In the late spring of 1969 four members of the teaching staff in the Sculpture Department at St. Martins School of Art in London began work on a project for students who would be entering the new three-year degree programme in the autumn. Their unique pedagogic experiment, which came to be known as the ‘A’ Course, was an extraordinary and inventive teaching programme that had a significant impact on what was taking place in British art education at the time. Because of its highly unorthodox nature the ‘A’ Course was widely known and largely misunderstood; it would not be unfair to say it was notorious. As part of a process of re-activating the past and involving original participants, MayDay Rooms has been in contact with former ‘A’ Course tutors/staff Garth Evans, Gareth Jones and Peter Kardia and students who have kindly participated, donated and loaned material. This ongoing ‘A’ Course Collection also opens onto other, less well known avenues taken by ‘A’ Course students in the 1970s including the Manydeed Group and the Poster Film Collective.
Described as ‘the bastard daughter of the Public Education System in Mexico’ by its current principal, the Altavista Co-Operative Federal High School was established in 1967 following student demands to continue on from their secondary school studies. After several demonstrations and continuous social disobedience, the Altavista Secondary School was occupied by students and teachers. Amongst those integral to this project were a group of ‘refugee’ educationalists; active members of the Mexican Communist Party who had graduated from the Teacher Training Rural Schools established during the ‘socialist education’ period of Lázaro Cárdenas in the 1930s. These teachers, survivors of an armed attack on Madera military base in 1965, remained resolutely committed to these long standing revolutionary principles. Altavista continues to this day to be regarded as an expression of co-operative models of education and has struggled in the face of an often violent political context, to maintain itself as an open and self-organised space.
Not being centred upon political parties or trade union bureaucracies, which often had their own publishing infrastructures, the anarchist scene was, to a larger degree, concerned with independent publishing. The collection here, gathered from various sources, is indicative of both the local community-based nature of anarchist politics as well as the need to disseminate anarchist ideas and histories.
As part of the Unionising Workshop held at Flaxman Lodge in June 2004 a collection of materials (newsletters, leaflets, letters etc.) relating to the Artist Union (1972-1984) was gathered by Jakob Jakobsen and Anthony Davies. The Artist Union was set up to promote the role of artists in society as a force for social change (‘Art is Work’) and developed several work groups including a Women’s Workshop and an Artists in Education Workshop. The first chair of the AU was artist Mary Kelly along with Gustav Metzger as vice-chair. An initial plan to be affiliated to the TUC was later rejected. In 1974 a proposal was made to reform the Arts Council and by 1977 the AU had launched the discussion paper Wages for Artists? Thanks to Anthony Davies for depositing these materials which comprise of original material and photocopies. A small collection of photocopies documenting the NYC Art Workers Coalition (1969) can also be consulted here.
Association of Autonomous Astronauts
Variously seen as a Situationist-inspired prank, an extended metaphor, a form of Exodus and a campaign to redistribute superwealth, the Association of Autonomous Astronauts conducted a five year propaganda mission (1995-2000) to make the experience of space travel an option for a variety of international communities. This collection is comprised of Annual reports, zines, flyers, calling cards, conference programmes and press clippings. Thanks to Fabian Tompsett and John Eden.
Named after a play by Liverpudlian writer, Jim Allen, Big Flame started out in the early 70s as a rank and file newspaper that gradually developed into a revolutionary socialist feminist organisation. It continued to issue a monthly paper and in each edition the following ‘Basic Points’ were reiterated (1) building a political practice based on the mass of the working class, not merely its representative layers (2) combatting reformism (3) ‘the social factory’ (4) class first, party second (5) for the autonomy of each specifically oppressed sector (6) a non-sectarian and non-authoritarian political method. Big Flame groups were soon established in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester and close links were made with Italian struggles and ideas in the shape of Lotta Continua. Big Flame is, furthermore, notable for its internationalist perspective and for the key role it played in supporting the ‘autonomous movements’ of women, black and gay people. The materials held at MayDay Rooms include copies of the Big Flame newspaper spanning the 70s and a box file of contemporaneous internal documents. We are grateful to Martin Yarnit for depositing these with us.
A modest collection of material relating to Black Struggle in the UK includes copies of Race Today and Race & Class which were both offshoots of a breakaway from the Institute of Race Relations in the early 70s. These have been supplemented by a donation of books from Newham Monitoring Project and documents that MDR is holding on behalf of Statewatch. The materials cross-referenced here include Community Defence Campaign newsletters, Deaths in Custody files, Police Monitoring Groups and cuttings and research into the 1981 Riots.
