Thursday, November 30, 2017

Lives of the Walsall Bombers

by Christopher Draper

[Part 2 of the Walsall bomb story]

Quail’s account of the “Walsall Anarchists” describes the 1892 conviction of Joe Deakin, Fred Charles, Jean Battola (sic) and Victor Cailes (sic) for bomb making but doesn’t reveal much of their lives. Nick Heath usefully outlined the careers of both Deakin and Charles with just a couple of minor errors and omissions but the other pair, Battolla and Cails, have been neglected and what of the one that got away?

Joe’s Conversion
Joseph Thomas Deakin founded Walsall Socialist Club as an affiliate organisation of the SDF, which initially reflected his own politics. Heath suggests two elements shifted Deakin over to anarchism, the departure of influential party loyalist Hadyn Sanders and the persuasiveness of Joe’s overseas contacts. Nick’s right on the first negative factor but the positive influence came from closer to home, in the form of local French exile, Edmond Joseph Guillemard. As the Birmingham Post recorded, “After Mr H Sanders left the town, Guillemard, a foreigner, assumed the local leadership and he seems to have converted the majority of this Walsall club to his views, including Deakin.” Subsequently Walsall was, “regarded by local Socialists as an Anarchist hotbed” with clubrooms “ornamented with Walter Crane’s large allegorical compositions; a photo of the heads of a number of men described as “the heroes of the Revolution of 1871 – vanquished today , victorious tomorrow; another in praise of Anarchie and placards announcing a French class one night a week.” By 1891 Deakin considered himself an anarchist although evidently an unreliable one who cracked under interrogation and coughed to the cops.

Fred Who?
Although it’s known Fred Charles’s original surname was “Slaughter” it’s been assumed he simply substituted his middle name. In fact, “Charles” formed no part of Fred’s birth name, which was “Frederick Christopher Slaughter. Born in Norwich in 1864, his dad was Christopher Slaughter, aged 69, and his mum, Lucy Emily (nee Bowman) 40 years younger. At the time of their 1861 marriage, Christopher was a widowed Norwich shopkeeper with Lucy, his niece, serving as live-in housekeeper.

Fred’s dad died when he was just three and his sister, Lucy Bowman Slaughter, only one but the family could still afford a servant and in his early twenties Fred had enough money to open a comradely café in Norwich. At that stage he called himself Frederick Charles Slaughter. Fred evidently proved more adept at dispensing politics than pots of tea and at the end of 1888 the business went belly-up. Perhaps this prompted him to make a clean break, drop his original surname and move away from Norwich. The April 1891 census found “27 year-old clerk, Fred Charles” in Hackney, sharing lodgings with the German-born libertarian, Gertrud Guillaume-Schack. In May he shifted to Sheffield in search of employment and despite the militant appeal of comrade Creaghe he was compelled by economic necessity to move on. It’s assumed Fred moved directly to Walsall but he first tried Birmingham. Still unemployed, he found the tame politics of Brum’s Stafford Street Socialist Club so stifling that in July he transferred to “Walsall’s hotbed of anarchy” and the rest, as they say, is (already adequately recorded) history.

