Clarion Cycling Club

“A few of our members realised the uniqueness and importance of this book and resolved to safeguard it by purchasing and donating it to the Working Class Movement Library for perpetuity. This was finally achieved in November of 2013”.

Alex Southern of the London Clarion Cycling Club

At 3pm on Friday 28th February 2014 the Working Class Movement Library welcomed members of the London Clarion Cycling Club as they presented this unique edition of ‘The Clarion Summer Number 1892′. Inside are signatures from four regular journalists for the Clarion newspaper, including that of its founder, Robert Blatchford.

Signatures inside 'The Clarion Summer Number', Working Class Movement Library

Signatures inside ‘The Clarion Summer Number’, Working Class Movement Library

In the 1880s Robert Blatchford was a successful journalist for the Morning Chronicle newspaper. But his editor refused to allow him to write about Socialism and finally he walked out, declaring “You will not have Socialism in your paper – and I won’t write anything else”.

So, in rented offices on Manchester’s Corporation Street, Blatchford set to producing the first really accessible Socialist magazine, combining political articles and editorials with songs, poetry, short stories and illustrations. On 12th December 1891, the first issue was released; it was a huge success and by 1908 the Clarion had a circulation of 80,000.

The paper encouraged not just a Socialist readership, but a Socialist way of life and off-shoot entertainment and activities soon appeared. Clarion rambling societies, photo clubs and choral groups sprang up all over the country. There was also the Clarion Cafe which opened its doors in 1908 and lasted until about the 1930’s.

Clarion Cafe sign, People's History Museum

Clarion Cafe sign, People’s History Museum

And then there were the Clarion Cycling Clubs. The Cycling Clubs came out of a meeting of six young men in February 1894. Wanting to “combine the pleasures of cycling with the propagation of Socialism” they set up the Socialists Cycling Club, shortly afterwards changing their name to the Clarion Cycling Club after their favourite paper. Their club grew rapidly and by the end of 1894 there were four other Clarion Cycling Clubs. By early 1897, 70 clubs were active.

Clarion Racing Bike, People's History Museum

Clarion Racing Bike, People’s History Museum

And the clubs have stood the test of time. The Clarion newspaper was taken out of circulation in 1934 but the cycling clubs continued; as semi-political groups until the mid-1930s and as mostly apolitical clubs into the present day. Though numbers have reduced massively since Blatchford’s age (there are about 29 member sections in Britain currently) the London Clarion Cycling Club says numbers are again on the rise.

“Had there been no Robert Blatchford, there would have been no Clarion. Had there been no Clarion, there would have been no Clarion Cycling Club”.

Tom Groom in his 1944 Jubilee Souvenir




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