Cinema Action was among several left-wing film collectives formed in the late sixties. The group started in 1968 by exhibiting in factories a film about the French student riots of that year. These screenings attracted people interested in making film a part of political activism. With a handful of core members – Ann Guedes, Gustav (Schlacke) Lamche and Eduardo Guedes – the group has pursued its collective methods of production and exhibition for nearly twenty-five years.
Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa
Established in the Spring of 1991 by George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici, the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa consisted of “people teaching and studying in North America and Europe who are concerned with the increasing violations of academic freedom that are taking place in African Universities.” Throughout its twelve year history they published a newsletter that featured “action alerts” about student struggles on African campuses and documented the impact of World Bank and IMF policies on African education. Amongst CAFA’s aims was to establish an “action-network” to respond to emergencies and to lobby often quietistic teachers’ unions. The comprehensive archive, lodged with MayDay Rooms by Silvia and George, contains, across three boxes, a full set of newsletters, correspondence, supporting documents, press-clippings from many African countries and a series of articles by writers who contributed to the CAFA project.
As an educational charity MayDay Rooms is gathering material around experimental forms and countervailing notions of education. This includes material on the history of radical teaching practices as well as the more recent practical explorations of radical educators today. MayDay’s remit in this area spans primary and secondary education, universities, art schools and self-instituted projects. This collection has recently been supplemented by a loan of material from Libertarian Education that has been upholding the theme of “education as liberation” since its inception in 1966.
Dissenting Ephemera 1970s – Miscellaneous
These materials, dubbed ‘dissenting ephemera’, were delivered to Mayday Rooms as a contextual backdrop to the October 2014 reunion of East London Big Flame. The range of this groups political concerns are reflected in the independent publications gathered here which cover, amidst others: Anti-Psychiatry (Humpty Dumpty), Black Struggle (Race Today) and Anti-Fascism (SKAN, CARF, Temporary Hoarding).
Dissenting Ephemera 1970s – Women’s Movement
These materials, dubbed ‘dissenting ephemera’, were delivered to Mayday Rooms as a contextual backdrop to the October 2014 reunion of East London Big Flame. The close connections this group had to the Women’s Liberation Movement is reflected in the documents, discussion papers, flyers and magazines (Red Rag, Spare Rib) collected here.
Dissenting Ephemera – 1980-2000
Continuing with the moniker of ‘dissenting ephemera’ coined by East London Big Flame this sizeable collection of independent publications is available to be consulted in MayDay Room’s Reading Room. This collection reflects the last surge of small press activity before the rise of the internet and its various web publishing platforms. Amongst a wide variery of magazines and journals collected here can be found Here & Now, Common Sense, Counter Information, Emergency, Anti-Clockwise, Communist Headache, Proletarian Gob, Lobster, Trouble & Strife, Mute, Girl Frenzy and many more.
One of the longest industrial disputes in working class history, the Liverpool Dockers dispute 1995-98, was a strong indicator that working class organisation and struggle could still exist in the post-Thatcher era of ‘legal’ union gagging. Following the sacking of 80 Dockers employed by Torside, all 329 Dockers employed by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company refused to cross the picket line and were sacked. MayDay Rooms would like to thank Brian Ashton for copies of the Dockers Charter, a monthly newspaper produced by the Liverpool Docks Shop Stewards’ Committee.
East London Big Flame
Coming together in East London in 1972 this group of left political activists at odds with the moralism of the prevailing left politics of the time embarked on a project of organising themselves non-hierarchically. With an ethos of ‘working with’ rather than being party affiliated and concerned with recruitment, the members of East London Big Flame (ELBF), under the burgeoning influence of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the ‘politics of everyday life’, initiated a series of projects in the Bow area of London. These initiatives included setting up a food co-op and a claimants union, contributing to the East End squatting scene, working and organising within the Ford plant at Dagenham and the Lesney factory in Homerton and establishing the ‘leaderless’ Red Therapy Group. The wide political remit of this group is reflected in the range of material held at MayDay Rooms: from countering media bias and the publication of a TV Handbook to the autonomous struggle of women reflected in reports of conferences and local critical agitation. These original documents (which have been scanned in their entirety for the ELBF website) are supplemented by the reflections and personal stories of some former ELBF members. These materials were entrusted to MayDay Rooms by former members of East London Big Flame.
The Film & Photo League
From 1934 to 1935 the (Workers’) Film & Photo League represented a grass-roots manifestation in Britain of the Communist International’s cultural politics, during the period of the ‘left turn’. Guided by the ‘united front from below’ strategy, the League articulated the Comintern’s ‘class against class’ policy through the means of agitprop. This involved using filmmaking, photography, exhibitions and screening events as tools for mobilising working-class politics. MayDay Rooms holds a collection of materials from the Film & Photo League, which also provides a powerful visual record of the conditions of working people’s everyday lives and related Communist campaigns, such as the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement. The material was collated by the photographer Terry Dennett in the 1970s for a study ‘of the cultural politics of the interwar period’. This informed his own subsequent work, examples of which can be found in another MayDay Rooms’ collection: The Worker Photographer.