Invisible Italian
Following imprisonment Deakin returned to Walsall and Charles settled at Whiteway anarchist colony but what of the other two? Quail claimed, “Cailes (sic) remained in the Soho area and Battola (sic) seems to have disappeared” but my research suggests otherwise.
After Battolla’s release in September 1899 he was given £10 from benefit funds but had to rapidly find employment. Whilst Charles prioritised rebuilding his health by feverishly cycling around the countryside, Battolla was beavering away in a Soho garret at his former, injuriously dusty trade of shoemaking. In November 1899 Reynolds News reported, “His health is very bad, the doctor recommends him plenty of fresh air but unfortunately he cannot take this prescription for he has no means of living save by his labour.”
Jean (actually Giovanni) Battolla was born in Portovenere, La Spezia, Italy on 18th December 1862 to Camille Battolla and Louise. His mum’s maiden name was “Dejani” and he sometimes adopted this as a sort of nom de guerre. He was already an anarchist evading the authorities when he married Josephine Eugenie Barthelemy in Marseilles on 8th December 1883. Persecuted for revolutionary words rather than violent action, Battolla nonetheless featured (above) on the French Secret Police’s blacklist and on 7th February 1891 was banned from the country. Taking refuge in London he frequented the Autonomie Club where he made the unfortunate acquaintance of Auguste Coulon. Battolla’s police mugshot reveals his stylish demeanour, “tall, dark and of good personal appearance”. Meeting proletarian Walsall comrades “he was splendidly attired in a silk top hat and Inverness cape” but he also had a heart. Writing to Edward Carpenter from Dartmoor in December 1897; “I must tell you a few words about our winged friends here: - pigeons come to take bread from our hands. Jackdaws, crows, starlings and blackbirds come within two or three feet to take the same food. They dance, sing and look on us very kindly, they befriend us in every way. Were it not for those gentle creatures there would be a good many more poor barmy men.”
After his release, in April 1900 Reynolds News confided, “Battolla and Cails are not faring too well at present. Battolla has succeeded in obtaining some work but his health is so bad that he is hardly in a condition to perform his task properly and really needs a few weeks rest in the country to set him right again.” Deakin and Charles soon returned to their former lives, but as exiles, Cails and Battolla both struggled yet conscientiously attended anarchist meetings to explain their prison experiences. Gradually Battolla’s energies were confined more towards solving his own economic problems than those of society and he sunk his benefit money in a lodging house partnership with a woman named Bennett. His estranged wife remained in France until September 1902 when there was a most curious and dramatic development.
Josephine Eugenie Battolla turned up at Giovanni’s Gower Street lodging house and was invited to stay for a while but after a few days he asked her to leave. When she refused she was assaulted by Mrs Bennett but instead of returning to France she moved to Goodge Street and initiated legal proceedings. First she managed to get Bennett bound over and then with a further legal action she successfully sued Giovanni for maintenance. These minor court actions were widely publicised across Britain with hundreds of newspapers carrying almost identical reports. It was almost as if someone had consciously orchestrated a smear campaign. A century later we discover that on 17th December 1902 following her action against Bennett the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch paid Josephine Battolla £5. On 11th February 1903, after her subsequent maintenance action MPSB gave her a further £2 - what an extraordinary coincidence!
After fathering a son, Dante, with Kate Martini, a young English woman, in 1905 Battolla and his new family emigrated back to his Italian birthplace. A daughter arrived the following year but on 19th April 1910 the family of four sailed aboard the SS Oceania from Genoa, landing in New York on the 3rd May. Once again Battolla’s personal relationships ruptured and the family split. Dante remained in New York with Giovanni (now John but still shoemaking) until he left school but by 1920 he’d moved to join his sister and mum in Patterson, New Jersey where Kate worked as a silk weaver. After that I can find no trace of any of them.

“A Typical Anarchist”
Victor Cails was a more active, determined and sustained anarchist than Battolla and more obviously looked the part. On his arraignment in the magistrates’ court he was unfavourably compared to Charles, “the difference between the two men was very marked – Charles being neatly dressed and of easy manners and good bearing, a not unfavourable specimen of the class; but Cailes (sic) with stubbly beard, swarthy face, restless gleaming eyes, untidy dress and excitable demeanour, might have sat for an artist as a typical anarchist”.
Born on 16th February 1858 in Nantes, Brittany, as a teenager Victor joined the navy and subsequently served as a marine engineer or stoker with bouts of general labouring in between voyages. In Nantes around 1880 he became a militant anarchist. During the late 1880’s his voyaging led to “Devil’s Island” where he befriended and covertly carried letters for the imprisoned anarchist Clement Duval.
After leading the 1891 Nantes May Day demonstration, Victor was indicted for, “distribution of writings, exciting crimes of murder, looting and burning” but escaped and tried in absentia was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. After a brief period serving as stoker on a Glasgow riverboat he moved down to London, making his way to the Autonomie Club, where he teamed up for six weeks with Luigi Parmeggiani in an ill-conceived cheesemaking and street selling enterprise. Unfortunately Cails was also befriended by Coulon who “helpfully” wrote requesting Walsall comrades to find him a job. They got him foundry work but Cails was hopeless so a Socialist Club member called Young put him up in his own house in Green Lane and tried to teach him his own trade of chainmaking. Once again Victor proved inept so another comrade, John Westley, employed him in his brush-making business.
In a letter published in the Sheffield Anarchist, in September 1891, Cails claimed, “Two thirds of the population live in a state of misery and poverty, while society does not trouble itself…unfortunates who having received nothing from society owe nothing to that society and owe nothing to its laws.”
Although Victor was earning less than 9s 6d a week he wrote to his partner, Marie Piberne in Nantes, urging her to come over and join him. In Walsall Marie managed to supplement their meagre income with a spot of dressmaking but the pair remained impoverished and so to help them out the members suggested they move into an unoccupied room at the Socialist Club and act as caretakers. They’d only been there three days when they were arrested. Subsequently released, Marie told reporters she wasn’t married to Victor but for three years the pair had lived happily together in Nantes before the police came after him. Sadly their relationship didn’t survive Cail’s imprisonment and Marie returned to France.
After eight years inside Cails was, significantly, the last of the four to be released, in December 1899, “on account of not having made all his good conduct marks”. Like the others he was also in a bad way and as a mariner he had the additional problem of obtaining his old testimonials before he could be taken on as a crewman. The police had confiscated his certificates on his arrest and refused to hand them back. Victor twice visited Scotland Yard where Inspector Melville insisted the Chief Constable of Walsall had them but he denied this and Cails continued to be given the run-around until finally the Walsall Town Clerk “managed to track down” two translations of his original certificates. Despite Melville’s denials it seemed the MPSB retained the original certificates.
 In September 1900 Reynold’s News recorded Cails’ continuing police harassment, “Now they are continually calling at my lodging to ask me if I have shifted from where I live and how am I managing to exist etc. They have also resumed the policy of “shadowing” me about, which had been discontinued since my last complaint in Reynolds. I believe they have no legal right to molest me in this manner while I comply with the terms of my licence. I think it the meanest impertinence to ask me to supply their absence of brains.”
Eventually Victor found work on building sites at Milwall Dock and the V & A Museum. He maintained a close friendship with Louise Michel and was visited by Creaghe who failed to persuade him to join him in Argentina. Cails’ correspondence with Louise reveals a sensitive side of his character with a real concern that she will look after his dog as, in July 1903 he was about to embark on a 15 month contract crewing aboard a large sailing ship, probably Noemi, about to depart Tyne Dock, South Shields for San Francisco. Briefly back in London in 1905 he gave witness at anarchist Parmeggiani’s libel action, before returning to sea as crewman on the French ship Dugual-Trouin which sailed for New Caledonia.
Eventually settling back in France, Victor was an anarchist to the end and almost his final act was production of the Italian bulletin, Polemiche Nostre in August 1925. In March 1926 the anarchist press reported the recent death in Paris of Victor Cails, “He had courageously put himself to work and had exhausted himself in it.”

