I enjoyed the article in last week's issue about Edward Carpenter. More should be known and understood about what he stood for and his place in the history of radical thought.
He is celebrated because of his enthusiasm for alternative lifestyles, but he represents more than a collection of issues, such as gay rights, vegetarian food, feminism and environmentalism.
He worked on the founding statement of the Sheffield Socialist Society, which criticised the power of the big landlords and capitalists. He tried to include everyone's views.
The Society wanted an end to monopolies in land and capital, the nationalisation of large industries including the railways, and municipal ownership of gas, water and trams.
Labour representation in Parliament was called for, on School Boards and on Boards of Guardians for Poor Relief.
The engineer and street corner socialist Raymond Unwin was a visitor at Carpenter's house at Millthorpe, over the hill from Totley. William Morris recruited both Carpenter and Unwin into the Socialist League around 1885.
Unwin favour social experiments that fostered co-operative values, and "living in spite of conditions". He went into partnership with Barry Parker, having married Barry's sister Ethel. Their son Edward was named after Carpenter, who was also his Godfather.
Parker and Unwin designed the village of New Earswick at York for the Rowntree Trust and later designed Letchworth Garden City, followed by Hampstead Garden Suburb in 1907.
In 1918 Unwin contributed to the Tudor Walters Report which laid the basis for council housing in later years.
Raymond and Ethel Unwin were present at Carpenter's funeral in 1929. Among the 200 mourners were representatives from trades councils, trade unions, the Labour Party, the Women's Co-operative Guild, and various left-wingers: "no-one of importance" according to one wry comment.
However, the outbreak of the First World War caused him terrible trouble. His instincts for bringing people together prevented him from opposing it, much to the dismay of his friend, the South African socialist and feminist Olive Schreiner.
Interestingly, Frederick Osborn, the activist of new towns and garden cities who worked as housing manager at Letchworth, was quite clear: he opposed the First World War because the great powers had blundered into conflict.
Carpenter's influence as a thinker can be seen in many of these trends, both as a contributor and as a "weathervane" for his times.
Well worth the small investment in taxis
Further to the recent article about the possible HS2 improvements to the station, it occurs to me that there is a simple method of reducing taxi fumes while they are awaiting fares which could be easily included in the overall planning of any new development.
If the waiting area could be sloped down to the collection point then waiting taxis could switch off their engines and merely roll forward as they approach the front of the queue.
This would eliminate idling fumes and would work for most of the year when it is not necessary to heat the cab interior. For winter months, cabs can be fitted with an auxiliary heater which uses significantly less fuel than the engine on tick over. I recognise the fitment of these would involve an outlay but I suggest this would soon be recovered by the fuel saved overall over the lifetime of the cab.
The benefits to all – especially the cab drivers – would be well worth the small investment.
Now as for the trains – didn’t someone mention electrification as part of the Northern Powerhouse?
We can't wait for a change of Government
Although the UN rapporteur, Philip Alston, didn't come to Sheffield his shocking report rings bells here.
I've recently returned from a few weeks' in India. In Amritsar, twice the size of our city, I saw far fewer people begging there than we see on our streets. Indian friends are shocked when I describe the effects of our Government's policies on the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens.
With Universal Credit now being rolled out here, food bank volunteers anticipate more families in need. I am proud that our local Labour Party (Gleadless Valley) has given £750 to our local food bank, on top of members signing up to collect outside Tesco.
We can't wait for a change of Government. Active citizens are ahead of ministers.
Cross Park Road
Attempts to imprison peaceful protesters
Two weeks ago, Coun Olivia Blake wrote “We have listened and it’s great to announce that the vast majority of war memorial trees in the city can now be retained … As we are approaching Remembrance Sunday in the year of the 100th anniversary of the First World War’s armistice, it is important that we ensure that our city can continue to honour the memory of the millions of people who lost their lives in war for the next 100 years and beyond.”
I’m so pleased and relieved that Sheffield Council has decided to retain 20 of the 23 Western Road trees marked for felling but could they please keep this news to straightforward announcements and spare us the hypocrisy.
In less than a year, Olivia Blake has miraculously changed from a cabinet member who voted to chainsaw 41 memorial trees to someone who is now encouraging us all to acknowledge the importance of honouring the war dead. Councillor Ben Curran’s upbeat “Huh? Of course we welcome the news the trees can be retained” tweet from two days ago” contrasts starkly with his vote also to desecrate the memorial trees last December.
If Olivia Blake and Ben Curran have had some epiphany about this issue, apologies would have been appropriate and appreciated. But, there are no apologies because this U-turn isn’t due to any Damascene moment of moral clarity. The reason the Western Road trees were reprieved was because Sheffield Council finally realised they couldn’t bring them down. Felling crews simply wouldn’t be able to set up due to sheer numbers of protesters. Police would probably refuse to provide the officers required. The council’s previous attempts to imprison peaceful protesters have failed and the media would be all over it.