In 1973, behind a shopfront at 113 Roman Road, London E1, four young filmmakers – Joanna Davis, Mary Pat Leece, Ronald Peck and Wilf Thust – set up a cinema and production studio with the aim of introducing “films and filmmaking to those who had previously been excluded from the whole practice”. In the context of a polarised and politically charged Bethnal Green of the 1970s, many local children and young adults found at Four Corners – and in Wilf Thust’s workshops in particular – a sanctuary where they could explore forms of self-representation and develop vocabularies of commonality, resistance and dissent. These sentiments are shared by MayDay Rooms and since late 2013, Wilf has ‘reopened the account’ – together with some of those involved in the 1970’s workshops and many others – making collaborative use of his film output, notebooks, and photographs. This process, which takes the form of screenings, meetings and workshops, will continue over the next few years.
Sundry copies of Freedom, ranging from the years 1924 to 1996, donated by Housman’s Bookshop. Freedom, a magazine of ‘anarchist socialism’ (later ‘anarchist communism’), was founded and edited by Charlotte Wilson in association with the geographer and anarchist Peter Kropotkin. Publication began in 1886 from the offices of the Freethought Press near St Bride, Fleet Street; it was printed on the Socialist League presses by arrangement with William Morris. Freedom was published continuously throughout the 20th century. Among its editors were Vernon Richards and Colin Ward, operating from its long-term home in Angel Alley, Whitechapel. The closure of its print edition was announced in March 2014.
Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp
In 2014 Gwyn Kirk deposited six organized boxes of personal papers at MayDay Rooms relating to her long and deep involvement with the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp that grew up in protest against the siting of America Cruise missiles at RAF Greenham Common. Gwyn reflects: “The campaign spoke to me because it was creative and led by women. It pushed me to think about my responsibility for the state of the world: its systems of inequality, violence and greed”. Gwyn, who grew up in Britain, moved to the US in 1982 to work on a lawsuit that Greenham Women Against Cruise Missiles brought against Reagan et al. In some ways this collection of materials figures as the background research to this lawsuit as well as to a book, ‘Greenham Women Are Everywhere’ (1983), that Gwyn co-authored with Alice Cook. Amongst the materials are press clippings, self-published newsletters, flyers, film, correspondence, fanzines and documentation of the international support the Women of Greenham received.
Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG)
Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG) started life as the Anti-Poll Tax group in Haringey. Once the Poll Tax was defeated most Anti-Poll Tax groups around the country split up. In Haringey we knew there were other issues just as important as the poll tax, so in 1991, we stayed together and change our name to Haringey Solidarity Group (http://www.haringey.org.uk).
HSG is a group of local people who feel things need changing and don’t have much faith in politicians and other “so called” leaders to do it for us. Things will only get better for ordinary people when we decide what is best for us. It is not for some boss or so-called leader to decide what they think we need. We believe in doing things for ourselves wherever possible and we try to encourage others to do likewise. We also feel that when ordinary people fight back against the system (be that your boss, the local council or some multi-national company) they need to be supported.
History Workshop Journal
Copies of the early issues of History Workshop: A Journal of Socialist Historians, donated by Anna Davin of the founding editorial collective. The history workshop movement emerged in the ferment of the 1960s, animated, according to its Ruskin-based presiding spirit Raphael Samuel, by the “the belief that history is or ought to be a collaborative enterprise, one in which the researcher, the archivist, the curator and the teacher, the ‘do-it-yourself’ enthusiast and the local historian, the family history societies and the individual archaeologist, should all be regarded as equally engaged.” (History Workshop: A Collecteana, 1967-1991, Documents, Memoirs, Critique and cumulative index to History Workshop Journal. Ruskin College. pp. 1V.) A brief history of the movement can be found at: http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/the-history-of-history-workshop/, including a bibliography.
This collection gathered pace after the donation of a file of press cuttings and commentary around the Strangeways Prison Rebellion of April 1990 and has since been supplemented by copies of Taking Liberties, Inside Information and other newsletters, books and pamphlets. It is to be hoped that this collection can serve in bringing to light a lesser known area of activism that centres upon the repressive conditions inside prisons and prisoner resistance to these. Thanks to 56a Duplicates Committee and Mike Edinburgh.
