Sheffield FridayNightRide

we have nothing to lose but our chains

2015/01/16 Je suis Charlie

Ride report: Je suis Charlie Fri 16 Jan

​30 people came out on a cold night to ride to places and locations that could be associated with free speech whether spoken or written.
So, the talk was of Sheffield’s radical and dissenting past and its important place in national debates about political reform and the right to freely say what ought to be said.
We cycled to places where newspapers and pamphlets were printed and broadcasts made and we spoke about radical editors who were either run out of town to flourish in the newly formed US or jailed for sedition and cowed into compliance. We went to squares and hills where Sheffielders assembled to hear preachers and speakers talk of dissent, injustice, and democratic & political rights for men and women. We congregated in the courtyard of Upper Chapel in Norfolk St to talk about how non-conformist religious creeds prevalent in Sheffield were important to supporting and furthering political reforms. We visited statues, streets and plaques that commemorate people who championed and even fought and died for political causes. We spoke of Sheffield’s importance as a radical place in: the English Civil War; the time of enclosures; Chartism; birth of English socialist parties; championing of the rights of women. Paul Truin brought music from Renaud a radical singer who had financially supported, and contributed to, Charlie Hebdo and was devastated by losing so nearly all his close friends last week. Julia Podziewska brought along inspiring quotations from some of the Sheffield characters and Susannah Diamond spoke from experience about working in a women’s co-op printing press championing class and gender struggles. If these people in our past hadn’t spoken out, hadn’t ridiculed and mocked the establishment, hadn’t questioned what they were told to think and do then we wouldn’t have the rights we have now.

We ended up in Fagan’s and carried on the chat with each other, the landlord and anybody in the place who was curious about this politically excited mob that burst through the doors. (Somebody was having their retirement party so we inadvertently crashed that and then were kindly allowed to finish their (tasty) buffet – don’t show cyclists food)

​It was a night for comradeship and I think people had a good night​, I did​​.​ Julia and I were pleased by the reaction to the theme and what we said. So when we get time we will fulfil the requests we have had to write it up with quotations, references and ​all.
Map: ​
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
​Ideas for Future SFNRs: Past and Modern Enclosures Ride(s) around to land and assets that have been (mis)appropiated by the aristocracy, gentry and modern corporations

Next Sheffield FridayNight Ride​
​Fri 16 January 2015 Sheffield FridayNightRide Typography is postponed. New dates to follow
Next Sheffield FridayNightRide
Fri 16 January 2015
Je suis Charlie
Start 6.30 Offices of Johnson Press, York St, Sheffield

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

I thought it ought to be a time for nightriders to note the current press, media, cartoonists, journalists and reporters in Sheffield – and those in the past.

​I haven’t done brilliantly in the time and I am grateful for the help of others in pointing things out and identifying important periods and places.
I am proposing that we ride to places associated with a free press, news and topical commentary in Sheffield, and call the ride “Je suis Charlie”

Ride badge design
I trust we get the chance to discuss, argue, contend, dispute so that we think, learn and examine what we value and what we would die for.
If there is nothing one would die for then why go on living? – or is that just glib?, you tell me
​I’ve also included places that were important for public assembly and speeches.  I was fascinated to learn during this last week that the term ‘broadcasting’ comes from farming; from the act of sowing seed​ when the arm sweeps round with the hand releasing seed in a broad, deep arc across the fertile, ploughed and prepared ground and thus the term is metaphorically applied to the casting and sowing of the germs of ideas into the fertile soil of open minds.  So “broadcasting” predates radio and TV and goes back to a tradition of public meetings and speaking where ideas could be freely expressed, disseminated and understandings bud and flourish.  Before widespread literacy these meetings were where free speech could take place.  And there were always spies, reports and indictments.
There has been a lot of commentary and opinion this week about free speech, religion, the right (or not) to offend and so on.  Criticism of Charlie Hebdo has been matched by sweeping generalisations about Islam, Muslims, Arabs etc.  Sheffield has its own commemorative event last Sunday which had a parallel skinhead demo with a Union Jack with Je suis Charlie printed on it.  I must confess to being in tears for the two minutes silence – not just contemplating the horror of the killings but also sad tears thinking,”Is this what we have come to? Having to stand up in public for hard fought for rights such as free speech?”.
And I know people will say, “Aah but with free speech will come responsibility”; agreed and that is why we have laws of libel, incitement to racial and religious hatred etc in case those responsibilities are not applied.  But you still have the right to print and say what you think is true and the law has to be then enforced and not enforced with guns.  And the law has always been there to be tested, so we used to have laws for blasphemy but they only applied to Christianity so didn’t apply to other faiths.  They were tested, time and time again and in the end found to be just irrelevant or inappropriate to a secular society. I am really glad about that.  I was brought up Catholic but I am glad that that people were allowed to take the mickey out of Catholicism and I read their mockery and satire.  And it took as its targets pompous, bigoted clerics with infallible doctrines, intolerant racist and sexist views and hypocritical sexual repression, and some of whom had enthusiastically supported fascism. (I also read Graham Greene who taught me about liberation theology)  On balance it made me, thankfully, change my mind.
I would like to live in a secular state (we still have an established church) so my views are print what you like; one doesn’t have to read it and one doesn’t have to agree with it and one can argue and persuade people but if you think you have the right not to be offended ever or you can kill people because you are offended by what you see as disrespect of your faith then you are living in the wrong place and/or at the wrong time. I’ll get me coat ….

​The map has POI and references in them as to why they are important.  Sheffield has had a remarkable radical and dissenting political and religious tradition​.  Parliamentarian in the Civil War (the Royalists were besieged in the castle), a hotbed of political progression at the time of the French Revolution, a centre for militant Chartism and so on.    W​e celebrate the early newspapers and note the partisan background of most newspapers.  It will be a bit jumbled