The Fifth Man?
Walsall anarchist, Edmond Joseph Guillemard has been oddly overlooked. As I mentioned above, he was the man who turned the Walsall Socialist Club anarchist. When Deakin was arrested his old state-socialist buddy Hadyn Sanders told the Pall Mall Gazette, “He was loath to believe Deakin was in touch with the Anarchist party…he believed Deakin to be a Socialist who believed it possible to improve the condition of workers by Parliamentary methods.” Having persuaded Deakin to anarchy, in August 1891 Guillemard accompanied him to the Brussels Anarchist Congress. A couple of months later when the sketch of the bomb arrived in the post, as Reynolds’ News reported, “all of them talked the matter over and then a man named Guillemard made a pattern” yet curiously, there is no record that Edmond was even interviewed by police. Despite being well established in Walsall for more than a decade, with both himself and his wife having steady employment, enjoying comradeship at the Club and having two brothers and their families in the Birmingham area Guillemard suddenly shifted to Lincoln. The 1901 census records that he’d also altered his name to Edmond Joseph Acton (his wife’s maiden name) and changed his registered birthplace from France to Cardiff! I leave readers to speculate on the significance of all this but on future blogs I’ll explain how the Secret State had (and continues to have) its grubby fingers all over this “conspiracy”.     

                       (CD, December 2017)

CD is happy to supply further details about sources for this research. 
Enquiries via blog Comments or RaHN email: 

Part 3 to follow...

Friday, November 10, 2017

Is this the Walsall Bomb?

"One aspect of this case that is especially interesting is the State's determination to resist disclosure at every level..."

(Guest blog from Christopher Draper – 1.)

John Quail’s account of “The Walsall Anarchists” in his classic “The Slow Burning Fuse” remains unchallenged after almost forty years but it left some unanswered questions.
  1. What became of the physical evidence presented at the 1892 trial?
  2. What was the ultimate fate of the imprisoned anarchists after their release?
  3. Who exactly was Auguste Coulon, the “Secret Agent” mysteriously absent from the trial proceedings?
 The Evidence
Over the intervening years I’ve researched these questions and turned up some interesting leads that I’ll describe in this and two subsequent posts. Here I’ll deal with that first question and submit this picture of “the bomb” for your consideration. Contemporary press reports make extensive, if somewhat inconsistent, reference to numerous artefacts employed by the Walsall anarchists in their alleged enterprise, including - “a sketch of a bomb with instructions (in French) how to make the bomb”, “wooden pear-shaped patterns”, “plaster core-stocks”, “a quantity of clay mixed with hair, evidently for moulding purposes”, “a coil of miner’s fuse”, “a hollow brass casting”, “a leaden bolt” and a “bomb, a conical iron shell four or five inches long”. I’ll deal with issues of guilt or innocence in the second article, here I simply ask if this is really, as claimed by its inscription, the Walsall Anarchist Bomb”?
 Where’s that Bomb?
The leading role of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch in securing the conviction of the Walsall anarchists is well recognised and prompted post-Quail researchers to focus their attention on MPSB archives but as I’ll discuss in my piece on Coulon this yielded vital but limited results. As my parents lived for years in Walsall I was curious whether their local police might have retained some evidence from the case.
Following reorganisation, Walsall is now part of the “West Midlands Police Force” which has a small police museum accommodated in Smethwick Police Station. Aware of my interest in the case a local contact sent me the above illustration which prompted me to wonder if “the bomb” might be gathering dust in the WMP museum. Although the museum was developed and maintained as more of a part-time hobby pursuit by an enthusiastic (and now deceased) copper than as an academic or legal resource nonetheless it comes under the auspices of WMP and therefore is open to Freedom of Information Requests (FOIR). 

