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Tony Benn on the October 1987 storm: ‘it was like a day that didnt exist’

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2017 by kmflett

Tony Benn’s diary for 16th October 1987 suggestions by omission one of the great things about the storm of 15th October 1987 compared to how such matters go on now.

Weather warnings there may have been from the Met but there were no websites to carry them and no social media to  repeat them. Unless you had been watching the TV weather on the evening of 15th October (when Michael Fish suggested that a hurricane was not on the way- he was technically right, it was a storm) you might well not have known much until the morning.

The impact on North London was relatively limited, but there was little transport in the morning. Certainly I couldn’t get to work, and in the day before e-mail and mobiles, getting to work meant physically attending a central London office.

I’m pleased to say however that by the afternoon matters had improved enough for my late father and myself to be able to get a bus to the Pigs Ear Beer Festival which back then ran at its original autumn time and in the first venue, Old Ford Town Hall, Bethnal Green

In the middle of the night we had the worst storm since 1703, with the wind speed in London reaching 94 mph. Trees were torn up all over the place. In Kew Gardens it will take 200 years for the trees that were lost to be replaced to maturity. The weather men never predicted it, though it was actually a hurricane. There are trees lying all over the streets. Caroline has been staying at Stansgate, where there was a power cut. Enormous damage has been done. The whole thing was unreal; it was like a day that didn’t exist, one of those days that has a special character of its own.

Tony Benn Diary
Friday 16th October 1987

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The Chartists are coming & so is a storm in London…

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2017 by kmflett

The Chartists are coming & so is a storm in London

Hurrah for old England and liberty sweet,
The land that we live in and plenty to eat;
We shall ever remember this wonderful day,
The Chartists are coming, get out of the way.

The Chartists are Coming, Ballad, 1848

According to the weather forecast while the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia is due to cross the British Isles in the next couple of days, with potentially serious impacts, these are not likely to be in London and the south-east.

That of course was not the case exactly 40 years ago when a hurricane did indeed cause considerable damage in the Capital.

You dont need a weatherman to tell you that in recent times severe weather in the Capital has been infrequent. Indeed unless the storm is noticed in London it may well not quite make the lead item on the news even if the devastation it causes elsewhere is significant.

However the anticipation of some dreadful event taking place, whether natural or human made is an important feature of London life and has been since Victorian times.

In the revolutionary year of 1848 for example the Chartists did indeed come, on April 10th 1848, but actually they were rumoured to be coming far more often than they actually arrived. The same is true of bad weather in London. Reports, often word of mouth or on social media, will note that bad weather is around and will appear soon. People will look anxiously and make travel plans accordingly.

The threat of bad weather and the Chartists two of the great imponderables of London life

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Leading folliclists start to shave opponents in Beard of Autumn poll

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front press release
Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266
15th October

Leading folliclists start to shave opponents in Beard of Autumn poll

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with just days left to vote for the Beard of Autumn 2017 a group of leading folliclists is starting to shave opponents.

England footballer Harry Kane currently has a narrow lead over broadcaster James O’Brien with cricketer Moeen Ali third and leading beer writer and Good Beer Guide Editor Roger Protz fourth.

The Beard of Autumn poll closes at midday on 19th October with the winner announced on 20th October. It is the last of four quarterly seasonal contests which lead to the Beard of the Year in December.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, the leading folliclists are splitting hairs at the top of the poll but with 4 days left to vote the contest remains open.

Shortlist
Moeen Ali, cricketer
Evan Davis, Newsnight presenter
Dave Grohl, musician
Prince Harry, Royal personage
Harry Kane, footballer
Joe Ledley, footballer
James O’Brien, broadcaster
Jeremy Paxman, author
Roger Protz, beer writer
Nick Robinson, broadcaster
Michael Rosen, author & broadcaster

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The Ambridge Socialist. Robert Snell & the forces of reaction

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2017 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist
65 Years of the class struggle in Borsetshire

October 15th

Robert Snell & the forces of reaction

A vacancy has arisen on the Parish Council and in the apparent absence of any candidate Robert Snell has been lent on to be co-opted. However even in Ambridge the forces of democracy are at work. Emma Grundy has also put her name forward. The Clerk to the Parish Council Professor Jim has informally intervened to advise Emma that the forces of reaction on the Council are likely to be minded to co-opt Snell. However she need only collect 10 names to force the matter to an election. Duly done.

Industrial action at the dairy brings results
With Clarrie and Susan expected to manage the production of Tom’s disgusting fermented products along with the normal yoghurt and ice-cream but without a wage increase, there was a only one way forward. A go slow soon produced a crisis and a rise in the hourly rate for the job.

Justin refuses to sleep in the single bed
Following the escape of Lillian’s dog Ruby, its capture by Matt and a situation which almost called for ACAS between Matt and Justin in the Bull, Justin has claimed credit for finding the dog and made it clear that he is sleeping in the ‘master’ bed. Leadership in action.

