In the autumn of 1936, some 200 men from the Tyneside town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest against the destruction of their towns and industries. Precisely 80 years on, Stuart Maconie, walks from north to south retracing the route of the emblematic Jarrow Crusade. Following history’s footsteps, Maconie is in search of what Modern Britain is really like today.
Travelling down the country’s spine, Maconie moves through a land that is, in some ways, very much the same as the England of the thirties with its political turbulence, austerity, north/south divide, food banks and of course, football mania. Yet in other ways, it is completely unrecognisable; highstreets peppered with pound shops and e-cigarette vendors, smoothie bars and Costas on every corner.
Maconie visits the great, established and yet evolving cities of Leeds, Sheffield and London, as well as the sleepy hamlets, quiet lanes and roaring motorways. He meets those with stories to tell and whose voices build a funny, complex and entertaining tale of Britain, then and now. Written in Maconie’s signature style, this is a fascinating exploration of a modern nation that, though looks and sounds strangely familiar, has been completely transformed.
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
This felt quite an emotional journey for me in many respects, as my father was a Durham man born in 1913 and a Miner from the age of 13. Even back in 1936 the walk of 200 men from Jarrow to Downing Street, caused so many different reactions every step of the way. From welcoming brass bands, cinema tickets, new clothing and full bellies for the men to places that only offered a concrete floor to sleep on in the cold nights of late October. Snippets of stories have been added on and some of the journey sketchy but the core of this historical event still lives on.
Stuart Maconie took it on himself to retrace the steps of this journey on the same calendar dates as they had, 80 years after these men, calling in staying at the same places. Maconie made comparisons to the then and now of the cities, towns and villages that he went through. He spoke to residents about what they knew and even managed to track down some that saw and even spoke to the men.
I was fascinated with this story, the then and now versions that compared how the places had changed and the reception that he got from locals and how he thought the march would be received in each area now. There were even a few that came out and met him on the route including a bunch of college students taking him under their wing, well for an afternoon with them asking questions.
I knew so many of the places, where I have lived, shopped and have family which at times made me proud of the local people to quite shocked. I feel really quite privileged to have shared Stuart Maconie’s journey, which made me feel very humble. I congratulate this author for his undertaking this epic journey and his historical comparisons to his own experiences. Long live courageous and proud men!
I originally received this e-book from NetGalley which I have reviewed honestly.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stuart Maconie is a TV and radio presenter, journalist, columnist and author.
He is the UK’s best-selling travel writer of non-TV tie-in books and his Pies and Prejudice was one of 2008’s top selling paperbacks. His work has been compared with Bill Bryson, Alan Bennett and John Peel and described by The Times as a ‘National Treasure’.
He co-hosts the Radcliffe and Maconie Show on BBC Radio 2 every Monday – Thursday evening, as well as The Freak Zone on 6Music on Sunday afternoons, and has written and presented dozens of other shows on BBC Radio. His TV work includes presenting the BBC’s On Trial shows, Pop on Trial and Style on Trial, as well as Stuart Maconie’s TV Towns, a popular gazeteer of major British cities and their roles in modern cultural life for ITV 4 and The Cinema Show/The DVD Collection on BBC 4.
As well as a popping up in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, and on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Stuart was a favourite on hit TV series such as the BBC’s I love the 1970s’ , I love the 1980s , and is now in variously Grumpy… . His other books include the acclaimed official biographies of both Blur and James. He can name GQ Man of the Year and Sony Awards Radio Broadcaster of the Year amongst his accolades. He has regular columns in The Radio Times and Country Walking and writes for WORD magazine and The Mirror.