 The Crucible
Investigating Black Country history I also came across an illustration (above) that was said to be the very crucible that cast the Walsall Bomb. There was no suggestion that it had ever been taken into police custody as it had been effectively and deliberately concealed. Like the police museum, Walsall’s civic museum is moribund but nonetheless the local authority are subject to FOIR, so I sent them an email.
Walsall Museum Service duly confirmed that they do indeed hold this object which is catalogued as, “Height 29.7cm; Diameter 18cm - A casting crucible that was found under the floorboards at a foundry. It is alleged to have been used in casting the bomb casings of the Walsall Anarchists Bomb Plot of 1892.”  I was further informed that the find-site was Algernon Street (now the Crown Wharf Development) which suggests it was concealed beneath the Faraday Works which is ironic as the conspirators initially claimed they were merely contriving “electrical lubricators”.
The recorded dimensions of the crucible are too imprecise to make an informed judgement but they are not out of line with the size of the “bomb” described in court proceedings.

 Un-FOIR Response from WMP
On 4th September 2017 I submitted the following FOIR to West Midlands Police, “I request copies of all information and artefacts held by WMP relating to what became known as the “1892 Walsall Anarchist Bomb Case”
Initially WMP suggested I cancel my FOIR and instead make informal inquiries of their “Heritage Project”. When I declined to go down that route WMP refused to supply any substantive information, claiming FOI exemption “by virtue of S14(1) (Vexatious Requests)”.
On the 18th October 2017 I invoked the WMP internal appeals procedure. If they do not come up with the goods within a week I will appeal to the Information Commissioner (IC). Yet even now I haven’t entirely drawn a blank, in the course of exchanging emails WMP disclosed that, “The information that we hold in respect of your request is a very old, large, fragile and very rare document”, and tantalisingly it might well offer unique insight into the case.
The law more or less requires compliance with FOIR unless it would cost authorities more than £450 (18hrs labour) to do so. It seems unlikely that photographing this document and sending me jpegs would prove excessively burdensome and I think they are trying it on and will eventually be overruled by the IC. If they intended to facilitate (as obliged by legislation) rather than frustrate my FOIR it is curious that they also admit, “that we do hold a summary of the document and could supply this electronically” yet steadfastly refuse to do so. I’ll let you know how this pans out and meanwhile I ask comrades not to intervene with WMP until I’ve exhausted the official appeals procedure.

 Where are we Now?
We now know WMP holds substantive previously unexamined archival evidence on the Walsall anarchists. It is likely they also have the, “Walsall Anarchist Bomb” illustrated, although they were careful neither to confirm nor deny this in our email exchanges. Walsall Museum Service retains the “bombers’ crucible” and the exact significance of this object might itself become clearer once I obtain copies of the information detailed in WMP’s “large, fragile and rare document”.
So is this really the bomb? Well I seriously doubt it. As West Midland police officers examined this evidential exhibit over the last century or so they probably congratulated one another on their courage and moral worthiness in capturing fiends that could produce such a devilish device. And conspiratorial fiends they were too but not anarchist fiends for only one viable bomb casing was ever presented in evidence and its makers were identified in a particularly detailed account of the final day of the trial published in the Birmingham Daily Post of Tuesday April 5th 1892 (incidentally, Frederick Brown was an associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers and Colonel Arthur Ford R.A. Home Office Inspector of Explosives); “From the evidence of Brown and Colonel Ford there was evidence that the iron casting which they had seen, and which had been made by the police from the original patterns of the prisoners would cause such an explosion” (my emphasis)!
So the police themselves almost certainly manufactured, Walsall Anarchist Bomb – 1892”. What other evidence they manufactured in 1892 might soon be revealed by the Walsall Papers WMP seem so determined to keep secret. I’ll keep you posted.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Towards end-of-year: listings round-up

Largely irrelevant, vaguely seasonal illustration
(rebel robin, does one-bird food riots).
See also "Autumn Listings continued" 
and "More about 1917" 

Announcement from Past Tense:

The 2018 London Rebel History Calendar is now available! Out a bit late, but finally printed.

Rebellious, subversive and campaigning anniversaries from London's radical history...for every day of next year.

It can be bought online at:

Yours for only £6 plus £3 postage and packing.

It will also soon be hitting the usual radical and independent bookshops around London, (email us if you would like a list) 
and will be buyable from Ak Distribution -
and Active Distribution -

UPDATE from Past Tense:

"Rebellious, subversive and campaigning anniversaries from London's radical history...for every day of next year. It can be bought online at:

Yours for only £6 plus £3 postage and packing.
It is also on sale in around 30 radical and independent bookshops and other spaces around London, (email us if you would like a list)

and will be buyable from Ak Distribution -
and Active Distribution -

Why not help distribute the Calendar? If you would like a bundle to sell to friends, stroppy grandparents, fellow churchgoers and workmates, we would happy to supply some at a discount, to make if worth your while... just get in touch with us..." <>

