As part of a series of upcoming interviews with similar minded endeavors we decided to interview our friends from SPIRIT OF REVOLT – Archives of dissent • Glasgow • Scotland • The Archive collects, manages and preserves multi-media records from Glasgow’s and Clydeside’s anarchist and libertarian-socialist past and present.
1. Please give everyone a brief history and tell us a bit about yourself.
J – Now 88 been an anarchist since my apprenticeship in Fairfields shipyard on the Clyde. Spent 12 years or so with Amnesty international, the last 3 as urgent action co-ordinator for Scotland. Another 10 years or so with Scottish Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders, (SACRO). Since 2003 have produced a free newspaper, The Anarchist Critic and pounded the streets of Glasgow distributing the paper, Created the wiki, Strugglepedia and produced the book Radical Glasgow, now in its 4th edition. Promoted the idea of anarchist archive for Glasgow/Clydeside and with small group brought it into being. For a number of years now have written a political blog, Radicalglasgowblog.blogspot. Sadly age has slowed me down quite a bit, but still try to add my tuppence worth to the movement.
S – Im the Treasurer and one of the 5 founders from 12 years ago. I do all the payments and banking, organise the Archivist sessional fees and help with fundraising. I also organise Exhibitions which always have rotas for local anarchists to explain the materials to the public. I have run children workshops and generally promote the archive. SoR Archives of dissent was set up in 2011 to gather the ‘stuff’ activists had under their beds and which might be lost because nobody bothered to find a place for it. We picked a public library because we wanted the Anarchist viewpoint accessible by everyone. We follow in the footsteps of previous Anarchists who had deposited small collections in this Library over the past 70 years. This stuff remained uncatalogued. Originally we volunteered to catalogue that old stuff but SoR grew and grew. We get everything free, Room , Vaults, Storage etc but we fund an independent Archivist because our Anarchist deposits need to match the catalogue system in the library so that their archivists can find our material and bring it to the Archive room for the public. None of this would happen if SoR group did not present the material in the same format as the existing City Archives and their union will not permit volunteers untrained to catalogue since this is dilution of labour – hence the autonomous archivist.
2. The SOR collection is held Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Is this an open library? can anyone turn up and view your literature ?
S – Yes, a public reference library and City Archive. J – we have a room at the Mitchell Library which we get free, to do our cataloging and scanning. Though we are in the Mitchell, we are not of the Mitchell, the collections will always belong to the SoR, yes the Mitchel is a public library.
3. Like Tyneside, the Clydeside area has a long militant industrial history ( both having been surrounded by coal mines, shipyards, heavy engineering, etc) this must give you a vast amount of historical radical literature to draw from, or yet to discover ?
S – Yes, it shows how Anarchists/Unions/other shades of activists united on issues. It has become an enormous Archive of over 43 collections covering all aspects of Anarchist and Libertarian Socialist organising. It goes back to 1880’s. It is constantly turning up new networks and individuals.
J – Yes Glasgow Clydeside has a long and varied history of radical individuals and movements. I tried to capture some of this on Strugglepedia and the book Radical Glasgow, but their is a mountain of history still to be brought to the public notice.
4. Is there any little gems of local anarchist literature that you have discovered lately ? if so can you tell us about them / it ?
S – A recent Les Forster Deposit included a photocopy of a published letter sent to Paul Foot complaining about the offhand way he referred to Harry McShane, an activist during Red Clydeside who was part of the original Clyde Workers Committee – a group which formed inside an Anarchist Bookshop to campaign against the Muntions Act 1915 which suspended union activity, was suspicious of the union leaders and called for joint control of factories leading to an overthrow of the wages system. They went on to win pay rises and supported successful rent strikes to get the Rent Restriction Act. Anyway, we then got a Hugh Savage Deposit and it contained a handwritten letter from Paul Foot acknowledging his attitude with McShane – a kind of apology. we can all learn from the past.
J – Most of my research into Glasgow’s radical history took place many years ago, and gems there were plenty, among them the fight for freedom of speech on Glasgow Green. All I can say on that matter is have a look at Strugglepedia.
5. Whilst we were researching / writing our recent book ‘Anarchism in North East England 1882-1992‘, we were forever coming across reports and mentions of groups etc from Glasgow. It has a long rich history. We know you do booklets on various aspects of this history, as well as the Strugglepedia pages etc, but has the consideration that this would make a wonderful book ever occurred ?
S – Thats great to hear. I believe the Strugglepedia came from the book Radical Glasgow – A Skeletal Sketch by John Couzin. John is the founding member who approached the Library. And the book was condensed into 12 leaflets that cover the Clydeside main events. J – I have produced a series of leaflets, called Radical Glasgow History Project, mainly shortened versions taken from Strugglepedia and we distribute them at stalls and events we attend. As I mentioned before, the book Radical Glasgow is really Strugglepedia in book form.
6. We all recently met online discussing how we can work together more etc. Apart from a young chap from Sparrows Nest (Nottingham) we all seemed over 50++ years of age. What can be done to further encourage younger generations to realise the importance of preserving and promoting (old) anarchist literature ?
S – Im not too worried about this although I know others are. If its the old activists that get intae this then thats great by me. Maybe it is a thing for older people, the thing is to keep it buzzing, get it out into pubs and exhibitions and so on. Thats why the website is equally important as the Collections in the Vaults. Its universal online so Sparrows Nest and SoR digitise everything we can. Spread the message.
J – It has always been a gripe of mine that we are not attracting enough young, I suppose it is a problem we all face, trying to keep that connection with the young. SoR does put up a stall at events and hope to draw in the young, we also try to recruit students to help with book listing and scanning, though not a lot of success there.
7. What are the future plans for the SOR Archive ?
S – We hope to complete 10 smaller collections and get them into the Mitchell Vaults ASAP. We dont allow anything to go in the Vaults thats not completely scanned. Then we hope to get links to academic students whom we can train in digital preservation as well as more volunteer scanners to speed up the process. Eventually we would like to scan books. All our material gets used as much as we can for events etc,. J – Future plans are difficult, we would like SoR to be completely self sufficient financially, we are planning a SoR library as we have lots of very interesting and valuable books. Of course the dream would be to have our own secure premises in the form of a autonomous centre with facilities to help our like mind groups. That’s the stuff of dreams.
8. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, is there anything further you may want to add ?
S – We just got back in our room in the Library and moved all the new collections in and are setting up the scanning again. J – I just hope others take the time to respond to your questionnaire and I hope that co-operation can flourish between the various Anarchist Archives. I had great hopes about our one and only meeting, but it is hard to maintain these sort of ambitions as we are a very small group of people and all are deeply involved in other activities, so their time is at a premium.
Many thanks to J & S for the answers
Website – https://spiritofrevolt.info/
Strugglepedia pages – http://strugglepedia.co.uk/
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