The Kate Sharpley Library have just had a donation of some 1980s local anarchist newspapers (all from north west England). We have Black Cat : Crewe Anarchist Group News Sheet (number 1, April 1983, number 2, May 1983), Seizure : Crewe’s Alternative Newspaper (number 4, ‘April 1983’ handwritten inside), Prisoners of War : Paper of the South Manchester Anarchists (number 1, early 1984?) and Love and Bricks (number 2, Liverpool, 1988). We’re always grateful for donations, and this one made me think about the importance of local papers.
How far in 1980s Britain would you have been from an anarchist group and its publication? Offset lithography from the sixties onwards made doing a national anarchist newspaper easier. Photocopiers in the 1980s had a similar effect at a more local level. All the text in these papers is done on a typewriter (the parts that aren’t hand-drawn, done with letraset, or lifted from the mainstream press). Black Cat is duplicated, the rest photocopied. Only Prisoners of War has a cover price (‘10 pence o.n.o.’ [or near offer]) which probably suited how local anarchist papers were distributed: sold for what you could get or given away to the less keen or the less solvent.
How different was it producing a local paper like Love and Bricks than a national one, usually representing an organisation or at least a tendency within anarchism? Coming together to produce a paper requires resources and effort – and an agreement to agree to disagree on some things, if not all. How did that work, or not work?
These five papers cover a wide range of topics: the Marxist Left, sexual violence, strikes, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, nuclear power, local/ regional organising, Ireland, anti-fascism, squatting, prison solidarity, anarcho-feminism, sexuality, vegetarianism, policing, unemployment, politicians. Looking at other papers might change the picture. There’s not so much focus on punk subculture in these, nor the pulling-the-tail of the local regular press I imagine went on in some of them (just look at the title of the Bolton Evening Noose for one).
It’s interesting that the text isn’t always polished, but gives the air of anarchists beating their ideas into shape. ‘Anarchists supported the miners and the printers who were both overwhelmingly non-anarchist and we are involved in anti deportation campaigns to help people who, in many cases[,] have never heard of Anarchism so why should the Irish struggle be different?’ (‘Eniskillen and after…’ by G.A. Love and Bricks number 2)
Both Libcom.org and the Sparrow’s Nest (www.thesparrowsnest.org.uk) keep adding digitised materials. Even better is the Irish anarchist archive: they have scanned materials and also given some of the history behind them. You can see their 80s stuff at:
https://irishanarchisthistory.wordpress.com/category/1980s/papers-magazines-1980s/ Did you work on a local anarchist paper? Why not write an account of it? Some pointers are in ‘Tell me a story’ at http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/p8d05b
In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 82-83, July 2015 [Double issue]