Inaugural Liberty Lecture with Ali Smith.
[From LibertyOn Tuesday 6 November award-winning author Ali Smith will deliver the first annual Liberty Lecture – with all proceeds supporting work to defend human rights in the UK.
Ali was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, and has long been a supporter of Liberty. She backed our campaigns against extending pre-charge detention, helped stop Westminster Council criminalising giving free food to homeless people, and contributed a beautiful piece to celebrate our 80th birthday.
On 6 November, after offering her eloquent insight on the latest challenges to our rights and freedoms, Ali will answer questions in a Q&A session chaired by Creative Writing lecturer Dr Nikita Lalwani. Tickets: 
  • £10 Standard rate, £5 Concessions rate (students / unwaged / retired) 
News from Nowhere Club Meeting
Saturday 11th November 2017
Community-Led Regeneration
Speaker: Simon Myers, CEO of the Gasworks Dock Partnership
"Simon’s talk will include slides, sharing some of his experiences from the grassroots regeneration of Cody Dock in East London. ‘Topics to be covered: the back story to how and why the charity GDP was formed; what was achieved by volunteers and the community; our long term mission and master plan for Cody Dock; what we have learnt and would like to share with others.’"
At the Epicentre, West St E11
7.30pm vegetarian buffet  8pm talk
Please arrive after 7.30pm
Enquiries 0208 555 5248
Free entry
                     Saturday 9th December 2017
Felting: Adapting a Prehistoric Skill for Modern Art
                    Speaker: Nicola Hughes
  ‘Felting, the ancient process of converting fleece to felted wool, is now a popular hobby and living for many crafts people and artists, such as myself. Whereas the everyday use of wool has decreased considerably with the advent of modern materials, the recent expansion of felting skills is leading to new and exciting uses for wool. This in turn has begun to improve the outlook for sheep farmers and led to an improvement in the fortunes of those rare breeds with specialist wools. This talk will include some practical participation in a small seasonal bit of felt making!’ Please bring a towel and a cup.
 BUFFET (vegetarian) 7.30pm              
TALK 8pm
Free entry                         
Enquiries 0208 555 5248

Venue: Epicentre, West Street E11 4LJ
Manchester and Salford Anarchist Bookfair 
2 December 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(The Mary Quaile Club will be running our stall again at  the Manchester and Salford Anarchist Bookfair  which will take place on Saturday 2 December, 11am to 6pm.)

It  is in a new venue, Partisan, 19 Cheetham Hill Road, M4 4FY, which is just 5 minutes walk from Victoria Station. Partisan is a space for independent, community led, DIY and cultural based projects in Manchester. More information
There will a wide variety of stalls as well as talks.

From Medact:

Musicians for Peace & Disarmament - Winter Concert for Peace

Dedicated to the memory of Nona Liddell MBE & conducted by Jane Glover CBE

Date: Friday 24th November | Time: 7.30pm - 9.30pm
Venue: St. James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly, London W1 9LL
For full details of the programme and to book tickets see the website or email


An ICAN UK [International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weaponsdemonstration to mark Nobel Peace Prize win

Date: Saturday 9th December | Time: 11.00am - noon
Venue: Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2HB
More details to follow but please keep the date free!
And in Manchester (from WCML) - 
Nobel Peace Prize partyThe International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has won the Nobel Prize for Peace 2017.
 CND is a member of ICAN and so Greater Manchester CND are planning to celebrate in style with a party to celebrate the peace movement at the Friends Meeting House6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS on Saturday 2 December from 2 to 4pm.  There’ll be music from Claire Mooney and RISE!, a visit from Julie Hesmondhalgh, and readings from Hazel Roy.
 Admission free; please bring food to share.
NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS, Manchester & Salford Branch

FILM SCREENING - Belonging: The Truth Behind The Headlines 

SATURDAY, 25th November 2pm
Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, 

This month we will are showing  Belonging: The Truth Behind The Headlines, directed and produced by Morag Livingstone, a BECTU member and also a member of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom's National Council.  More details about the film are here
EVERYONE WELCOME - the film is open to non NUJ members
Belonging: The Truth Behind the Headlines is an investigative feature documentary film about where power lies in the UK.  Re-looking at events around 3 industrial disputes, 3 governments and over 3 decades it shows the impact of government and corporate power on democracy and human rights in the UK.   
FROM Letterbox Library a not-for-profit social enterprise -
A Shake Up of Judges for the Little Rebels Award
for Radical Children’s Fiction

The prize for the children’s book which best celebrates social justice is back for its 6th year-with a shake up of the judging panel! Three new judges will be joining the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award: Patrice Lawrence, Emily Drabble and Darren Chetty. This year, the award will be administered by two radical booksellers, Housmans Bookshop and Letterbox Library, on behalf of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB). Submissions are now open.

