Friday, June 29, 2018

Project: Recovering the regional radical press in Britain, 1968-1988

A project based in the Regional History Centre at UWE(University of the West of England) Bristol. [From Twitter via email notification]
From the Summer of Love through the Winter of Discontent to the rise of Thatcherism – these were heady days for radical community organisations and the news media that supported and connected them. Small, co-operatively produced local papers played an important role in radical politics in these critical decades, but few are now remembered and their history has been largely overlooked. Our project will rediscover these lost papers and reconnect with the people who produced them.
The best known radical papers were London based and enjoyed a national reach: Titles like International Times, Undercurrents, Peace News and the Leveller acted as a mouthpiece for countercultural opposition groups, broadly leftist in outlook but politically non-aligned. Some of these papers have been digitally archived; the complete run of International Times, for example – 1966-1978 – can be viewed on the International Times archive, and Peace News, which continues today in online form, maintains a digital archive from 2001 to the present.
What remains largely unrecorded is the regional and provincial network of local journalism that flourished in the same period. At its peak, some 79 publications of this kind were being produced, mostly by co-operatives of self-taught volunteers, writing, typing, designing and pasting up by hand and using new offset litho technology for printing.
Most appeared fortnightly, monthly or bi-monthly and were either sold in the street or in radical bookshops and one or two friendly newsagents. Most offered readers a mixture of local news from an independent perspective, campaign information, and an alternative ‘what’s on’ guide – a vital section in each edition since the grassroots press was often much more closely aligned with the local underground music and cultural scene than commercial newspapers and magazines.
Some titles broke stories that mainstream papers wouldn’t touch. Rochdale Alternative Paper, for example, printed allegations of sexual misconduct against city MP Cyril Smith in 1979, none of which would resurface in the commercial press until after Smith’s death in 2010. Brighton Voice campaigned effectively on housing issues and became a mouthpiece for the city’s squatting movement. Swansea’s Alarm, by far the most cheaply and roughly produced of the lot, garnered a reputation for exposing corruption on the city council and ran a slate of candidates for election in 1979. Working on papers like these was formative for some now very prominent writers and campaigners. Lynne Segal helped to found the Islington Gutter Press in the 1970s, for example.

None of these papers exist now and many may have disappeared forever. Some are preserved locally in hard copy. For example, Leeds Other Paper can be read in bound volumes in the city’s local studies library in a run spanning 1974-1994, and Bristol Voice in the central library at Bristol, but few papers like these will be found in the British Library’s newspaper collections. Some, like Brighton Voice, which has an informative Wikipedia page devoted to it, have left tangible traces, but few are so easy to track down now.
Today, as more and more news services switch to online platforms and readers expect content to be delivered for free, the future of newsprint publishing looks increasingly precarious. Whether radical self-help publishing will be forced to fight for attention on the internet or find the resources to reinvigorate the physical newspaper remains to be seen. Crowdfunding is one possibility; indeed it is being actively pursued at the moment here in the South West by a new generation of levellers.

The project

Recovering the Regional Radical Press in Britain, 1968-1988, is a project based in the Regional History Centre at UWE Bristol and is co-ordinated by Phil Chamberlain (Journalism) and Professor Steve Poole (History).
We have four main objectives:
  1. To identify and locate full runs of each paper.
  2. To identify and make contact with former members of regional radical paper production teams.
  3. To enable the production of new oral and archival histories of radical regional publishing in Britain.
  4. To make these papers publicly available again (through digitisation).
We are currently (2018-19) working on the first two of these objectives. And we’re going to need plenty of help!

How you can help

Please contact us if:
  1. You once worked on a paper like this.
  2. You know the whereabouts of any existing copies today.
  3. You have memories of buying and reading them.
The project can be contacted at

RaHN blogger adds:-
Just one example of the sort of thing they may be looking for, from Aberdeen Protest blog):

Aberdeen People’s Press (1973 – 1983)

The Press, ‘Scotland’s Socialist Community Printers’, was established as a non-profit making company in 1973 and ran until 1983. The Press produced the community newspaper ‘Aberdeen People’s Press’, was a commercial printing service for socialist and community groups and also published relevant works.
The newspaper ran to some 60 issues from 1973 until summer 1976, with a circulation of between 800 and 1700. Although billed as a local newspaper: its viewpoints, news and analysis were radical. There were in depth reports on criticising the effects of the oil & gas industry, military bases in the north-east, abortion providers in the north-east, health and safety in the oil & gas industry and councillor’s business interests etc. After the newspaper finished another similar publication called ‘Big Print’ was issued and it ran to some 21 issuesbetween 1978 and 1980. The Big Print termed itself ‘A local libertarian socialist newspaper’ and was more stridently political than its predecessor.
Although the newspaper was no longer published, the Press started to commission and publish books with more in–depth analysis. These are still excellent publications: ‘Oil Over Troubled Waters: a report and critique of oil developments in north-east Scotland’, ‘Aberdeen in the General Strike’, ‘Fascism in Aberdeen: street politics in the 1930s’ and ‘James Leatham (1865 – 1945)’.
The Press were initially housed at the Aberdeen Arts & Community Workshop, then at a house in Rubislaw Den South. In 1976 though the Press moved into the basement of 163 King Street, and shared the space with the Workers’ Educational Association, and shops on the ground level: a wholefood shop (Ambrosia Wholefoods/Cairnleith Croft) and a bookshop (Boomtown Books).

