Friday, 30 December 2011

"A Toast to the Luddite Martyrs" - Spen Valley Tracing

On the 28th of December I met up with a guy I'd not met before called Richard Holland, who is running the Luddite Bicentenary website and trying to organise commemorative events with various local, radical, literary & academic groups.

It was a great winter's day, which began with a visit to the site where a statue to the Luddites will be erected soon:

Next we walked down to the landmarks associated with one of the gits of the time, Hammond Roberson

Hammond Roberson is buried in the Tory Anglican church he had built with his own money. He was one of the anti-Luddite establishment figures, who interrogated the dying after their attempt on Cartwright's Mill at Rawfolds. It was believed he tortured them rather than let their wounds be treated.

Roberson's church stands out on its hill, as does his house above the poorer housing of the area. It felt symbolic that we walked past a jobcentre to get from one to the other.

Over the railway too, which was not yet built in 1811, and by 2011 has been 'unbuilt' by others who think only of money, and nothing for the social fabric.

Then onto the footsteps of the good guys:

The Shears pub, well-known Luddite haunt. With a great Yorkshire chippy over the road. From there we walked down the hillside to the Spen river where Rawfolds Mill used to stand:

This was our route.

The Mill burnt down a few years after the Luddite attack, but the Millowner's name still adorns the street on the industrial estate where it stood.

Next, to Hartshead church, where the Bronte sisters' dad used to preach (after Roberson), and where Luddites who died from their injuries in the Rawfolds attach were (legend tells us) secretly buried at night, just near the entrance:

In affectionate remembrance of the Luddite Martyrs, whose bodies may well be interred here:

We then drove down to the Three Nuns pub (by Kirklees Nunnery, where Robin Hood is reputed to be buried).

Near there, the Dumb Steeple marked the spot where hundreds of Luddites gathered on the night of 11th April with weapons and determination to attempt their biggest target yet. This was the area where they had already prevented new gear being installed, where the devastating effects of machinisation would be felt most cruelly, and where the biggest target yet to be attempted was to be found. Men came from all over, gathered here, and marched on Rawfolds Mill. We came to salute them!

Finally to Huddersfield, with this the pub that Luddites would drink, and at which Mellor was given his alibi by various people. But the 'justices' did not believe them, and had him killed in York.

We also explored some of the yards where the cloth workers used to work, and the barracks where 1000 soldiers were imposed upon the town. The Luddite movement did not fail : it was outgunned, outnumbered, outresourced, overpowered by the forces of capital and state.

There were no local history books available in Huddersfield to remember its Luddite history, but I found some on my dad's shelves, and that night I was inspired enough to look up the references to the movement in Charlotte Bronte's work:

No General but Ludd means the poor any good.

Friday, 16 December 2011

letters continue to rock!

I have had a rather rubbish December, very lazy with most days a sleep in, and a serious lack of direction. But i declare this mid-December slump over as of today! The snow's landed in Newcastle and the birds have come in off the moor (there's a crow sat in front of me now, perched above a chimney which I bet is blowing nice warm air up its bum feathers).

One thing which I cannot rate enough is the relief I've got from writing picture letters, and from receiving lovely post. It seems that every SINGLE day, I've had some fanzine or letter or bundle of something lovely sent to me. Here's one of the CD listings from Sarah Mixtapes which arrived yesterday:

As I've mentioned in a previous post, for me the use of pictures has let me get far more personal and into my thoughts than I would manage in a words-only letter. It'd be a bit much to pour your heart out to someone as if they're your teenage diary, but if it's arranged around pics, it's externalised in a more removed, comfortable way. And it's let me vent my angst.

So today I feel more alert than I have on other days, and I'm getting busy sending out zines and diaries to people, tidying my desk and getting ready for a more active engagement with the world than I managed in December.

And no matter how little I've 'achieved', I've at least spent time contemplating my days - a luxury that not everyone manages.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Pagan Survey Project

As people who know me may have noticed,
I have a lot of opinions,
not all of which I seek to generalise to the whole population.

Some of these are to do with the earth
and the meaning of existence
and how we're connected to things beyond our self.

Not the kind of opinions you can coerce other people into sharing,
so I will certainly do no ramming down of throats.

But after a mind-refreshing bath
(see previous post about free-ness)
I have an idea of how I'd like to do a zine project about it.

It will be linked to this city and its environs,
it will be structured according to the seasons,
and it will be out by Beltane / Mayday.

I already have a few pieces written,
of some of my thoughts and adventures,
but this post here is to announce:

I am going to dip my toe back
into the old practise of asking other people
what they think, and feel, and do.

So don't be surprised if you get an email from me,
and don't panic that I'm getting all religious on your ass.

Light-hearted and downbeat answers are fine,
and they will be to questions about how you
like to celebrate, or have sometimes done something
at certain times of the year.

That's kinda it
Let's share some things.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Who do you talk to about love?

I'd be interested to know. If you haven't someone, then it becomes a rather taboo subject.

I don't mean necessarily declarations of overwhelming love or the classic image of a girly heart-to-heart drowing in tissues and wine and all that shit. But there is a powerful part of our imaginations, our experiences, emotions and hopes and maybes and what-does-it-means that I'm labelling here as the things of love. Old loves and flirtations and possibles and alternatives and probably nots included. How do you share those personal thoughts or fancies without it going all heavy and weird.

Well I found a solution which I found really satisfying last week - I put it into some illustrated letters (of which the pics here are excerpts).

And it HAS seemed to have worked for me in exercising & exorcising some things, and I hope I don't weird out the people who I wittered on about it to. There's something so satisfying and relieving about putting pen to paper and writing - or in my case slowly doodling with words thrown in - about something on your mind, which you aren't yet sure how to express. By expressing something in-the-moment onto paper, you've removed that anxiety or uncertainty or whatever it was - the itch, maybe. And by being a letter - a thing shared - you avoid this becoming a lonely and an isolating experience. So thanks to the two recipients of my latest involved, self-obsessed and ultimately rather vague and indefinite ramblings. You helped me think some heart things through.

And a letter is a place where, as well as playing with statements and sentences (which itself is I think the main source of relief), you face yourself and your experiences and remember. So I remembered times from a year or so back, remembered how I felt then, and how I felt the morning before, and how I'm feeling now - something you're not always conscious of until you've written about it and you realise if the words and the pace and the definitiveness of what you've written sit well. Often there's a second stream of self-consciousness that follows on that which goes onto paper, and which you don't need to share with the letter-receiver, but you wouldn't encounter if you hadn't written to them. I am the better for that too.

Finally for this blog post, evidence from pete hindle that even short illustrated letters are FUCKING COOL. Like this postcard, which I hope he doesn't mind me transmitting to the web servers of california or wherever blogspot gets its servers hosted from:

Write postcards, people. If you're not sure who to send them to, send them to ME!