

That said the original London May Day demonstrations in 1890 took place on Thursday 1st May and on Sunday 4th May (both in Hyde Park) so the ‘tradition’ of marking May Day on the nearest ‘day off’ was there at the start.

Speaking at a number of meetings and to Platform Films about the history of May Day during April made me realise that while a good deal is known about the history of May Days (thanks in part to Eric Hobsbawm) the detail of how the call of the Second International in 1889 for a May Day demonstration led to those London marches and rallies in 1890 is much less clear.

The Social Democratic Federation was part of the Second International and so it would have translated the call in the UK, but it was a small organisation that, arguably, could sometimes galvanise a mood, for example around unemployment, but probably not create one from scratch.

Demonstrations such as those that took place in London in early May 1890 do not happen spontaneously. They have to be organised and built.

The rise of New Unionism may well have helped that to happen but what we lack in many cases is an understanding of the activists who did the slog of popularising the May Day demonstrations, what means they used to build them, and how they motivated people to attend events that had never taken place before.

Some research agendas here to be pursued before May Day 2016 I hope, and hopefully not just by myself..


Campaigners say ‘dirty beards’ research has whiff of pogonophobia

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2015 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front


Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266


The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that research by John Golobic of Quest in New Mexico, widely publicised over the weekend, which purports to demonstrate that beards contain ‘poo’ has a whiff of pogonphobia about it.

The research took swabs from people’s beards which analysis showed contained faecal matter

The campaigners say it is unclear why Mr Golobic carried out the research or what his sample was. It is also unclear why he did not take swabs from people’s hair and their hands which in some cases might also have traces of dirt.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said of course people should keep their beards shampooed, washed and clean and there are numerous beard health preparations on the market. However the ‘dirty beard’ research does seem aimed more at encouraging pogonophobia than anything else

Link to article


LibDems win Election (for most Beard Friendly Party)

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2015 by kmflett

Beard  Liberation Front

Press release 4th May

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

LibDems win Election (for most Beard Friendly Party)


The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, which is pressing parties standing in the General Election on May 7th to come clean and state whether or not they support a Beard Friendly Britain has said that the Liberal Democrats who have been languishing in single figures in most Election polls have received a boost with news that they have won the poll to find the most Beard Friendly Party standing for election with over 50% of the vote.

The LibDems were well ahead of the Greens who came second.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, it is rare poll win the for the LibDems but one we hope they will take very seriously by announcing a red line that they will not enter Coalition with another Party unless its leader has a beard

Link to the poll


BLF 2015 Election Manifesto

The Beard Friendly Charter

Beardism- pogonophobia in the Greek- is irrational prejudice against the hirsute and should be outlawed by Act of Parliament so that, for example, it becomes illegal for employers, private and public, to refuse someone a job on the grounds of their appearance.

There should be positive action to increase the number of hirsute MPs which is currently at a deplorably low level.

There must be a Government commitment to increase the number of hirsute public employees year on year and for the number of beards in senior civil service roles to be monitored

All people should be able to dress and appear as they want and this should be a cornerstone of public employment policy.

Discrimination against the hirsute at work and in social settings must end and this can be addressed partly by promoting positive images of the hirsute- for example TV news readers.

Stereotyping of the hirsute, is wrong and the ‘man with a beard’ caricature, although it is often meant in a light hearted way, must be understood as potentially offensive




The Ambridge Socialist: Borsetshire Red Front leads on May Day

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2015 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist

May 3rd CONTACT KEITH FLETT 07803 167266

The real Borsetshire Echo: 60 years of class struggle in Ambridge

Borsetshire Red Front leads on May Day

The Ambridge May Pole was found and Kenton contacted the Morris Men. However the BBC of course made no mention of the traditional Borsetshire May Day march which proceeded through Borchester on May 1st  as usual.

The Tory Borsetshire Echo did mention May Day according to Eddie Grundy, but again of course nothing on the march.

This year Joe Grundy led the contingent from the Borsetshire Red Front under the slogan ‘No Route B, All Power to the Peasants and Workers’

The May 7th Programme of the Borsetshire Red Front

Expropriate the Archers now (all of them)

Build a statue to the unknown farm labourer on Ambridge Village Green

Turn The Bull into a community owned pub with Eddie Grundy and Clarrie in charge

Arrest Justin Eliot for tax evasion

Give speaking parts to all the non-speaking characters in the Archers. Give the voiceless, voices!

Place a strict curfew on Rob Titchener- 6pm-6am

Who will Ambridge Vote for on 7th May?

In Other News

The Village Hall is still drying out

Trade is not good at The Bull- time to start a new line in craft keg beers

The jury is out on the Ambridge cricket team 2015. Jonny is expected to be a key player…


A new Royal baby: what did the Victorians say?

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2015 by kmflett

A new Royal baby: what did the Victorians say?


Saturday 2nd May saw the birth of a new Royal baby. The official media reported the event and the reaction to it as might be expected. Dissenting voices were hardly to be heard.

Much of the left remains unexercised about the monarchy believing that objectionable as an hereditary system is, there are other pressing matters. Others, for example the late historian Dorothy Thompson, drew the conclusion that it was difficult to find a political system that was better than a constitutional monarchy, imperfect though that is.

