Interview – ‘in which we invariably blow our own trumpet’ so to speak…
Not often we do, but a young American comrade interviewed us recently for something or other that she is writing, so we thought we would share….
- How and when was your archive established?
The creation of group anarchist libraries for self, as opposed to state education, was happening with local anarchists in 1907,with the Tyneside Anarchist Federation of the late 1960’s early 1970’s, with the Newcastle Anarchist Group in the early 1980’s, and Tyneside Class War in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The Tyneside Class War library of 1990 eventually evolved into Tyneside Anarchist Archive that we are today. Continuing the tradition, we also have Newcastle’s Canny Little Library based at a local cinema / social centre space.
- Why did you want to preserve local anarchist history?
Apart from it being a particularly personal passion, OUR history is regularly misinterpreted and / or ignored by academic historians only interested in self promotion or biased viewpoints. The majority of ‘down to earth’ accounts of group activities, the histories of the lives of ‘lesser personalities’ within the movement, the lifetimes of activism despite, at times, prevailing odds, rarely, or do not appear in any of the ‘official’ histories of anarchism, especially regional areas such as the North East. A need and desire to remedy this situation is forever my aim.
- Do you all identify as anarchists?
- How many people work, either as volunteers or paid employees at your archive?
No one is paid! It is mainly the work of a couple of individuals, with occasional help from the wider anarchist ‘scene’.
- Who do you see as your main user community or communities?
Our help is always available to any who wish to utilise what we can offer, from the odd university dissertation to the sharing of knowledge to those seeking it to help with current literature they produce / write etc.
- Can you briefly describe the size and scope of your holdings?
Roughly about 3500 items of literature (papers, magazines, leaflets, news sheets, zines, pamphlets, etc) and that doesn’t include the hundreds of books, from my own personal library.
- Can you describe the outreach activities you engage in?
We do the occasional anarchist book fair, where we sell copies of papers etc that we have more than one copy of in the archive and what we know other archives already have. Newcastle has also been host to a North East Radical History Festival of which we were involved with, a stall showcasing our literature and history. We also self promote through the usual ‘social media’ and our website.
More importantly, this summer should see the release of our seminal work ‘Anarchism in North East England 1882 – 1992. A history.’ Which should be 300+ pages.
- How do you see your archive in relation to other anarchist libraries and archives?
Our influence and inspiration has always been the Kate Sharpley Library, we are like their little nephew! I occasionally visit a member of their library to exchange items of interest. We are just a small sapling amongst a sturdy oak forest when you compare us to the likes of Nottingham’s Sparrows Nest Archive, or Glasgow’s Spirit Of Revolt Archive, and especially the aforementioned Kate Sharpley Library. What we all have in common is that we are not academic institutions open only to the select few, we are all anarchists based in and around grass roots activity.
- How does your archival work connect to movement work or your organizing history? What is the relationship between preserving the anarchist past and contemporary and future movements?
A passage from the introduction of our forthcoming book may answer this question…
“We learn from our mistakes and we also learn from our history. The parallels are apparent throughout this history. Today (2019) a new local group, the North-East Anarchist Group, with their regular anarchist history discussion meetings bare resemblance to the Newcastle anarchists of 1907 who hosted similar events. The lessons learned of the anarchists at the Clousden Hill Colony during the late 1890’s are implemented by today’s co-operatives, social centres, and communes / squats etc. The creation of group anarchist libraries for self, as opposed to state education, was happening with anarchists in 1907,with the Tyneside Anarchist Federation of the late 1960’s early 1970’s, with the Newcastle Anarchist Group in the early 1980’s, and Tyneside Class War in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, this is carried on today with Newcastle’s Canny Little Library. The account of the Chopwell anarchists and their laying of anarchist literature for sale on the grass at the annual Durham Miners Gala in 1913 brings back vivid personal memories from the late 1980’s. This is our history, and this is the purpose of our history, this is our culture, a culture of resistance to the state and its enforced fallacies of indoctrination, control and coercion. And hopefully, this is our future, for the sake of our children or our children’s children, who we may hope can live a life without the destructive nature of capitalism, and a planet recovered from its devastating ravages.”