The Clarion, a socialist weekly, was established by Robert Blatchford, a Manchester journalist, in 1890. The paper first appeared in Manchester on 2nd December, 1891. Blatchford announced that the newspaper would follow a “policy of humanity; a policy not of party, sect or creed; but of justice, of reason and mercy.” The first edition sold 40,000 and after a few months settled down to about 30,000 copies a week.
The Clarion newspaper also became involved in a wide-range of different activities including missionary vans, cycling clubs, choirs, handicraft guilds and holiday camps. The various cultural, social and leisure activities promoted in the Clarion paper, offered a complete way of life outside the toil and drabness of the world of work and crowded urban living, and the weekly paper, with its announcements and reports, was essential in enabling Clarion organisations to get started and maintain their existence in the localities.
The Clarion Cycling Club was founded in February 1894 by Tom Groom and five other young cyclists who were members of the BondStreetLabourChurch in Birmingham. Their aim was to ‘combine the pleasures of cycling with the propaganda of Socialism’. The next twelve months saw similar Cycling Clubs being formed by readers of The Clarion newspaper in many other industrial towns. The first Easter Meet of Clarion Cycling Clubs held in Ashbourne (1895) led to the formation of the National Clarion Cycling Club. The object was to be ‘the association of the various Clarion Cycling Clubs for the purpose of Socialist propaganda and for promoting inter-club runs between the clubs of different towns’.
Colin Bradsworth became a member of the Midlands Clarion Cycling Club, which also hosted Clarion Vocal Unions, as well as a range of other additional activities
The Midlands CCC opened its first clubhouse in 1915 at Lyndon End, Yardley, Birmingham, with a dinner to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the founding of the first club.
Colin Charles Bradsworth appears, according to the service record of King Edward’s school in Birmingham listing the record of old boys, to have served in the military during the First World War; if so, it is likely that this marked him out for life as an advocate of peace.
CCC moved its clubhouse to Wagon Lane, Sheldon, Birmingham in 1920, which was large enough to house dances, as well as containing sleeping accommodation, but it closed sometime in the early 1930s.
The decline of the Clarion movement after 1914 may have been a result of both the massive social changes that arose in the post-war period, and Blatchford’s support for British militarism. But Bradsworth, a Communist Party member from the early days, would indirectly resurrect the name Clarion so that it still resonates in Birmingham by a circuitous route.
Bradsworth served for two years on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War. As “Doc” Bradsworth, he was part of the medical team for the Canadian section of the International Brigades, the MacKenzie-Papineau battalion, during the Spanish Civil War. On his return to Britain, he was the founder of a Birmingham branch of the Socialist Medical Association, which was one of the most active in the country.
Then, late in 1939, Bradsworth announced that he wanted to start a workers’ choir at a Daily Worker social dance at Bristol Street Schools. A large number of Communist Party members took him up on the offer and, in time the choir was named Clarion, in honour of Bradworth and his earlier associations.