Yet that is a modern framework. In the Victorian era radicals took a different view.

The biggest selling Sunday newspaper of the late Victorian period, Reynolds’s News, was anti-monarchy.

For example Reynolds’s of 29th November 1874 reported of a Royal birth and a Royal christening:

England already bends beneath the pressing yoke placed upon her by Royalty and the scions of Royal houses. The people who have to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, and who get nothing for nothing, are taxed to the highest extent in order to keep up a mock national dignity and maintain in luxury, laziness and often worse, a swarm of princely locusts who care only for themselves, and never tire of devouring of every green thing’.

Such language is rarely heard today but the late Victorian period was arguably the highpoint of the monarchy so the words echo down to us a 140 years on.

Reynolds’s was a paper of the left, broadly defined. It reported the activities of the labour movement and the marxist Social Democratic Federation. Its anti-monarchism however also echoed a strand of Liberal thought.

One wonders if Nick Clegg or Ed Miliband will sound a note of discord on the media joyfest of the latest Royal birth?



Traditional Tottenham Ploughman’s Beard Waggle set for May 3rd

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2015 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Contact Keith Flett      07803 167266


The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that the ancient May Day tradition of Beard Waggling will be revived at the Tottenham Ploughman’s festival on Sunday May 3rd  at Lordship Rec N17. With the weather set reasonably fair, the hirsute will celebrate the coming of Spring by waggling their beards

The beard waggle, a traditional British May Day custom, involves shaking the beard vigorously from side to side and in doing so stimulating air currents that can cause objects to levitate slightly.

Waggling the beard when it has become damp due to rain however is virtually impossible.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett, we’ll be looking for the best and most stylish beard waggle at the Tottenham Ploughmans. It is a unique and also a very traditional way to celebrate the arrival of Spring

To take part tweet a picture of your beard waggle using the hashtag #ploughwaggle


Beard Liberation Front guide to beard waggling

1] Ensure the beard is supple. This may be done by moistening is slightly with water or, if preferred, cask beer.

2] Choose a suitable space to waggle, preferably in the sun rather than the shade

3] Move the beard vigorously from side to side and then up and down while otherwise standing still. Repeat several times

4] While waggling the traditional chant is, Hail the Beard, Hail Spring

5] Alternatively beard wagglers may simply intone Om, Om, Om






125 years since the first London May Day

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2015 by kmflett

125 years since the first London May Day

Keir Hardie May Day

The celebration of May Day is a labour movement tradition. Yet as Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger reminded us in a famous collection of studies, traditions are invented and May Day is no different.

The first London May Day demonstrations were on Thursday May 1st and Sunday May 4th 1890 both in Hyde Park.

It might be thought that these very substantial protests, the Thursday demonstration involving a significant strike, marked a point on the development of May Day as we know it now.

That is not the case. In May 1889 there were no demonstrations, and that was also true for the earlier years of that decade.

The tradition of May Day was in fact invented by the Second International at its meeting in 1889. The idea was to mark the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in the US, where police shot down demonstrators.

This may have been in the minds of those who gathered for the first London May Day protests the following year. But the mobilising motif here was the fight for the legal 8 Hour Day.

It is useful to reflect that while celebrating the start of May is partly about the coming of Spring which has certainly always been with us, the human element of an event to mark the rising of labour is very much something that was deliberately conceived and built by a conference of activists. It struck a chord internationally and led to mass mobilisations on the streets. It is an important point for those who think that mobilising people can’t work.

Reynolds’s Newspaper reported that that the first London May Day demonstration on May 1st 1890 was ‘only partial’. Nevertheless this was still sufficient to cause ‘upwards of 2000 constables’ to be ‘drafted into the West End during the afternoon’.

The march assembled at 3pm in Temple Gardens and proceeded to Hyde Park. It is a route still very familiar to demonstrators today, 125 years on.

The composition of the march was slightly different to the one that will take place in London thi May Day however.  It consisted of mineral water workers, mathematical instrument makers, female envelope makers and jam and pickle makers amongst others.

This was a new tradition being forged so the banners themselves were also new. Reynolds’s reported that one read ‘those that dare not celebrate this day are slaves’ reflecting the fact that people had walked out of work to join it.

The march reached Hyde Park at 5pm and heard speakers including John Burns and William Morris from the socialist left of the movement.

The march on Sunday May 4th attracted the attention of Engels who noted that it was the ‘English proletariat rousing itself from forty years winter sleep’. Reynolds’s was at pains to point out that ‘there is a complete entente cordiale between the two organising committees and every wish to work in harmony on Sunday’.

The official organising committee in 1890 had not been able to take on board the demand for the 8 hour day although this followed in later years.

The following week on 11th May Reynolds’s reported that the London May Day march in 1890 had been the ‘most remarkable ever held in London’.

In 1891 Reynolds’s reported of the May Day march:  the working classes are becoming weary of the old party catchwords and shibboleths, the political chicanery which disgraces the administration of Great Britain and of the narrow and mean and personal and petty way in which the affairs of the nation are conducted.

A tradition had been invented that makes its impact still.



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