A lot has changed in London over the past 125 years but it's good to see Cycling continues to be as popular now as it was back in 1895. The Clarion socialist newspaper which was largely responsible for the creation of the Clarion Cycling Clubs today gives us a great insight into the formation of the London Clarion Cycling club.
On Saturday 25th May 1895 the Clarion newspaper declares that 'the South London "Clarion" Cycling Club is now an accomplished fact, and has commenced operations'. A Clarion Call was made to "All Cycling Socialists from Erith to Clapham and from Blackheath to Croydon should send in names to F.E.Green'.
In the same Clarion newspaper on 25th May, it revealed that the new South London Clarion Cycling Club met on Saturdays at 4.15pm outside the Greyhound in Sydenham Station for a short run to Farnboro'. It's interesting to note the late start time in comparison to when most club rides start these days. The links between the Independent Labour Party ILP and the Clarion Cycling Club are evident in the comments later in the article "And on Sunday Clarion Cyclists are urgently needed at Basted Green... to help in formation of I.L.P branch there'
Mont Blong described the events of Easter `Sunday, 14th April 1895, in the following week's Clarion [newspaper] .... we marched two-hundred strong to Dove Dale. Preceded by the (Potteries) Clarion bugler, the Clarion Scouts took the open road in fine style and as they passed the market-place raised a Clarion whoop, which so alarmed the Yeomanry who were preparing for a church-parade, that one or two dropped off their perches.'
The first Annual Conference of Clarion Cycling Clubs started about 1pm on the lawn just outside the Izaak Walton Hotel in Dovedale. Dangle was in the chair, "which office he carried out, to the satisfaction of everyone, lying down on the flat of his front elevation". To start off, Tom Groom gave a short account of Birmingham Clarion CC's first year and then went on to talk about a national organisation. It was, he thought, Leonard Hall of Manchester Independent Labour Party who first suggested a National Clarion Cycling Club during a visit to Birmingham.
And so 125 years ago the National Clarion Cycling Club was first established, a year after Birmingham Clarion CC had formed. One month later in May 1895 the Clarion Socialist newspaper announced the formation of a London Clarion Cycling Club.
Talking About It
I carried on talking about the ride, and raised a little more money in doing so, to various groups, including
Special Meeting/Attila the Stockbroker
We arranged a special local event at New Cross Learning to give a slide show and talk about the ride to local Stop the War, CND and Friends of Palestine and other friends, with food and entertainment.
I asked the poet and musician Attila the Stockbroker if he would be able to provide some of the latter, and he not only agreed, but decided that he would cycle to New Cross from Shoreham on the Sussex coast, on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, to raise more money for MAP.
Taking Part in Future Events
MAP’s cycle ride for (autumn this time) 2019 is already fully booked, but there will be future years. You can register your interest for 2020.
MAP’s second West Bank walking trekof 2019 still has places available.
Here is where you can register your interest.
The general links to possible challenge events for MAP are here.
On the way out through Tel Aviv, whatever the profiling may have been on the way in, they seemed to focus more on the people with their own bikes, who were delayed and checked much more thoroughly.
I obviously have an honest face, and went through without a single question (actually not so on a more recent trip to Palestine).
We were on a British Airways flight from Tel Aviv to London, which was delayed by an hour specifically of the time it took for our group to get through. We didn’t expect to be too popular for many reasons.
One of the more talkative cyclists had got chatting with the cabin crew, and later on we were given this card and four bottles of champagne.
In Palestine, and probably the whole of the Middle East, everywhere you go you get Liptons Black Tea teabags on a string. It’s pretty awful. What I desperately wanted was a proper cup of tea, which you can see here in the mug I brought back from Hebron (note the key symbol).
Memories of Palestine
I keep saying it, but it’s true ... I always supported Palestine because I hated injustice, but now I also support Palestine because I love Palestine.
It would be a bit strong to say it changed our lives, but it was certainly one of the most memorable things we’ll all have done.
We still often do activities together (eg some of the cyclists came to the fundraising gig that we organised during Eurovision at the Amersham Arms), hold fundraising stalls, give talks etc.