This journal for fierce sociology, for finding, losing and collecting, first appeared in the mid ‘90s and continued in various forms for a decade. The journal was the spine of Inventory, a thread enabling it to shapeshift into posters, stickers, radio broadcasts, films and installations. At the outset they declared an independence from categorical norming and hierarchical dogma: “Our material has been collected from the four corners of the floating city, and no object, text, picture has been held in higher esteem than the other.” This lack of restriction gave room for its writers to wriggle free from disciplines and invent true stories from material found lodged in the cracks of the tarmac and in the pot holes of the set text. Inventory recently resurfaced in the Fleet Street Area and left us copies of their journal (1995-2005) as well as a box of ephemera that has been dubbed the Inventory ‘Time Box’.
Inspired by the fruitful of exchange of Big Flame, Midnight Notes & Zeroworks with Italian political and theoretical developments, MayDay rooms has begun a small collection of Italian language materials and associated translations. These cover the Red Notes project and the early translations of Sergio Bologna and Mario Tronti in Telos Journal. We are grateful to Neinsager for dropping off some Italian language journals including an anthology of autonomist texts from 1974 and to Steve Wright for copies of America Owl and documents pertaining to the Committee Against Repression in Italy. A visit from Giovanni Rubino and Aria Spinelli in March 2015 saw the activation of this collection in the form of a group discussion with Giovanni about some facets of his solidarity-driven artistic work as a muralist at the Alfa Romeo factory and as the instigator of a collective performance at the Edison Factory in Mortedison.
Jubilee 2000 Afrika Campaign
MayDay Rooms collection of materials related to the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa and the group that has gathered around it has led to a deposit of activist materials based around de-coloniality, reparations campaigns and debt cancellation. Many of those UK-based activists involved with Jubilee 2000 gathered at MayDay Rooms in November 2015 for a consultative dialogue entitled ‘Afrika in Debt Bondage.’ Thanks to Kofi Klu for this assortment of flyers, posters, magazine and texts.
The Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS)
The Latin American Workers Association was based in London and active in two phases – the early 1980s and then 2002-13. Many of its activists went on to play a leading role in different community organisations, campaigns and trade unions, and it was a direct predecessor of the current cleaners movement.
So far this collection mainly covers LAWAS’ second period (2002-13). The material relates to:
- individual workplace campaigns: media coverage, campaign materials, correspondence, meeting minutes etc
- educational resources from workshops, courses, and the innovative language exchanges, and for general distribution in the community
- general materials on workers’ and migrant rights, Latin American solidarity, advice sessions, information about LAWAS and cultural activities, some co-produced with other groups
- internal records of assemblies, meetings, finances etc
The Leveller Magazine
Between 1975 and 1985, The Leveller, an editor-less magazine, managed to sustain an independent left journalism that drew together professional and non-professionally identified writers into a collective. MayDay Rooms are grateful to Statewatch for depositing a near-to complete run of Levellers and to Tim Gospill, a former member of the magazine, for adding a short overview to the collection: “The Leveller – whose name came from an egalitarian 17th century Civil War group that agitated Cromwell’s republic from the ‘left’ – was firmly rooted in the British left and involved in all kinds of socialist, feminist, anarchist and anti-racist activity”. Tim’s assertions are well reflected in the eclectic and wide ranging pages of the magazine.
From its beginnings as the Libertarian Teachers Association in 1966 up to its present day incarnation as an e-magazine and book publisher the shifting collectives around this consistent venture has continued to press for “the liberation of learning”. Passing though several phases during its 50 years history the magazine has covered educational issues and enthusiastically reported on daring educational initiatives that have followed in the wake of the work of Homer Lane and A.S Neil. We are grateful to Richard Musgrove of the ‘Lib Ed’ Collective for loaning a full run of Volume 2 (Spring 1986 to Summer 1999) as well as a selection of Lib Ed Books, scans of the first three issues of Libertarian Teachers’ Association Newsletter (1966-67) and the classic ‘Play’ issue from 1994.
London Psychogeographical Association
The LPA was first mooted in 1957 by the British artist Ralph Rumney who was amicably expelled from the Situationist International for his failure to deliver a psychogeographical report on Venice. Just as the report eventually surfaced in accordance with its own timescale, this psychogeographic project was reinvoked in the early 1990s as the LPA East London Section by Fabian Tompsett. After 35 years of non-existence a series of newsletters and pamphlets began to be issued to report on the persistences of ruling class power and on free associational drifts through history. With an open non-sectarian context and contributions from writers associated with the Luther Blissett multiple name, the LPA newsletters regularly displayed a humour reminiscent of Class War and added to this a parodic erudition to some degree aimed at exposing the pretentions and callousness of a western enlightenment tradition and how this persistently feeds into blunting the left opposition. LPA activities included trips to destinations of psychogeographic interest (including an American Civil War battlefield in London’s Globe Town), the organization of three-sided football matches and the inauguration of bus stop competitions. MayDay Rooms are happy to have received a collection of Newsletters, ephemera and mysterious samizdat from Fabian. Open Up The South East Passage!