Speaking about her appointment, prize-winning YA author, Patrice Lawrence, said, “I am looking forward to being a Little Rebels judge because a story can tilt my world. A picture can open a trove of new ideas for me. I can’t wait to be challenged and provoked by the books coming my way.” Emily Drabble, Head of Children’s Book Promotions/Prizes at BookTrust (formerly co-editor of the Guardian children’s book site) said, “I’m totally passionate about children getting their hands on the best books, books that make them think, and books that will make a difference to the world - and that’s exactly what this award is all about.” Darren Chetty, Teaching Fellow at UCL and contributor to The Good Immigrant and A Change is Gonna Come added, “I’m delighted to be a Little Rebels judge…I know as a reader and a teacher how stories can open up all manner of possibilities, and how they provide solace, escapism and new connections with the world.”

The new judges will be joining award-winning author and scriptwriter, Catherine Johnson, now in her 3rd year of judging, and B.J.Epstein, Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia and author of Are the Kids All Right? The Representation of LGBTQ Characters and Young Adults’ Literature.   

Publishers are now being invited to submit children’s fiction for readers aged 0-12 which promote social justice and which were first published in 2017. Full submission guidelines can be found at The closing date for nominations is January 15th 2018.

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is a sister award to the Bread & Roses Award for adult non-fiction. Both are the inspiration of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers, a network of radical booksellers in the UK. Prizes will be presented at the 6th London Radical Bookfair on Saturday June 2nd 2018. 

ContactFen Coles
Letterbox Library
Unit 151 Stratford Workshops
Burford Road
Stratford E15 2SP
Tel: 020 8534 7502

Further Information
About the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award
The Little Rebels Award is given by the ARB and was established in conjunction with Letterbox Library. Full details of the award, including the shortlist and prize giving ceremony for previous years, can be found at:

About Letterbox Library
Letterbox Library is a 34-year-old, not-for-profit, children’s booksellers and social enterprise. They specialise in children’s books which celebrate diversity, equality & inclusion as well as books which promote social justice.

About Housmans Bookshop
Housmans Bookshop is one of London’s longest surviving and last remaining radical bookshops. Housmans is a founder member of the ARB. They were awarded the London Independent Bookshop of the Year Award in 2016.

About the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB)
The ARB is a supportive community for the UK’s radical booksellers; The ARB also runs the (adult) Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing.

About the London Radical Bookfair
Hosted by the ARB, this fair was run for the first time on May 11th 2013. .

Significant dates
The closing date for nominations for the Little Rebels Award is Jan 15th 2018; the shortlist will be announced in May 2018; the winner will be announced at the ARB’s London Radical Bookfair on 2nd JUNE 2018.

A young reader, 2007
From Sparrows' Nest:

Nefarious Notts: Radical Archiving: Stories of Social Protest

We have been asked by the brilliant Nottinghamshire Archives to showcase our collections next week. 
Free entry, booking advised:

Nefarious Notts: Radical Archiving: Stories of Social Protest
Friday, 1st December, 2.30pm at Notts Archives

Visit the Sparrows' Nest website. 
If you wish to contact the Sparrows' Nest please email:

And in London...
Curating Rebellious Histories

Professor Richard Gaunt (University of Nottingham)
Commentators: Alan Morrison and Peter Ride (University of Westminster)

"How do you bring the classroom and the museum collection together? How does the historian use museum artefacts in teaching or research? How do museums make use of academic expertise? Reflecting on his experiences as 'Curator of Rebellion' in Nottingham Castle, bringing to life the rich collections dealing with rebellious histories and movements from Robin Hood to Chartism, Professor Richard Gaunt (University of Nottingham) will address these issues at an event held under the Museums and Universities Partnership Initiative. Come and learn about interpreting and presenting through objects the protests of groups such as the Luddites or the parliamentary reformers of the 1830s and the challenge of making their causes come to life again. What promises to be a lively discussion will be followed by a drinks reception."

11 December 2017, 5.00pm, room UG04

University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London, W1W 2HW

For details of registration please go to the Eventbrite page: 

Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent
SalfordM5 4WX

North West Labour Film Festival North West Labour Film Festival 2017 runs from Saturday 4 to Thursday 9 November in Liverpool. It includes a shorts and feature length film contest.
Invisible Histories

Series continues with a free talk on Wednesday 8 November at 2pm by Dr Andy Clark (Scottish Oral History Centre)The occupation of the factories - women's resistance to factory closure in Scotland, 1981-82. Andy will discuss his research into the wave of factory occupations launched by women in the early ‘80s. At three factories threatened with closure and relocation, the workers took control of the plant and machinery in an attempt to force the companies to change their plans, or to sell them as going concerns. Andy utilised materials held at the Working Class Movement Library as well as original oral history interviews to analyse these underexamined instances of militant resistance, and will discuss the importance of these in the wider historiography of deindustrialisation in central Scotland during this period.

Future Invisible Histories talks are:
22 Nov Cathy Hunt: Brave hearts and missionary zeal - the National Federation of Women Workers 1906-21. Cathy Hunt is a historian and honorary research fellow, Coventry University.
Endemic low pay, deductions and fines, intimidation and insecurity – some of the things women across Britain faced at work in the early 20th century. This talk shows how one union, the all-female National Federation of Women Workers, led by Mary Macarthur, sought not just to help but to encourage activism and fight back at the local level. 

