Social Science blog

3 posts from November 2021

25 November 2021

Six months that launched the Seventies

In the second part of this series, Anthony Barnett's guest post recalls his time as a member of the editorial collective of a little-known revolutionary weekly newspaper entitled '7 Days'. In 2020 the British Library acquired the papers of Anthony Barnett, best known as the founder of the campaigning organisation Charter 88 and the website openDemocracy.

Looking back half a century to 7 Days makes me realise the pain of its failure which is still buried within me - it was such a glorious achievement and had such promise. I’ve been asked to say something about how I became involved, what I saw as being at stake, the experience of producing it, and how it influenced me. To start to answer them I want to signal why it was so good and why something so good failed.

What 7 Days expressed in its range, radicalism, intense seriousness and dramatic layouts was the radical spirit and global intelligence of the young English left of ‘the Sixties’. It was the anti-Vietnam war movement turned into stunning photojournalism. It was the best revolutionary radicalism, shorn of its Trotskyism. It was a pioneering engagement with feminism and anti-racism. It was fresh and fearless.

Miss World Protest

The attack on Miss World. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

One person orchestrated the outcome across the pages of 7 Days, edited the layouts and presentation: Alexander Cockburn. I dislike the term ‘flair’, as I associate it with superficiality. But Alex’s flair was breath-taking in its audacity. Thanks to him, 7 Days focussed a tabloid energy on the British class system and its snobbery as well as world capitalism and its proto-fascism.

I’ll take a closer look at the first issue to show its range which was crucial to the paper’s qualities, building on Madeleine Davis’s analysis in her opening post. Page 2 reports the trial of the Mangrove 9 (recently brought back to life by Steve McQueen). The portraits of all nine were to fill a page when the historic 55 day trial ended. Rage against racism, in the UK and around the world, was a 7 Days theme from the start.

Mangrove Nine

The Mangrove Nine. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Page 3 has reports on the European “Common Market”, the role of the City of London and a financial scandal in Italy. They initiated coverage of capitalism rather than ‘the economy (at the back, launching a weekly essay on concepts, Gareth Stedman Jones asks ‘What is Capitalism?’).

Two photo-stories give the paper its hard-hitting edge. One exposed a reunion of ex-SS Nazis in Bavaria and got the cover splash. The second is a dramatic account of how a British army unit provoked a riot in Northern Ireland. It is by the photographer, Tom Picton, who became a regular. It proved a harbinger of Bloody Sunday, which 7 Days covered like no other mainland paper.

Derry Jan 30

Bloody Sunday. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

A striking report on a ‘Day at the Dogs’ by Peter Fuller, who was the indefatigable home affairs editor, launched coverage of sport with a strong working-class angle.

7 Days pioneered discussion of mental illness as a form of control and repression. In her cool, invaluable overview in the digitised archive, Rosalind Delmar, the paper’s production manager, captures the radical imperative to break the silence about this issue. A story on ‘Madness in Two Minds’ and one on ‘Inside Britain’s Psychiatric Prisons’ launched the coverage along with a provocation (by one of the editorial collective, John Hoyland under a pseudonym) about whether parents should make love in the presence of young children (answer, not if they sit on top of you).

The Labour Party features in a short article by Tom Nairn, ‘Has the Labour Party any new ideas?’ Tony Benn had published a Fabian Pamphlet that called on Labour to adopt workers control of production, referendums (there had yet to be one in the UK), direct action against the media and democratic education to replace elite rule. Nairn says it is absurd  to think Labour could just adopt such a “staggering” vision. He points out that in a subsequent Fabian Tract, Tony Crosland’s responded to Benn with a call for what Nairn saw as right wing-populism - a warning of what was to come. Nairn’s conclusion: “totally new” thinking would have to come from outside Labour. No one thought its source would be a Conservative of whom we had barely heard, Margaret Thatcher.

Turn the page and the nature of pop music and the role of musical charts is looked at by Dave Laing, while Stuart Hood (once the BBC Director of Programmes) writes on TV as an industry. Next there is Peter Wollen on the “Real, Surreal and Mundane”. In part he discusses how we mostly see paintings reproduced in a small format in books and this changes their nature. Opposite, a review of the ‘Advertisement of the Week’ is by John Mathews. Across all such coverage the new weekly focussed on the production of what is experienced and refused to take the output of capitalist society at face value.