In 1974 the management of Lucas Aerospace, an engineering firm that manufactured aircraft components for both military and civilian use, announced restructuring plans, which threatened to make many members of the workforce redundant. When shop stewards at the company lobbied the Secretary of State for Industry Tony Benn to request that the government nationalise the company, Benn instead suggested that they come up with their own strategy for the business’s future. This led the Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards Committee to produce an Alternative Corporate Plan, drawing upon hundreds of proposals for new products developed by their workmates. Alert to the threat of deskilling and conceived in terms of ‘socially useful’ technology, these ideas included plans to produce medical equipment, public transport vehicles and innovations to improve energy efficiency. While this initiative failed to influence Lucas management, it led directly to the formation of the Centre for Alternative Industrial Systems (CAITS) at North East London Polytechnic and Coventry Polytechnic’s Unit for the Development of Alternative Products (UDAP). MayDay Rooms holds a collection of material on the Lucas Plan.
The Midnight Notes collective, which marked a coming together of various radical strands of US left politics, began publishing its journal in 1979. The strands that comprised it could be said to have been influenced by the late 60s protest movements that included anti-colonial struggles, Italian autonomist Marxism and the Women’s Liberation Movement. A retrospective text from 2009, entitled ‘High Entropy Workers Unite!’, describes the project as having been “an anomaly in the United States Left” that had at its inception a concern to “theorise social struggles and class composition”. Internationalist in outlook it maintained a class perspective as it charted the changing crises of capitalism, changes that are reflected in the themed issues of its journal: the anti-nuclear movement, the work/energy crisis, technological revolution, globalisation, the new enclosures. A full set of these journals as well as associated pamphlets, correspondence and ephemera covering the period 1979 to 2009 were kindly donated by George Caffentzis.
The digitised collection can be found here
Pamphlets have been in existence for as long as the printing press and are often associated with sedition and the distribution of censored and hard to get hold of material. With access to publishing more or less subject to monetary and professional control, the pamphlet has long been a means of subtly appropriating the means of publishing production and bringing ideas into circulation at a low cost. In these post internet times, MayDay Rooms is honouring this form through a growing collection of left libertarian pamphlets donated from many sources as well as by encouraging new publications through its Riso printer.
not… (Time Out Strike)
The Time Out Group, an international event-guide publishing business, started as a London listings magazine that emerged from the fertile alternative press scene of the late 1960s. Although the publication was initially founded and owned by one individual Tony Elliott, all staff received a flat rate of pay throughout the 1970s. In 1981 management attempted to impose new working practices and terms and conditions on the workforce, which included the introduction of a hierarchical pay structure. Workers responded by occupying the magazine’s offices and publishing a strike paper, not Time Out, which they then renamed not… in response to legal action. As well as reporting the dispute, the strike paper featured Time Out’s regular ‘Agitprop’ column of upcoming political events, a ‘Feedback’ section for messages of support (including advertisements that would have normally appeared in the magazine itself), Steve Bell cartoons and articles by striking journalists. While a fourteen-week strike failed to secure victory for the workforce, this dispute led directly to the launch of the alternative listings magazine for London City Limits, which continued publication for over a decade. MayDay Rooms holds a collection of material from the Time Out workers’ strike, including a full series of not Time Out/not…, leaflets and stickers.
Subtitled “The Voice of the New England Prisoners’ Association”, these newspapers, with articles in the main written by prisoners themselves, are the practical outcome of a militant pedagogic involvement in both the education of prisoners and in the publicization of struggles against the oppressive regime of the US prison system. Between 1973 and 1975 the newspaper covered the situation of women prisoners, reported on prisoner conferences and kept abreast of such notorious cases as the Attica Brothers. The eighteen copies of NEPA News held by MayDay Rooms mark a little known history of the prisoners’ movement in the US. The intent of NEPA can be read in their May Day Proposal of 1975: “(1) Fight Racism/Fascism: Mass Struggle for Mass Victory! (2) Equal support for All the System’s Prisoners (3) United Front to abolish Incarceration of the Oppressed!” MayDay Rooms would like to thank an ex-member of the editorial collective, Peter Linebaugh, for entrusting these materials to MayDay Rooms.
