Like all histories our history is complicated and has more than one starting point. On the one hand Saddleworth Clarion Cycling Club (SCCC) was founded in 2010 by Tim Mitchell, Simon Pateman and Mike Gradwell, local cyclists who came together through a mountain bike collective that ran from the Cyclery bike shop in Uppermill, on the other The Clarion was founded in Birmingham in 1894. To know who we are you probably need to know about where we came from.
Of course the world is full of cycling clubs and most of them represent a specific area so the Saddleworth part was easy. They could have just founded a new cycling club but chose to align with the National Clarion Cycling Club (NCCC) because its radical and inclusive history and traditions struck a chord with them and are woven into the people’s history of Saddleworth.
The Clarion was originally a socialist newspaper founded in Manchester in 1891. It drew on a tradition of ‘English Socialism’ and a collective philosophy founded in fellowship and self improvement.
In the days before the Labour Party its readers would cycle to campaign for 'worker' or 'socialist' candidates. It was from these bike rides that the National Clarion was formed first as The Socialist Cycling Club and later as the National Clarion. Of course once the clubs were founded the members began competing against each other.
Locally it was Clarion cyclists who helped to campaign for Victor Grayson to become the first Socialist MP for the Colne Valley (which included Saddleworth).
The Clarion Movement was inclusive from the start and had both male and female members at a time where many other clubs refused to have female members. Many suffragettes were Clarion members, locally, the 'Saddleworth Suffragette' Annie Kennie was a member of the Clarion and as it happens a cousin of Tim Mitchell’s Grandma.
The Clarion movement wasn’t limited to cycling as more and more clubs and societies formed under the Clarion banner - all of whom shared the aim of spreading the socialist message of fellowship, fraternity and equality.
Cycling, rambling, handicrafts, choirs, drama and Cinderella clubs, and various other societies connected with the paper , of which the National Clarion Cycling Club ( NCCC) is one of the few organisations to survive.
Woman’s participation in Clarion Cycling clubs was welcomed from an early age, and the bicycle played an important role in women’s emancipation, and women ended up playing an important role in the Clarion political movement.
In an age where sport and leisure activities were seen as an activity reserved to the upper classes, it cannot be underestimated what opportunities those 19 century clubs must have offered to ordinary working people.
In 2021 NCCC changed its constitution to remove all reference to its own radical history but Saddleworth Clarion remains proud of this past and remains opposed to this change. Of course you won’t see members riding around waving red flags, or discussing Marx or Engels on the club run, and members will come from all mainstream political persuasions. But we are proud to keep the original wording in our own constitution.
“To protect and further the interests of cycling and cyclists. To promote Mutual Aid, Good Fellowship and support for the Principles of Socialism.”
Primarily we are a group of like minded local cyclists enjoying good fellowship and adhering to Clarion socialist principles of tolerance, equality and democracy.