Celebrated author and journalist Stuart Maconie is gearing up to follow in the footsteps of the Jarrow March as part of his new book to mark the 80th anniversary of the crusade.
Next month Stuart, will set out from Christ Church in Jarrow and retrace the route of the 1936 Jarrow Crusade - a protest march from Jarrow to London by unemployed workers.
Known for bestselling books ‘Cider with Roadies’ and ‘Pies and Prejudice,’ the BBC radio presenter will arrive in Jarrow on October 1 for the fun day to mark the crusade at Monkton Stadium, and hopes to be in the area for five days before setting off on his march on October 5.
Speaking to the Gazette ahead of his trip to the borough, he said: “I am going to take a month off and retrace the route of the Jarrow March, from Jarrow to London.
“I am not going to walk every inch of the way, as the whole point is to re-visit the places that they did along the route.
“I am going to do it day by day, starting out on October 5, 1936, from Christ Church in Jarrow, as they did, and I am going to do exactly the same things they did for 25 days - but I might hop on a bus!
“They did the march 80 years ago this year and I am hoping to get to London on Halloween, like they did.
“I will walk quite a bit of the way the first few days with some rest days, and will be stopping at the same places, such as Harrogate and Chester-le-Street to soak up the atmosphere.
“The aim is to compare Britain then and now. My books contain a bit of social history, a bit of politics and hopefully some humour!
“If anybody knows anything that they think I should know or visit, then please get in touch with me via Twitter, or comment on my blog.”
During his stay in the town, Stuart hopes to see the original Jarrow March Banner and talk to residents.
Along the way he will stay at B&B’s where he will write a daily blog on his journey and hopes to have the chance to talk to author Matt Perry and London MPs.
He added: “I have been to Jarrow once before, for my book, ‘Pies and Prejudice,’ but didn’t feel that I did it justice. So this time, I want to spend a few days there and see the original Jarrow March Banner.
“From Jarrow, I plan to go to Chester-le-Street and then on to Ferryhill, but will just things happen.
“There is only one good academic book on the march, by an academic at Newcastle University called Matt Perry, who I hope to interview along the way.”
He continued: “I am more excited about this book than I have been about any one of my other books.
“It just seemed like the perfect time to write a book on the subject, as it is a similar kind of time to when the march was; there are many political things going on, with the new prime minister, and turmoil within the Labour Party.”
The author hopes his latest book, provisionally called ‘Long Road From Jarrow,’ will be released next summer and will follow its release with talks on the march.
“I decided to write the book as I am interested in left wing issues, working people and working class culture,” he said.
“I feel that the march is massively important, in that it’s seen by some people see it as either a glorious crusade or a total failure.
“It still gets mentioned in the GCSE history syllabus and people have a complicated relationship with it.
“Was it heroic? Was it a success? Was it a failure?
“I want to see what’s changed, and compare and contrast Britain then and now.”
To visit the blog: maconiejarrow.wordpress.com
Or contact him via twitter on @StuartMaconie
THE JARROW CRUSADE
In October 1936, 200 men from Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest at Parliament over unemployment.
The protesters were living in a region where at the time there was 70% unemployment and were demanding that a steel works be built to bring back jobs to their town, as Palmer’s shipyard in Jarrow had been closed down in the previous year.
The yard had been Jarrow’s major source of employment, and the closure compounded the problems of poverty, overcrowding, poor housing and high mortality rates that were already a problem in the town.
Carrying blue-and-white banners, the Jarrow men marched for 25 days and brought with them a petition, signed by 11,000 Jarrow people.
A further petition was collected along the way.
When the marchers reached London they had considerable public sympathy, but the crusade made little real impact, failing to win special attention for their cause from the government after their petition was presented.