Poll Tax Rebellion
For many the revolt against the imposition of the Poll Tax marks a unique moment in British social history. This Tax, effectively replacing a property based rates system with a per-head ‘community charge’, was subject to widespread mobilisation and mass protest that figured as a ‘popular front’ against the then Conservative Government. Anti-Poll Tax groups sprang up initially in Scotland in 1989 where the Tax was introduced a year earlier than in the rest of the country. Anti-Poll Tax groups then spread throughout Britain and these were notable for the way in which they entailed a very local, often street-level, mode of organising. Regular meetings were held, information was disseminated and non-paying solidarities were formed that led to a resistance to each stage of the imposition of the poll tax: burning bills, protests at court and local government chambers, resisting evictions, campaigning against jailings. The small collection at MayDay Rooms includes press cuttings, pamphlets, meeting minutes, flyers, posters and newsletters from several Anti-Poll Tax groups. These materials depict the minutiae of a popular groundswell that following the Trafalgar Square Riot led to the abolition of the poll tax in March 1991.
Poster Film Collective
Formed in the early 70s by ex-tutors and students from several London Art Colleges, the Poster Film Collective produced a series of hand-printed posters in support of political campaigns and a comprehensive series of educational posters that challenged hegemonic views of history. MayDay Rooms is pleased to be hosting a part of Andrew Darley’s collection which comprises of a set of posters titled “Between Future and Past” (aka ‘the feminist series’) and its attendant teaching handbook. Other material deposited by ex-participant Andy includes correspondence and documentation relating to many areas of the Poster Film Collective’s practice.
The Psyche-Pol research project took place at MayDay Rooms in November 2013 and was initiated by Howard Slater and Tine Tvergaard and directly inspired by the Red Therapy activity of East London Big Flame in the mid 70s. Working in the space between politics and psychotherapy many questions were posed: How do we overcome the resistance to talking about and through emotion? Is so-called mental illness a response to the ‘mutual usury’ of capitalist social relations? Does psychotherapy per se have a normative effect? How can we bring the psyche into political struggle as a revolutionary catalyst? Can we find different ways of being together in groups that give space and time to both the singularising force of our ‘componential’ selves and to the ‘common resonance’ of affect? Tine and Howard produced a zine and deposited a box-file of research materials. Over the years a small collection of materials has been continuously gathered for the MDR Reading Room.
Queeruption & Associated
Queeruption was a rolling international DIY festival that took place eight times between 1998 and 2000. The intention behind these ad hoc festivals, often based in squats, was the intention to create an ‘opportunity for Queers of all genders and sexualities to gather, celebrate [their] queerness and diversity… and learn from each other’. This collection, coming to MayDay Rooms thanks to John Levin, includes ephemera from the first Queeruption festivals and is supplemented by a selection of queer zines from the 1990s.
The magazine Race Today was set up in 1969 by the Institute for Race Relations (IRR). Following a break from the IRR four years later, publication continued under the editorial control of the Race Today Collective. With Darcus Howe as the new editor, the publication initally adopted a libertarian Communist perspective, influenced by the politics of an older generation of Black Marxists, notably C. L. R. James. Race Today went on to provide politically engaged coverage of Black cultural and social experiences in Britain, from the Notting Hill Carnival to the Brixton Riots and beyond. MayDay Rooms holds an incomplete collection of the magazine Race Today magazine.
Reclaim the Streets
Reclaim the Streets (RTS) began in London during the 1990s, both as a playful form of protest in the guise of a street party, which was soon replicated across the globe and as a local hub of social and ecological direct action. London RTS published the Financial Crimes for the mobilisation against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s Prague Summit in September 2000. The situationist practice of détournement (diversion, hijacking or misappropriation) informed the production of this and other spoof papers, such as the Evading Standards (also issued by RTS for the previous year’s ‘June the 18th’ Carnival against Capital in the City of London). This practice entailed abandoning cultural production itself and instead plundering and closely mimicking existing cultural forms to subvert their original intent for propaganda purposes. MayDay Rooms holds a collection of materials relating to Reclaim the Streets and associated networks.
Resistance Comics & Associated
Resistance Comics hailed from Belfast and according to the Irish Comics Wiki the ten issues that appeared between 1975 and 1978 were the work of political cartoonist Brian Moore (aka Cormac). Characters that Moore invented include Paddy O’Looney and Red Biddy and there was a regular comic strip entitled ‘Revolution by Proxy’. These comics, along with several editions of Street Comix of Birmingham, found their way to MayDay rooms via Paul Westlake and Statewatch.
Resurgence Magazine was founded by John Papworth, Leopold Kohr, E. F. Schumacher, and Herbert Read in 1966. The magazine described itself as a “Journal of the Fourth World” and published articles and letters from the perspective of ecology, localism, classical anarchism, and small-scale economics. Articles in the magazine range from dealing with global struggles, to activism in the UK, to movements for international peace. The magazine also had a commitment to publishing new poetry. MayDay Rooms holds a small run of fourteen early issues from 1969-1971.