References: see below. Also, Scottish Community Newspapers (Brian Murphy and Alan Marshall, Aberdeen People’s Press, 1978).
Sources: papers held at University of Aberdeen Library as well as a near complete set of the published newspapers. Also representative works from their own library including hundreds of publications from across the UK and a number from overseas. The publications date from the 1960s through to the 1980s and represent a variety of socialist, anarchist, ecologist, anti-capitalist and feminist groups.

  1. Aberdeen Arts and Community Workshop was not based in Powis house, but in a ground floor Powis flat given rent free by the council to a small group of activists who had been involved in the Holland Street/Hutchison Street tenants group and rent strike. For three years it ran a summer playscheme for local kids, offered housing advice, and ran an active claimants union all funded by donations from charitable trusts. Six of the latter claimants group were arrested on breach of the peace charges for washing the walls of the DHSS office’s waiting room after a fruitless months’ long campaign to have it cleaned up. The workshop eventually was granted Urban Aid and was handed over to members of the Powis community.
    Aberdeen Solidarity mutated into a left-communist group called Revolutionary Perspectives in the early 70’s, becoming the Communist Workers Organisation in 1975 when it fused with a Liverpool group called Workers Voice.
  2. Great thanks for the extra information.
UPDATE ON PROJECT, December 2018

Jess, the new research associate on Recovering the Regional Radical Press project at UWE, just started a few weeks ago. She writes:
A lot of people made contact so there’s been a lot of forwarding going on! 

Basically what I'm doing at the moment is 'stage 1': compiling databases of newspaper titles, people and any local radical newspapers holdings in personal collections and archives. I'm adding all the info that has been sent, along with that which I'm finding otherwise (trawling archive holdings and old publications etc). 
... As you know we are trying to build a network of ex participants, readers, hoarders, archives and people with related interests.  

We’ve set up a website for sharing finds and updates about how its going, as well as a twitter account, so if you want to follow either of these and share them around, we’d be really happy. 
Our twitter name if you do that kind of thing is @RegionRadPress

The website is and I’ve just written an update post (the link takes you straight to the post). 

If you come across anyone else that wants to get in touch about the project, please feel free to pass on my email address. 

For now, just to say many thanks – and here's to getting some of this rich, messy history and its newspapers together! 

Selection of rich, messy history as illustrated on Aberdeen Protest blog

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Update on 1968-2018: A Celebration of 50 years of Resistance...

...  Campaigning and Alternatives for A Better World - London 7/8th July

(From Past Tense)
Past Tense are taking part with many others groups and individuals, in planning the following program of events for July 2018, celebrating 50 years of resistance since 1968, but specifically focussing on groups spied on by undercover police from units like the Special demonstration
Squad, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and others...

There will be many '50 years since 1968' events this year - but one element we and others targetted by spycops are hoping to push high on the agenda is that it was the demos against the Vietnam War in March and October 1968, the size and combativity of which which caught the
Metropolitan Police on the hop, that led directly to the creation of the Special Demonstration Squad. The SDS and its successor units targetted thousands of UK activists in hundreds of groups, from peace campaigners to trade unionists, from anarchists to MPs, from the families of people
murdered by racists to environmentalists; they abused women, acted as agent provocateurs and passed information to blacklisters.

We hope people will support this event among the many others going on; but although this is initially called to take place in London, we would encourage everyone out there to also take part and hope people will be inspired to create your own spycop-related events; to include links to the repressive measures used against those of us fighting for social change in the debates, commemorations and discussions taking place in this important anniversary.

In particular, we encourage radical history groups and networks to get involved, either supporting the COPS event, or creating your own to coincide...

Spread the word!
Get in touch with past tense or the event email contact point below if you are interested.

