The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP) originated in the late 20th century as a network of working-class writing groups, beginning in the UK but eventually spreading into Europe and the United States. During its 30-year history, the FWWCP circulated over one million publications. It was a long-term goal of the organization to create an archive that would ensure that the work of FWWCP writers and publishers could serve as a lasting record of working-class life in the late 20th century.
The dream of an archive became a necessity, however, when the FWWCP was forced to close during the period of the 2008 recession. In response, a working team of FWWCP member Nick Pollard and Syracuse University members, Steve Parks and Jessica Pauszek, committed to working with the The FED, a reorganized FWWCP, to establish an archive. In doing so, the working team committed to two fundamental goals:
1. The archive collection should be housed in an institution which was aligned with the values of the FWWCP.
2. The FWWCP membership should have a leadership role in the organization of the archival materials.
Over the next six years, the working team worked to establish a core collection of materials, working from the already existing collection of Nick Pollard. It also sought out grant materials and institutional support to sponsor workshops at FED Festivals, yearly gathering of membership writers and community publishers, where focus groups were held on how the archive should be organized. At this time, Syracuse University also agreed to be continued sponsor the annual festival.
In approximately 2013-2014, Nick Pollard reached out to London Metropolitan University’s Trade Union Congress (TUC) Library, directed by Jeff Howarth, to inquire about their interest in the materials. In 2014, the TUC acquired a deposit of FWWCP materials from Nick Pollard. This was the first step in creating a print collection at the TUC. The next step was to sort through these publications and develop a system for sorting and cataloguing. After additional discussions with FWWCP members at their annual FED Festival, through workshops and focus groups, it was collectively decided to begin sorting the publications by region.
These regions included the following: North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, South West, South East, and London. Additionally, there were regions that also included Scotland, Wales, Ireland. As the FWWCP members and other volunteers began the sorting, however, these regions expanded to include more international groups from France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and South Africa.
As the archive/collection began to take shape, Jess Pauszek and Steve Parks created a London-based research course that allowed Syracuse University students to help sort and catalogue the materials. These students also met with FWWCP/FED members to insure that the emerging database continued to reflect the values of the organization. To date, close to 5,500 publications (including chapbooks, magazines, meeting minutes, etc) have been sorted, creating a database of over 2,600 unique publications. An archive is also being created in the United States, based upon publications for which there were many additional copies. You can see more about this work on the FWWCP Collection development done by Jess Pauszek and Vincent Portillo at the TUC blog links here and below on the images.
Finally, looking ahead, the working team has expanded to include Jennifer Harding, London Metropolitan University, who brings expertise in oral history projects. The work is now turning toward collecting the individual and group histories which informed the ethos of the FWWCP, the working class culture which it formed in response to de-industrialization, global immigration, and emergence of identity politics. And as might be expected, there is a continued effort to collect more FWWCP materials as well as to digitize the collection so it can be available, once again, to the local communities from which it emerged.
Ultimately, the goal is to create an archive which doesn’t just exist for historians, but serves as a living and circulating resource for working class writers, publishers, and communities.