Schooling & Culture
Schooling & Culture journal was a collaboration between a group of radical left educationalists and young working class school students that began in the late 70s. The journal was based at the Cockpit Arts project in London and was initiated by Andrew Dewdney and Martin Lister as part of their ongoing cultural studies work at Birmingham University. Andrew has kindly deposited a set of journals and other associated material at MayDay Rooms and Russell Newell, one of the original participating students, is coordinating the re-activation of the journal by revisiting some of the themes Schooling & Culture covered as well as working towards producing a new issue.
Schooling & Culture 2015
Following a week long activation in July 2015 of the Schooling & Culture Archive that included visits from schools and youth groups a collection of materials was assembled for the MayDay Rooms Archive. These materials include large format diagrams documenting the visits and debates, magazines, newspapers, notes, postcards, questionnaires and other materials that will feed into the process of producing a new issue of Schooling & Culture.
The Scratch Orchestra
The Scratch Orchestra grew out of a series of music composition classes held at London’s Morley College. The classes were instigated by Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons and Howard Skempton and were attended by avant-garde musicians and artists interested in exploring sound. From this, in July 1969, the Scratch Orchestra was formed; it was described, in its draft constitution, as “a large number of enthusiasts pooling their resources (not primarily material resources) and assembling for action (music making, performance, edification.)” The Scratch Orchestra, which drew together varying levels of musical ‘expertise’, performed its ‘music-from-scratch’, often based on written-instruction and graphic scores, in Town Halls, Village Halls, Universities, Youth Cubs, Parks and Theatres. The regularity of performance over its short life-span may well figure the Scratch Orchestra as a musical community; an intense experience of playing, travelling and living together. MayDay Rooms are grateful to Stefan Szczcelkun for depositing his Scratch Orchestra papers which includes documentation of the Richmond Journey and The Scratch Cottage as well as ephemera relating to the Slippery Merchants, a performance subgroup of the Scratch Orchestra that carried out “uninvited performative intrusions”. Stefan’s papers also provide materials relating to ongoing Scratch Orchestra gatherings, commemorations and concerts that have kept Scratch Music in the public eye.
The libertarian socialist group Solidarity was set up in 1960 by former members of a British Trotskyist organisation, the Socialist Labour League. Under the intellectual influence of Chris Pallis (a.k.a. Maurcie Brinton), members adopted a political perspective close to that of Socialisme ou Barbarie in France. Solidarity adopted a critique of contemporary capitalism from this French sister organisation, which emphasised its increasingly bureaucratic qualities. Both groups also developed a libertarian socialist perspective, which became increasingly distant from Marxism without abandoning a comitment to revolutionary politics. MayDay Rooms holds an incomplete collection of Solidarity pamphlets and issues of the group’s eponymous journal.
Spare Rib was probably the most widely disseminated magazine of the Women’s Liberation Movement during the 1970s and 1980s. As part of a magazine culture that combined left-wing politics and wide dissemination of ideas (publications such as Spare Rib, Time Out and The Leveller had circulations in the tens of thousands), Spare Rib provided the leading feminist voice. The magazine was started in 1972 by Rosie Boycott and Marsha Rowe, although within a few years the editorial team had become a collective. Of particular interest are the letters pages, on which many of the biggest debates of the women’s liberation movement were played out. Our collection of issues is not a complete run and we are always looking for donors who want to help us complete our collection. Of particular interest are early issues.
Given impetus by the current wave of housing struggles, the sapping of space in metropolitan environments and the visit to MDR of squatting historian Alan Moore, MayDay Rooms have gathered a small collection of materials relating to the politics of squatting and occupations. Thanks to the 56a Duplicates Committee for providing MayDay Rooms with gems such as Crowbar and Squall and for practical guides such as the Squatters Handbook. This collection also contains information on the London Street Commune of the late 60s and has lately been supplemented by the ‘Options For Dealng With Squatting’ project.
MayDay Rooms hosts a number of residents, such as the non-profit monitoring group Statewatch. This organisation’s history can be traced back to that of its predecessor State Research, which began to investigate security issues in 1977. From then until 1982 the organisation addressed a broad range of topics in a bi-monthly bulletin and a series of occasional pamphlets. These included civil liberties, policing, paramilitary policing, Special Branch, MI5, MI6, CIA, NATO, Gladio, official secrecy, public order, surveillance, racism, and right-wing groups and fronts. State Research also provided speakers for meetings and began to maintain a library of files and books. Statewatch was then set up in 1991 to work on civil liberties and the state, adopting an increasingly trans-European focus with the establishment of the EU the following year. This organisation also printed a bi-monthly bulletin from 1991 until 2014 and in 1999 the Statewatch website was launched, featuring daily news updates and analysis, as well as access to three online databases—all for free. The Statewatch library comprises 5300 books and pamphlets. Material held in it dates largely from the 1950s onwards, although some items are from as early as the 1930s. Statewatch is currently working to put the catalogue online and make the collection available to visitors.
