Collaborative Preservation of Working-Class Histories – The FWWCP Collection (Part 1)

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US student volunteers in reading room Guest bloggers Dr Jessica Pauszek and Syracuse University Fellow Vincent Portillo describe their recent visit, along with their summer school students from the Syracuse University’s Studies Abroad Programme, which took place over a month between May and June 2018. This is the first in a short series written about their visit and the work they have been doing on the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers. (Our own member of staff Hannah Bennet took part in the classwork.)

In recent years, the TUC Library has been building its holdings of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP) publications. In 2014, the TUC Library received a large donation of community publications from Nick Pollard, longtime member of the FWWCP. Subsequent donations followed. Today, the FWWCP Collection at the TUC consists of nearly 2,300 unique community publications, as well as nearly 40 years of administrative materials, including pamphlets from yearly FED Festivals, writing workshops, meeting minutes, membership applications, and more.

The FWWCP Collection is a significant resource for those interested in community publishing, as well as working class histories and testimony. In the late 1970s, the FWWCP worked to create an inclusive community, whose writing, ideas, and testimony reflected the concerns of a largely disenfranchised working class. This network expanded from eight community writing groups at Centerprise Bookshop in London to over one hundred writing groups in regions of England, parts of Wales, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

In an ongoing project, Jess Pauszek and Steve Parks have brought university students from the United States to the TUC to support the preservation of FWWCP materials. This summer, through Syracuse University’s Study Abroad program, eight students from universities, including Syracuse University, Auburn University, University of California at Santa Barbara, and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, visited the TUC Library to learn how the FWWCP’s working-class writers used writing communally for social purposes.

Led by Vincent Portillo and Jess Pauszek, students have been working to sort and index materials; further, they have been exploring the collection, identifying key themes within the publications, including: Art, Food, Gender, Literacy, LGBTQ+, Mental Health, Migration, Race/Racism, War, and Work. Based on these topics, students and instructors read and summarized publications to develop reading guides for future users of the FWWCP Collection, including community members and researchers alike.

One student, Joshua Johnston, remarked the following about his experience: “I spent time going through publications by writing groups looking to empower people struggling with the stigma of mental illness. These groups call themselves Survivor’s Poetry, and they use poetry and illustration as an outlet for self-expression in order to revive a sense of agency either taken from them by the system or suppressed by dismissal from loved ones. These haunting past experiences have awakened a voice that is beautiful and powerful. The TUC is the place to get lost in genuine, heartfelt writing.”

Survivors Poetry spread to include groups in London, Stevenage, Glasgow and more. The FWWCP Collection houses multiple publications from these groups. Additionally, Stevenage Survivors, a longtime FWWCP member, still maintains an active writing presence (check out Stevenage Survivors Poetry on Facebook).

To find out more about the FWWCP Collection, you can visit the TUC, or follow the FWWCP/FED’s work on Instagram (fwwcp_collection) as well the website: http://fwwcp.gn.apc.org.

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