6 Dec                     Neil Faulkner
A people’s history of the Russian Revolution

Full details at

Creative writing workshop and poetry book launch

There will be a creative writing workshop, followed by the launch of a new poetry anthology, in the Library annexe on Wednesday 15 November from 1pm to 4.30pm.
Building Bridges is an Arts Council England-funded project that has brought groups of writers from indigenous and migrant/refugee backgrounds together to write creatively about works of art in Greater Manchester, Middlesbrough and Finland. An anthology of work has been produced after a series of events in the various locations led by poets Bob Beagrie, Andy Willoughby, Tony Walsh, Kieren King, Kalle Niinikangas and Esa Hirvonen.
Beagrie and Willoughby will first lead a free creative writing workshop responding to the art of the working class in Salford and Manchester, linking to images from the collection of the Working Class Movement Library, between 1pm and 2.30pm. After that the launch will feature readings from the anthology and contributions from the afternoon workshop participants. Copies of the anthology will be on sale with a 20% discount for this very special event. Free refreshments will be provided by the book's publishers, Ek Zuban Press.
Free; all welcome. If you wish to attend email to confirm a place at the workshop.

White poppies - The Library has white poppies on sale to visitors until Friday 10 November.
The Peace Pledge Union has been distributing white poppies for peace since 1934. The white poppy remains a symbol of grief for everyone who has been harmed by war but also a symbol of determination to work to abolish war. Proceeds from sales of the poppies will go to the Peace Pledge Union
Wikipedia edit-a-thon
Following on from last year’s very popular edit-a-thon we are again seeking your help to share knowledge of  significant moments in British history, and invite you to come and spend a day researching and editing Wikipedia.  The event, run jointly by the Library and the People's History Museum, is on Sunday 19 November, 10am to 4pmjust bring a laptop and a packed lunch, and we’ll provide the coffee…  It’s suitable for adults and young people, particularly for those with experience of editing Wikipedia or knowledge of British political history.
 The event is being run in conjunction with Manchester Girl Geeks, a not-for-profit group which organises networking events, talks and hands-on workshops for women and girls with an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and in partnership with Wikimedia UK.  It is is part of UK Parliament Week 2017.
The event, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Library/Museum’s joint Collecting Cultures project, is free but advance booking is required via Eventbrite at, so that we can send you details of how to create a Wikipedia account for yourself in advance of the day.
Celebrating the bicentenary of William Hone's trials
Join us on Thursday 16 November from 6.30pm to celebrate the bicentenary of a pivotal event in the history of British censorship - when, in December 1817, the radical satirist and publisher William Hone successfully defended himself in three high-profile prosecutions for blasphemous and seditious libel.  Fiona Milne (University of York) will introduce us to Hone’s trials and political satires, examining why the state tried so hard to suppress Hone’s pamphlets, and why Hone’s victory was important.
Katherine Inglis (University of Edinburgh) will explore the case of Henry Vizetelly, prosecuted and imprisoned for obscene libel, for publishing Emile Zola’s works in translation. She will use Vizetelly's case to look at how censorship targeted working-class readers.
The Library has a wealth of related materials in its collections, and there’ll be a chance to handle original documents, including political pamphlets and published editions of trials.
We hope to open up a discussion on these cases and the issues they raise, including censorship, working-class readers, political protest, “forbidden books”, and the changing legal face of censorship in Britain.
UPDATEThere are still a few places left (it's free to sign up) as we mark the bicentenary of a pivotal event in the history of British censorship (Thursday, 16 November from 6.30pm) - when radical satirist and publisher William Hone successfully defended himself in three high-profile prosecutions for blasphemous and seditious libel. 
There will be a chance to handle original documents, including political pamphlets and published editions of trials. And we'll be discussing broader issues around censorship, working class readers, political protest, “forbidden books”, and the changing legal face of censorship in Britain.
It's free - book a place here.
Celebrate the centenary of the Bolshevik RevolutionThe Communist Party of Britain, North West District is hosting an event in the Library annexe on Saturday 18 November from 1.30 to 4pm, to commemorate and examine the events of 100 years ago.  Speakers will include Liz Payne, National Chair of the Communist Party of Britain, and Navid Shomali of the Tudeh Party of Iran.
Manchester Martyrs' 150th anniversaryOn 23 November 1867, three Irishmen, Michael O'Brien, William Philip Allen and Michael Larkin, were hanged in public in Salford for the murder of a police sergeant during the rescue of two Fenian leaders.
Although the three were known to be involved with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, there was no evidence that they had been involved in the policeman's killing. All of them protested their innocence to the end, becoming known as the Manchester Martyrs.
The political and historical importance of this episode, and the various ways in which it has been commemorated over the past 150 years, is the focus of a Connolly Association public meeting to be held here in the Library annexe on Thursday 23 November at 6pm.  The talk will be given by Donal Fallon, a historian and writer based in Dublin. He is the biographer of 1916 revolutionary John McBride.
More information about the event here.   And you can head here to the Library blog to read the fascinating story of an unusual item in the Library collection, a maquette (model) of a proposed monument by the Liverpool sculptor, Arthur Dooley, commissioned by the Manchester branch of the Connolly Association. The subject of the piece is a memorial to the Manchester Martyrs.

