Wednesday, 27 October 2010
William Morris Society Activities: 3
In his volume of essays and autobiographical writings Untold Stories (2005), the playwright Alan Bennett writes of his dislike of William Morris and Pre-Raphaelitism during his undergraduate years at Morris’s own Oxford college, Exeter; and then he adds: ‘I would have liked Kelmscott had I seen it, but there was no hope of that. Too far to cycle, it was lost in the depths of the car-free countryside’ (p.526).
Too far to cycle – nonsense! Keen young socialists such as Arthur and Georgie Gaskin were doing the cycle ride from Oxford to Kelmscott Manor even in Morris’s own time (on 3 June 1895, to be precise); and on the much superior machines we have available to us 115 years later we would hardly need to be as hyper-athletic as Dick Hammond in News from Nowhere to get there successfully.
So here is a project for the William Morris Society: to organise a collective bicycle ride from Oxford to Kelmscott, which would celebrate fresh air, exercise and sunshine, and commemorate the socialist cycling culture of the 1890s into the bargain. For in the memorable words of José Antonio Viera-Gallo, Assistant Secretary of Justice in the government of President Allende of Chile – words which apply equally to the Clarion Clubs of the 1890s and to the Green-Left cyclist of today - ‘socialism can only come riding on a bicycle’.