Hundreds of cyclists answer clarion call for historic event in Pendle
Some 200 supporters of The Clarion Cycling Club, now spread around the country, descended on Clarion House at Newchurch-in-Pendle, for the busiest Clarion Sunday in years.
Clarion Sunday - a historic annual cycling event dating to the late 1890s - this year also featured an unique art project.
Artist, photographer and devotee of cycling culture, Alan J Ward, took formal portraits of each rider to celebrate the socialist roots of the club formed in 1895 as part of the socialist movement, taking its name from Robert Blatchford’s socialist newspaper.
In the days before the working class could afford cars, bikes offered freedom and fellowship, and in the 1900s the club thrived with over 8,000 members.
For over 125 years, cyclists from Clarion cycling clubs across the North of England converged on Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge, to listen to speeches by leading Socialists.
Alan Ward said: “This artistic project aims to reflect and celebrate the communal cultural heritage of Clarion Cycling. It promises to be a remarkable day as its hosted at the last remaining Clarion House in the UK.”
The Clarion House in Pendle was built in 1912 for the Nelson Independent Labour Party. Clarion houses provided a place in the countryside for people to enjoy fresh air and comradeship, a tradition that continues to this day in Pendle.
This year's project was commissioned by the Pendle Radicals, a research and creative project led by Mid Pennine Arts, that explores the stories of Pendle Hill’s radical thinkers and nonconformists.
Nick Hunt, Creative Director at Mid Pennine Arts, said: “The chief objective of Clarion Cycling Clubs was to promote democracy and socialism, and oppose any form of inequality. It empowered the working classes to literally get on their bike, and be politically active.
"We wanted to celebrate the remarkable working-class history in Pendle and its legacy. As a movement, it’s arguably just as needed, and relevant, today.
"The event raised over £500 to support the last Clarion House. The Nelson ILP Land Trust, which looks after Clarion House, was also very happy with this result, which after the difficulties of the pandemic was a very welcome boost to the coffers.
"We were very pleased to link the Pendle Radicals project to these two historic institutions, Clarion House and the Clarion cycling clubs that still thrive right across the country. We’ll be looking forward to supporting Clarion Sunday when it reverts to its rightful place in June in 2022."
Today, the Clarion Cycling Club remains one of the biggest cycling clubs in the country, with around 2,000 members. Around 150 cyclists took part from Clarion chapters around the north, including Blackpool, Saddleworth and Barnoldswick, as well as a contingent from London Clarion.
The historic club is owned by Nelson ILP Land Society. It was used as a recreational facility in the fresh air of the countryside for members.