19th Oct: London Anarchist Bookfair: Radical History Area

From the desk of Past Tense:

Dear friends,

We are proud to invite you to the very first


Saturday 19th October 2013, 11.00am – 7.00pm
Room 315, 3rd Floor, Frances Bancroft Building, Queen Mary & Westfield University, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS


This year’s London Anarchist Bookfair will host something new – a Radical History Area. Inspired by the successful Radical History Zone that has featured at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair over recent years, some individuals from Bristol Radical History Group and Past Tense, among others, are attempting to kick start something similar.

Radical History? Oh no, we hear you cry, not a serious terminally dull academic debates about dusty and irrelevant events hundreds of years ago…!

No… at least we hope not…

We have put together a series of talks which we hope people will find interesting, but also useful. We don’t see ‘history’ as a dry ‘subject’; it isn’t separate from our own experiences and the struggles, and situations we are part of now, and the ideas and movements we hope can help build a freer future. Our own stories are also history; but reversing that, history is made up of experiences, battles, events, individuals and mass movements – linked to ours by both resistance to the hierarchical and unequal social relations they faced, and the desires, ideas and dreams of life could be, and how to get there.

We also think that history isn’t just about reading, texts, lectures – we have always tried to put on events, actions, to commemorate and inspire ourselves and others with humour and theatre. Next year we hope to expand and bring in other ideas and ways of discussing and remembering our subversive past.

We are also putting on two exhibitions, which will be displayed on the walls in the History Area.

We hope that the meetings and exhibitions we are putting on make some contributing to linking, past, present and future. We know not everyone will be interested, and others will think we should have put on talks about other issues…!

However we see this idea as becoming a regular feature of future Bookfairs, if this one works out; if anyone is interested in helping plan future Radical History Areas, please get in touch. This could be just the beginning…


11.00 – 12.00: Solidarity: Martial Law – Capitalism in Poland, 1980-1989

Speaker: Marcin Wawrzyn

The black and white picture of the struggle of Polish anti-communist opposition, with its flagship Solidarity trade union, against the Moscow-backed regime, is just another official version of history that the victorious write in the school books of our children. But what if Solidarity was just a major scam of Pierestrojka that span out of control, and what if communists didn’t believe in communism, but what they did believe in was simply money and power?

12.00 – 1.00: Running down Whitehall with a black flag: memories of anarchism in the 1960s

Speaker: Di Parkin

Di Parkin was a revolutionary activist from the early 1960s to the 1980s. This talk focusses on her personal memories as an anarcho-syndicalist in the 1960s and on interviews with members of the Syndicalist Workers’ Federation and its links to the Spanish CNT in exile.

1.00 – 2.00: Anarchist Visual Art, Then and Now?

Speakers: Kev Caplicki and Gee Vaucher

This striking montage of history and political art is a one-off chance to catch comrades from the celebrated JustSeeds Collective, sharing a space with Gee Vaucher, from legendary punk band Crass.

Kevin Caplicki is a socially engaged printmaker, member of Justseeds Artists Cooperative & DIY archivist at Interference Archive, in Brooklyn, NY, which explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements.

Gee produced what are surely the most familiar and influential images of anarcho-punk artwork. She continues to experiment and push boundaries as an artist using whatever it takes to say it.

JustSeeds and Gee are also exhibiting some of their work in the Radical History Area (see below).

2.00 – 3.30: Occupying is Good for your Health?

Speakers: Rosanne and Myk, hospital occupiers from the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, many UK workers and patients occupied hospitals under threat of closure. Currently the NHS is under threat of closures again. How is the situation different now? Are tales of previous occupations relevant? The NHS, useful as it is, has never really been under our control – are occupations a step in that direction? Or is calling for occupations just empty radical-sounding sloganising?

3.30 – 5.00: British armed forces’ strikes and mutinies in 1918-19: a radical history project for the anniversary of World War I

Speakers: Roger Ball, Neil Transpontine.

Bristol Radical History Group and Neil Transpotine will outline the conveniently forgotten history of British armed forces’ post WWI strikes and mutinies revealing how the mass refusal of troops across Europe included expressions of militant dissent in Britain. Such widespread revolt led to the collapse of the Allied invasion of Soviet Russia. The second part of the meeting will discuss what we can do to disrupt attempts by Cameron and the Tories to spin the 100th anniversary of the War’s outbreak next year.  Never mind their flagging credentials; radical historians can start the  resistance right here!


We are also hosting two exhibitions throughout the day:

Inside Room 315: Justseeds and Gee Vaucher.

Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative is a network of artists, working in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, committed to making print and design work that reflects a radical social, environmental, and political stance. They produce collective portfolios, contribute graphics to grassroots struggles for justice, build large sculptural installations in galleries, and wheatpaste on the streets…

Gee Vaucher’s surreal, always challenging, artworks and collages have graphically depicted a commitment to radical social change for decades, ranging from her work with Crass to more recent international multi-media shows and exhibitions, and publishing through Exitstencil Press.

Second Floor Landing: 1834 vs 2013

Been hearing about 1834 recently? Does the phrase “New Poor Law” weirdly make you think of now? The Anarchist Time Travellers’ Association:have splashed some soundbites on the walls; come and see if you can tell the 1830s from the 2010s! (we would have made it into a proper quiz but couldn’t afford the prizes…)

More Info



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