This summer students from Syracuse University, New York, have been visiting the TUC Library to assist with the cataloguing of our archive deposit from the Federation of Worker Writers. Syracuse academics Steve Parks and Jess Pauszek report on their visit:
The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP) Collection, housed at the TUC Library, represents a unique self-written and self-published history of the British working-class in the late 20th century. Developed through over 100 writing/publishing groups located across the United Kingdom, these publications move from an industrial-based working class with principally a European heritage to a working class identity that is globalized and situated within a nuanced ethnic/gender framework. As Syracuse University Professor Steve Parks has written, “The FWWCP represents one of the most significant working class projects of the 20th century.”
And it is for this reason, that Syracuse University professor Steve Parks and Humanities Fellow Jessica Pauszek have spent the past two years bringing students from their university to help develop the FWWCP Collection at the TUC Library, London Metropolitan University. The Collection itself began with a significant donation from FWWCP member Nick Pollard, but has now expanded to include donations from the other members, with the total number of books now surpassing 4,000. In addition to these publications, the Collection houses archival materials such as minutes, constitutional documents, annual reports, newsletters, magazines, and broadsheets from the group’s Executive Committee, member groups, and individuals within the organization. Although the FWWCP ended in 2008, a new iteration of this group formed as The FED: A Network of Writing and Community Publishers, which continues to produce the FED Festival each year and remain active through writing groups, online writing challenges, and additional writing activities: http://www.thefed.btck.co.uk
Over their five-week-stay in London, Syracuse University students worked with Jeff Howarth, TUC Academic Liaison Librarian, to sort through books, flyers, and organizational documents developing a database of close to 2,000 listings. In the process, they attend the “Fedfest,” met FWWCP and FED members, and collaborated on a new publication bringing these different audiences into dialogue.
The next stage of the project will be to take this database and turn it into a digital reference guide, available to anyone who wishes to see what rich materials are in the archive. Ultimately, the goal is to not only have a listing of books, but digital copies for download. In this way, the hope is to return (in digital form) the books back to the community in which they originated.
Given the strong academic and pedagogical support provided by the TUC Library, Parks notes that he “intends to continue bringing students to the TUC Library to work on the FWWCP materials, since by doing so they not only develop a rich sense of British history, but can also gain a true sense of the role of archives in documenting and creating that history.”