Films and conversation with Ken Loach and friendsAlso on Thursday 23 November, from 4pm till midnight at the Moston Miners' Community Arts Centre, there will be an evening of films and conversation with Ken Loach.  Ricky Tomlinson, Smug Roberts, Salford spoken word poet J.B. Barrington and others will also be contributing. Tickets price £20 plus booking fee should be purchased in advance here, and all proceeds are going to Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre.
Moston Miners' Community Arts Centre, 35 Teddington Road, Manchester M40 0DJ.
Talk on John Boyle O'Reilly in Preston
On Wednesday 29 November at 6pm at the Harris Museum in Preston there will be a talk on John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890), radical Irish nationalist, author and campaigner who lived in Preston for a few years and retained an affection for the town and the time he spent there.

He later became involved in the militant revolutionary Irish nationalist movement, the Fenians, was imprisoned and transported to Australia from where he escaped, finally settling in Boston in the US. Here he became noted for his literary work and his campaigning for Irish independence and the rights of American workers.
This event will feature display boards highlighting O’Reilly’s adventurous and dramatic life, and will be accompanied by a talk from Dr Máirtín Ó Catháin, Senior Lecturer in Modern Irish History at the University of Central Lancashire.
Free tickets and more details here.
Southern Voices WW1 exhibition returns
If you missed the exhibition by Southern VoicesOut of the shadows: World War I's hidden voices, when it was here at the Library recently, you have another chance to see it!  The exhibition, exploring the role and experiences of colonised peoples of the British West Indies, Nigeria, India and German and British East Africa during World War I,will be at Manchester Central Library (First Floor), St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD from 7 December until 24 February. Opening times 9am-8pm Mon-Thurs and 9am-5pm Fri-Sat.
There is also a free opening night event on Wednesday 6 December, including speakers Ahmed El-Hassan (Southern Voices) and Colette Williams (Mbari), plus live performance from Jaydev Mistry (music), Rani Moorthy (dramatised readings) and Kooj Chuhan (VJ projection).  First Floor exhibition from 5.30pm, then speakers and performance from 6.30pm on Ground Floor.  Advance booking is strongly
Independent Working Class Education Network is planning sessions/Day Schools for early 2018. 
Two ideas are  - 
  • Public Ownership (3 Feb, jointly with We Own It) London
  • "If Jeremy Corbyn become PM - What can we expect in the first 100 days?"
From History & Policy -
A witness seminar on the NHS; and RHS Public History Prize

The introduction of the NHS Internal Market
5 December 2017 - 13:30 pm - 17:00 pm
The University of Liverpool in London, 33 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1AG

This witness seminar forms part of the Wellcome Trust funded 'Governance of Health' project at the University of Liverpool
The seminar will explore the introduction of the NHS internal market in 1991, which introduced managed competition in the NHS, self-governing hospitals and GP fundholding. The event will bring together leading representatives of the medical profession, civil service, health services management, health economics and government to discuss the origins of the reforms, their aims and their impact. As the NHS faces an uncertain future, what lessons can we learn from one of the most important moments in its recent history?

Confirmed participants include: Professor Nick Bosanquet. Andrew Burchell. Kenneth Clarke MP. Professor Alain Enthoven. Sir Graham Hart. Strachan Heppell. Professor Walter Holland. John James. Kenneth Jarrold. Professor Marshall Marinker. Professor Alan Maynard. Dr John Marks. Bob Nicholls. Dr Geoffrey Rivett. Dr Jonathan Shapiro. Dr Graham Winyard.
Chair: Nick Timmins, Author of The Five Giants

A number of audience places will be available. To apply or for more information please contact

Public History Prize 2017
 Nominations close this week [ending 1st December] for the Royal Historical Society's Public History Prize, which recognises work that promotes public understanding of history and communicates a critical understanding of the past. The categories covered by the Prize include Museums & exhibitions; Film & TV; Radio & podcasts; Online resources; Public debate & policy. Two students prizes, one for undergraduates and one for post-graduates, are available."

The Kennington Chartist Project

"Next year [2018] is the 170th anniversary of the Chartist rally on Kennington Common, now Kennington Park. A group of local residents, supported by the Friends of Kennington Park, are planning a project to raise awareness of this historical event and its impact, and to generate ideas for future events or memorials in the park. The aim is to represent a wide range of perspectives and to give as many people as possible the chance to contribute ideas. This survey is to see how much people already know about the history, and to ask which kind of activities people might be most interested in. Please share widely, many thanks," 
- The Kennington Chartist Project Steering Group. Please fill in the form here

Updates to listings will follow as they come in.