In other news
Alastair is writing his confession about why he killed the horse
Lillian has been at the races with Matt (Cheltenham that is)
Adam has been playing cricket with Henry
David Archer has a new book out

 

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London Socialist Historians autumn seminars 2017. Mon 16th Oct, John Rees, The Leveller Revolution

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2017 by kmflett

London Socialist Historians seminars

Autumn term 2017. Monday 16th October 5.3opm John Rees on The Leveller Revolution

John Rees socialist activist and campaigner, historian and beard wearer speaks on his recent book from Verso

All seminars take place at 5.30pm in Room 304 Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, WC1 (fully accessible)

Entry is free without a ticket

Monday October 16th John Rees, The Leveller Revolution
Monday October 30th Merilyn Moos, Neglected histories of the diverse victims of Nazism.
Monday November 13th Christian Hogsbjerg, ‘Every Cook Can Govern’: C.L.R James and the Russian Revolution’
Monday November 27th John Newsinger, From Revolution to Labourism?: Orwell and the Left’
Monday December 11th Dave Hill, A History of London’s Housing Crisis

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Michael Rosen and the historians

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2017 by kmflett

Michael Rosen and the historians

Michael Rosen is known as a poet, author, broadcaster and of course socialist activist. He also has a beard and supports Arsenal.

His new memoir, So They Call You Pisher!, is out from Verso and is of course fascinating reading. At the London launch Rosen noted that much material had been edited out before publication and it would indeed be interesting to see the author’s cut of the book as it were.
One thing that Rosen is perhaps not particularly associated with is socialist history.

In the book Rosen recalls being taught English history at school by Giraldus Hughes. Covering the English Civil War he notes that the teacher recommended a ‘writer we might like to read.. called Christopher Hill’.

Studying history at Alexandra Park Comprehensive school in the early 1970s I had exactly the same experience. I was recommended to read Hill by the Deputy Headmistress (a member of the Communist Party) who had correctly taken my youthful beard to indicate left-wing views.

Rosen bought Hill’s Century of Revolution and was given by his father Harold some Left Book Club editions from the 1930s including A L Morton’s The People’s History of England and Petergorsky’s volume on the left in the Civil War.

Left Book Club editions, relatively easy to find second hand when I was young, are I think now something of a rarity, although some like Morton’s book have been re-published.

Rosen notes ‘one serious puzzle: how was the Milton who Hill talked about, the same Milton who wrote Comus?.

He then moved on to read Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution which not only ranges across European history but illuminates by references to culture (and where he could football though I’m not sure Eric was an Arsenal fan).

At first Rosen reports he wasn’t sure about such a wide ranging approach but the politics of culture grasped him and he ‘stopped being uncomfortable with it. I wanted more. Much more’.

The book also contains a fascinating vignette of the early period of History Workshop in Oxford, where Rosen was at college.
Rosen was clearly far from happy with the stultified air and archaic content of some of the lectures he attended at Oxford but found History Workshop to be an exciting new development in the months before the May events in Paris in 1968.

Rosen notes that some felt senior figures broadly associated with the movement such as E P Thompson, Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm were ‘infected’ by Stalinism, although this was not his view. However he also notes Raphael Samuel, who ran the Workshop at Ruskin, had a base of working-class, trade union focused, students who were doing interesting research.

Rosen writes that ‘conferences were packed with hundreds of people, crowded into the halls and corridors, listening, talking, arguing and writing.. this I thought was one of the most exciting things happening, and I wanted to be part of it’.

These passages in Rosen’s memoir are interesting for a first-hand account of how socialist history was discovered and ‘done’ on the 1960s, but interesting too because they pose a question for today. How are young people now being involved and educated in socialist history, if they are?

This is an expanded post from a piece that appears in the Autumn 2017 issue of the London Socialist Historians newsletter:

http://londonsocialisthistorians.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/lshg-newsletter-62-autumn-2017-now.html

The Autumn 2017 socialist history seminar series starts on Monday 16th October with John Rees on the Leveller Revolution. 5.30pm, Room 304, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, WC1. Free without ticket

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Competition bristling for Beard of Autumn poll

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front press release
Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266
14th October

Competition bristling in Beard of Autumn Poll

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with just days left to vote for the Beard of Autumn 2017 competition is bristling.

Broadcaster James O’Brien currently leads from England footballer Harry Kane with cricketer Moeen Ali and Prince Harry tied for third place.

The Beard of Autumn poll closes at midday on 19th October with the winner announced on 20th October. It is the last of four quarterly seasonal contests which lead to the Beard of the Year in December.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, interest in the Beard of Autumn always hots up once it becomes clear who the leading folliclists are so we expect the top positions to change quite a bit before the close of the poll.

Shortlist
Moeen Ali, cricketer
Evan Davis, Newsnight presenter
Dave Grohl, musician
Prince Harry, Royal personage
Harry Kane, footballer
Joe Ledley, footballer
James O’Brien, broadcaster
Jeremy Paxman, author
Roger Protz, beer writer
Nick Robinson, broadcaster
Michael Rosen, author & broadcaster