Here with some MAP staff from the Ramallah office.
Refugees in Palestine
Many Palestinians live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere, but many also live in refugee camps in Palestine, having been expelled from parts of Palestine that are now Israel.
About 560 000 live in camps in the Gaza strip, and about 230 000 live in camps in the West Bank. One of the latter is Aida Camp in Bethlehem.
It is said to be the most tear gassed community in the world.
The Key Symbol
The key is symbolic. Many Palestinians keep the key to the home that they were thrown out of, even though it’s unlikely to have the same door or lock if it’s still there at all.
We didn’t stay as long as intended, because it was the second Friday of the Great March of Return protests in Gaza, and there were protests elsewhere as well. People were reported to be burning tyres, and given the likely use of tear gas it was best not to stick around, but we got a bit of a tour.
The camp is right next to part of the Separation Wall.
This is the camp cinema (a white-painted bit of wall).
Palestinians can’t go down this street, but we were allowed to, as are the occasionally muscular settler jogging up and down.
This was once a busy market.
The remaining sections of the market are walled off from the rest of what used to be busy market streets, and are now referred to as the Ghost Town.
Some Palestinians still live in the Ghost Town, although there are many streets where Palestinians are not allowed to walk, and many more where they are not allowed to drive. To get to the Ghost Town, you have to go through one of the checkpoints, like this one.
At this checkpoint to get from the remains of the existing market into the ghost town, we are asked if anyone was Muslim.
Even once through, soldiers again asked whether anyone was Muslim in case they tried to turn left towards the synagogue, which is part of the same building as the Mosque.
No Palestinians of any religion are allowed to stray far beyond the checkpoint and into the ghost town. I was not at all comfortable going into segregated areas where our guides could not go.
There are a couple of shopkeepers who have refused to move. One of them is “crazy Abed” who refused a large sum to move out. The far-right politician Baruch Marzel and some settlers used a video of themselves attacking these shops as part of an election campaign.
He is on the far right, even for Israel, but I can’t imagine even the BNP thinking that a video of beating up shopkeepers would be effective in an election campaign.
It was right to come to Hebron late on. In most of the West Bank, the settlements are out of town, surrounding the towns. As the “resting place” of Abraham, Hebron is of particular significance to the most extreme of the religious settlers.
There is a settlement in the heart of town, with about 500 settlers guarded by about 2000 soldiers. The settlers themselves wander around in everyday clothes carrying large automatic weapons. It feels completely deranged.
Any other city, even in Palestine, with such a history and so many ancient sights would be bustling with tourists and market traders. Hebron is dead, with several streets blocked off and shut down to create a kind of protective barrier. The market traders were thrown out and are desperate.
Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre
I took this image from where Baruch Goldstein was standing when he opened fire on a Mosque full of people in 1994 during Ramadan, killing 29 and wounding 125. The protests that took place afterwards led to the current situation in Hebron.
Outside of the sealed-off area, some of the market remains, but we were constantly accosted by desperate people trying to sell us trinkets but effectively begging (like the very determined chap in maroon in the picture after next). Having been thrown of the nearby streets, they had nothing.
The settlers have no proper living either, but are funded by rich Australians and Americans.
The remaining section of the market has to be protected by a mesh, because Israeli settlers were throwing their rubbish down. Now they are more likely to throw liquids, including alcohol, which is particularly offensive.
I spent a day out of cycling/trekking to visit some projects with Tom. This involved being in a taxi, from where this image of a settlement behind the wall was taken
Palestinian taxis cannot travel everywhere. To cross into Jerusalem, they have to have Israeli plates, but that’s not always enough.
The road that can be seen in the next image is of a road that only vehicles with Israeli plates can use. Our driver told us that, even though he has Israeli plates, he was stopped on this road because he was a Palestinian who wasn’t carrying an Israeli passenger.
The separation wall in has become something of a tourist attraction in Bethlehem, and you can find any number of images of it on the Web, so I won’t fill this story with mine.
The London Clarion Cyclist is a Cycling Blog with posts from London Clarion Cycle Club members and guest bloggers