Underground Techno Scene
As a mass popular movement involving and uniting many subcultures the rave scene soon gained self confidence as a counter-culture and became subject to Governmental attack via the Criminal Justice Act (CJA). The ephemera deposited at MayDay rooms by William Shankly focuses on a period from 1993 and the Dead By Dawn/TechNet/Alien Undergound/Datacide assemblage centred on Brixton’s 121 Centre. Amongst the papers are zines from the period, flyers, news cuttings, correspondence and typescripts and drafts of TechNet writings. Some of these materials, especially those generated at the time of resistance to the CJA, were activated in October 2014 in association with History Is Made At Night at an event called ‘The Revolt of the Ravers’.
Wages for Housework (New York Committee)
The Wages for Housework campaign was launched in Padova at the International Feminist Conference of July 1972. Within two years it was holding its own international conference in Brooklyn, New York and issued a position statement: “Wages for Housework is the feminist perspective and therefore the class perspective.” Opening up both an exploration of the wage and presciently raising the issue of reproductive and affective labour, the Wages for Housework campaign maintained its momentum for the rest of the decade. The box of materials held by MayDay Rooms and kindly donated by Silvia Federici relate to the New York Wages For Housework collective and contain publications, posters, flyers, photographs, press cuttings and organisational documents. They span the period from the Padova Conference to the publication, in 1981, of the journal Tap Dance.
Workers Film Association
WFA, or Workers Film Association, was established in early 1975, when a group of like-minded working people formed an independent collective based from their house in North London. They were originally drawn together by an interest in Buddhism and progressive Left politics. WFA was one of three core groups that grew out of a practice of engaging in community and workplace activities and organisation, the other two being ‘Health for Struggle’ (a hospital worker-based study group) and Songs for Struggle, (a group which compiled a history of progressive songs, and performed publicly eg. supporting Grunwick strikers in Willesden). Study was a key part of their practice, as they felt it was critical to build up an awareness both of the progressive organisations with a practice in and around London, as well as a deeper understanding of the issues at the time. They subscribed to a range of publications (Spare Rib, Race Today, Race & Class), did weekly newspaper cuttings around those issues they were focusing on, and worked alongside or supported a range of community organisations eg. Indian Workers Association, Grunwick strikers, Eritrean Relief Association, the Photography Workshop, Kirkby Unemployed Centre, and many political organisations on the Left, eg. Black Workers League, etc.) WFA moved to Manchester in December 1979, and into a derelict 9000 square foot Edwardian warehouse (c. 1911). After significant rebuilding and refurbishment work carried out by members and supporters of the collective, they established WFA Media & Cultural Centre on 9 Lucy Street on the borders of Hulme, Old Trafford and Moss Side. The new premises in the North became the base for cultural programmes (eg.A Celebration of African Culture – 20 events of music, food, film and discussions over 10 weeks), WFA Film & Video Distribution, the ACTT (then BECTU) production unit, City & Guilds and other film and video training courses, a library and bookshop. Materials from the WFA Library were donated to MayDay Rooms after the formal closing down of WFA after 42 years of working as a ‘Society for the Benefit of the Community.’
The Worker Photographer
The Worker Photographer was a project initiated by Terry Dennett in the late 1970s. It explicitly set out to provide a partisan representation of working-class perspectives through the medium of photography. This approach took inspiration from Communist agitprop of the interwar period, such as the work of Der Arbeiter Fotograf and the Film & Photo League. As well as the industrial struggles of workers at Ford, themes addressed included safety in the workplace and the depiction of class relations in the bourgeois press. MayDay Rooms holds a collection of materials produced by the Worker Photographer.
The Zerowork publishing group was formed in 1974 and could be said to have been informed by an early take up of Italian autonomist theory. Writing in the general introduction to the Zerowork website, Harry Cleaver, says: “Each of us had long been involved in various political struggles in the United States, in Canada, in England, and in Italy. Those struggles, as usual, always included debates over theoretical issues and those debates continued within our collective during the preparation of the first issue of the journal.” The first issue was published in upstate New York in 1975 and at the outset declared: “The present capitalist crisis has made the problem or working class revolutionary organization more urgent. But any discussion of revolutionary action must be based upon an analysis of the present relation of the working class to capital.” The analysis, carried out over two issues of the journal, has the working class rejection of wage labour as an underlying catalyst. A full run of the Zerowork journal as well as primary documents and pamphlets found their way to Mayday Rooms courtesy of Peter Linebaugh.