One idea we are asking for help with: for the Sunday 8th event, we are putting together an exhibition of material from struggles, campaigns, movements of the last 50 years. This could include posters, leaflets, papers, magazines, pamphlets, books…
If you have anything you think we could use for this exhibition that we could borrow, please get in touch with us. We would return any items to you after the event.
NEW 30-6-18  

Join past tense for
“Disturbance of the Publick Peace” 
a FREE past tense radical history walk…

around Holborn & Bloomsbury 
Sunday 8th July 2018 
Meet 4.15pm, outside Conway Hall, 
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

a wander through some of the riotous and radical history of Central London: Gordon Rioters, anti-fascists, suffragettes, Chartist plotters... and spycops, lots of spycops...

For more info email:

Part of the 50 Years of Resistance events 7th-8th July
Commemorating campaigns that continue to fight for social change, despite being targeted by undercover police units  since 1968.
1968-2018: A Celebration of 50 years of Resistance, Campaigning and Alternatives for A Better World
- despite 50 years of police opposition, spying and repression

Full details:
Saturday 7th July, 1-3pm   Roll Call / Commemoration / Celebration: Grosvenor Sq, London W1
Sunday 8th July, 10-4pm    Conference / Exhibition / Films / People's Inquiry: Conway Hall, Red Lion Sq, London WC1
 1968-2018: A Celebration of 50 years of Resistance, Campaigning and Alternatives for A Better World - despite 50 years of police opposition, spying and repression
Sat 7th / Sun 8th July 2018 

Sat 7th: Anniversary Roll Call / Commemoration / Celebration in Grosvenor Square, London W1 @ 1pm - 3pm

Sun 8th: London Conference and Exhibition
This will include meetings/discussions: including 5 discussions based on events and struggles of five decades since 1968, a discussion of a People’s Public Inquiry into pilice spying, and a workshop on spycops with Undercover Research Group.
Reel News will be showing films.
There will be space for some shared stalls, and a Parents/kids room.

Leaflet here
Well-known spycop at work (right), from "Undercover" by Rob Evans


In 1968, following demonstrations against the Vietnam War in London's
Grosvenor Square, the police set up a Special Demonstration Squad (SDS).
Since that time, 50 years ago, over 1,000 groups campaigning in the UK
for a better world have been spied on, infiltrated and targeted by
political policing. Their protests and demonstrations are also subjected
to ongoing police opposition and control to try to limit their

This targeting has included groups campaigning for equality, justice,
the environment and international solidarity, for rights for women,
LGBTQ, workers and for animals, for community empowerment, and those
campaigning against war, racism, sexism, corporate power, legal
repression and police oppression and brutality. Such groups have
represented many millions of people throughout the UK who want to make
the world a better, fairer and more sustainable place for everyone.

Yet almost any group of any kind that stood up to make a positive
difference has been or could have potentially been a target for secret
political policing. We now know this because of campaigners' recent
efforts to expose and challenge the SDS and other similar secret units,
and their shocking and unacceptable tactics. Individuals within those
campaign groups have been spied on, subjected to intrusions in their
personal lives, been victims of miscarriages of justice, and many
deceived into intimate and abusive relationships with secret police, ie
people that who were not who they said they were. In July 2015 we
succeeded in forcing Theresa May (now Prime Minister) to set up the
current Undercover Policing Public Inquiry, which was tasked with
getting to the truth by July 2018, and insisting on action to prevent
police wrong-doing in future. Now, 3 years on, the public inquiry has
achieved very little due to police obstruction.
When the SDS was formed they stated that they would 'shut down' the
movements they were spying on. But despite disgusting police tactics,
movements for positive change are still here and growing, and have had
many successes on the way.


This planned two-day event in London, backed up by a call for a week of
actions all around the UK, is in support of those campaigning for full
exposure and effective action at the Undercover Policing Inquiry, and
against police attempts to delay and undermine it. We aim to encourage
more groups to find out about the Inquiry and how they can get involved
and support each other, and to unite the many different groups and
organisations who have been victims of our police state because of their
efforts to improve society.

Backed by the Campaign to Oppose Police Surveillance [C.O.P.S.] -

Full info:

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *


YES we broadly support the proposal. Please add our name to the list of
supporting organisations.

Name of organisation ........................

Name of contact/rep ..................       Position in group

Contact details:   Email: ..................................... 
Phone: ............................................

We can:

___ Attend the Grosvenor Square Rally

___ Publicise the event(s)

___ Identify/loan/donate a 'historic' item for the exhibition

___ Organise a local celebration/commemoration event that week, and let
you know the details when finalised

___ Help with planning the London event(s)


• Affiliate to the C.O.P.S campaign yourself here:

• Donate to the C.O.P.S campaign yourself here. (you can add a note
specifying its for 50 yrs events if you wish):

• Subscribe to the C.O.P.S. campaign newsletter yourself here

• Solidarity and thanks from the 50yrs events planning group!

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