In common with earlier working class cultural movements, The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP) grew as part of a campaign of working class dissent. The initial membership of the FWWCP, established in 1976 to campaign for the recognition of working class writing, was made up of eight groups, who were part of a country-wide movement of alternative community-based publishing that emerged in the late 1960s. All the groups had as their common starting points campaigns such as the play group movement, housing and tenant co-operatives and other forms of local direct action that typified political and social protest of the period.
Two of the original groups, QueenSpark Books in East Brighton and The Scotland Road Writers in Liverpool, were typical examples of how writing as a cultural activity developed alongside political action. Initially the QueenSpark Campaign, organised to contest the proposed redevelopment of the Royal Spa into a casino and to propose alternative plans, including day nursery and community facilities, produced a street newspaper. This led on to publishing writing by local people and the development of QueenSpark Books. The Scotland Road Writers in Liverpool, formed in 1973, were also originally linked to campaigning activities. In this case the writers’ workshop was one of the activities organised by the local residents association, along with picketing and writing for a community newspaper.
Many of the groups moved from an initial concern with immediate local issues to recording local history, autobiography, and group or personal reminisces, often based on transcribed tape recordings. In Daring Hearts, for example, forty lesbians and gay men write about their lives in 50s and 60s Brighton. A further area of interest for many members is the collective historical or contemporary experience of a specific group based on a geographical area or within a particular occupation. An example of a book that reflects both the use of the collective and local nature of much of the writing that is produced by FWWCP members is Who was Harry Cowley? This story concerns the quest for the identity of the former Brighton chimney sweep who was a tireless champion of the homeless and the unemployed told in the words of the people who remembered him.
From its inception, FWWCP represented a wide number of groups within the working class , including trade unionists, the unemployed, adult literacy students, black activists and women. The Big Issue, the charity for the homeless, became an active member together with ex-prisoners groups, disability groups, and mental health survivors.
The majority of individual group members were first time or developing writers and generally had little or no experience of the writing process. In addition, the age, culture, ethnicity, and educational skills both within and between groups varied widely. In order to accommodate the needs of its disparate groups of worker writers, work was sometimes produced in non-standard English such as Dobroyed (Commonword 1980), Leslie Wilson’s account of his experience of Dobroyed Castle approved school. Other work was written in the author’s own dialect. Who Feels It Knows It (Gatehouse Project), for example, is an anthology written in a mixture of Caribbean and Manchester dialects. Other groups produced dual language texts. Much of the writing was produced in a co-operative fashion and taping and transcription were also used and the contributions and work of each member was seen as having equal value.
In later years the FWWCP developed its campaigning activities to include international interests and eventually had seventy member groups in fifteen different countries. Part of the Federation’s role was to encourage co-operation between its member groups to share expertise in alternative uses for writing and publishing. One way this was done was by encouraging supportive alliances between British based and international members.
Resources about the Federation in the library collection
The Federation archives at the library contain many examples of writing published by a variety of groups, including Commonword and Gatehouse in Manchester, as well as minutes, publicity material and the Federation’s magazine, Voices.
- Fed news: the newsletter of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (1989-1992, not complete) - Shelfmark: AG FWWCP Periodicals A-Z
- FWWCP newsletter (1994-1996, not complete) - Shelfmark: AG FWWCP Periodicals A-Z
- Voices (1980-1984) - Shelfmark: Periodicals main sequence
- Federation magazine (1993-2006, not complete) - Shelfmark: Periodicals main sequence
- Federation broadsheet (1999) - Shelfmark: AG FWWCP Periodicals A-Z
- Federation newsletter (1999) - Shelfmark: AG FWWCP Periodicals A-Z