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www.glos.info Interviews Stuart Maconie
Stuart Maconie – Jarrow, Road to the Deep South, Cheltenham Town Hall, Sunday, 4th February 2018
To most, Stuart Maconie is known as a popular music presenter and writer, but the Lancashire-bred DJ has a few more strings to his bow, which he will reveal when he visits Cheltenham next week.
He’s a keen rambler and has completed walks the length and breadth of the country, including every one of the 214 Wainwright walks in Cumbria.
He also loves a bit of history, and it is this that forms the backbone of his current tour around Britain, paying homage to the Jarrow Marchers of 1936.
Just over 80 years ago, 200 men from Jarrow in the north-east of England marched all the way to Westminster to hand in a petition asking for help from parliament to create employement in their deprived hometown, specifically the creation of a steelworks.
After enjoying economic stability first through coal and then shipbuilding, Jarrow saw its fortunes fall as the shipyard closed in 1934 through a combination of mismanagement and changes in world trade, following the First World War.
Unfortunately for them, despite having 10,000 signatures on the petition and unfailing support from the public along their march route, they were fobbed off and callously dismissed by the Tory government and they returned to Jarrow, believing they had failed.
Stuart’s plan was to don walking boots and rucksack and replicate the march, stopping off where the marchers had in towns along the way.
“Several things aligned for me: it’s British social history, northern industrial culture, and there are pop culture elements from TV’s Our Friends in The North and Alan Price’s 1974 top ten hit Jarrow Song.
“And I like walking. I was thinking of doing a long walk that had a narrative and could link up places, and instantly thought about the Jarrow walk which covered about 80% of England.”
He said the way the marchers were treated when they arrived in London was appalling.
“It’s astonishing that the government could utterly wash its hands of people. JB Priestley said that if you had come from another planet and went to Jarrow, you’d assume it was some kind of penal colony or punishment for people who had clearly been very wicked as they were in such a grim state.
“It was shocking really. There were 10,000 signatures on that petition, a brilliant act of British social history, and it just shows you of the contempt they were held in.”
Of course, Stuart’s walk was a bit different from that of the 1936 marchers, not least the way he used social media continually along the journey for recommendations of where to stay, where to eat and which pubs to visit.
“We as people are pretty much the same as they were, doing the same things like going out and having a drink and music and movies, but the way we access and share them has changed out of all recognition. The Jarrow marchers would have thought that the technology I was using on a daily basis was science fiction.”
It was also a chance to get back in front of an audience and tell a great story. “It’ll be light-hearted and quite chatty rather than a lecture. I don’t expect people to want to listen to 90 minutes of rickets or diphtheria and the 1930s recession.”
Stuart Maconie will be at Cheltenham Town Hall Pillar Room on Sunday, February 4, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £17 from 0844 576 2210 or visit www.chletenhmatownhall.corg.uk
Interview written by Helen Gadd on behalf of www.glos.info
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