In addition, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith contributed a superb review of Bertolucci’s The Conformist. He sets out how it resolved failures in his earlier films and shows how a bourgeois husband “is more fascist by his emptiness than anyone who is fascist by conviction”.  

If this wasn’t enough, a four-page feature follows on gambling, its nature, scale and addictiveness and the role of the state by Jon Halliday, the brother of Fred Halliday, who was in charge of 7 Days' ‘Foreign News’, and Peter Fuller.

British Army at work

The British Army at work. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Later, Fred Halliday was to write a multi-page spread on why Nixon was going to China - one of the world-turning events that coincided with the six-month life of 7 Days. These included Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland, when the paper ran the photographs others would not; the first miners’ strike that humiliated the Heath government; the trial of the Mangrove nine; the women’s liberation attack on the Miss World contest at the Albert Hall; the liberation of Bangladesh, and the huge, penultimate Vietnamese attack on the American regime in the South. It was the six months that launched the Seventies.

7 Days could have been an English language version of Libération, launched just over 18 months later in July 1973, or the Tageszeitung launched in 1978 - both  also started with egalitarian editorial collectives – and survived, even if, like them, it would have undergone the traumas of a triumphant market fundamentalism. A print publication needs in some way to be a ‘home’ for a core readership. 7 Days never had the time to build one. But the potential readership was there, later expressed by Rock against Racism and, in the early Eighties, with Ken Livingston’s inventive and effective Greater London Council (1981-86).

7 Days closed because it had no serious start-up funding. It was without capital in a capitalist world and lacked any core backers. But this itself needs explanation. I was the prime mover and fund-raiser, using a dummy we’d created as well as a business case. At the heart of it, all of us were attempting to by-pass the sectarian divisions of the English far-left by seeking to demonstrate what could be done by looking outwards. But this also meant there was no initial network of organised support in a highly sectarian situation.

Daly NUM

The Miners’ Strike. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Specifically, it was an effort to recover from the wounding split in the Black Dwarf . 7 Days was what the Black Dwarf should have become. This sounds like an odd thing to say, I know! Black Dwarf was a revolutionary paper conjured into existence by the theatrical agent Clive Goodwin and the poet Christopher Logue and others, edited initially (after a false start) by Tariq Ali. I joined the Dwarf later. Among its other editors and contributors who were to work full-time on 7 Days were Fred Halliday (who told me he came up with the Dwarf’s  memorable front page banner: “We shall fight, we shall win, Paris, London, Rome, Berlin”), Peter Fuller, who wrote pseudonymously the Dwarf’s ‘City’ column and John Hoyland.

Tariq Ali became a committed Trotskyist and decided to help create the International Marxist Group (IMG), as a British branch of the Fourth International. Backed by like-minded Black Dwarfers (none of whom were writers), he urged Goodwin to make it the paper of the IMG and Goodwin refused. Ali had recruited a wealthy supporter and they split off to launch the Red Mole. I took over editing the Black Dwarf but Goodwin had no funds and it died.

As it did so, some of us determined to start a new paper out of the ashes of the debacle, convinced that a committed non-sectarian paper of the left was needed. An example of the linkage: a key contributor to 7 Days was the great critic Peter Wollen, who wrote the Xmas cover story ‘Was Christ a Collaborator?’ I asked him why he wanted to become involved with us and not Red Mole. He said that it was when he saw one of the later Black Dwarf’s that I edited, where I’d put FOOTBALL FOOTBALL on the cover. Here is a characteristic picture from the time, with Margarita Jiménez.

Image_06

Margarita Jiménez. Copyright © 1970 Howard Naish.

7 Days became a message in a bottle. One that recorded what the left’s culture and spirit should have been like. I’m very happy that Madeleine Davis’s eagle eye spotted the bottle and has opened it up half a century later.

Looking back I realise that for me personally it was a moment of uninhibited revolutionary expression. Much later I enjoyed bringing some radical energy into constitutional reform with Charter 88 – but it was consciously preconditional: a call to democratise the state sufficiently to make socialist strategy a credible option. Twelve years after that, the aim of openDemocracy was to create a space to prevent suffocation by Blairite globalisation. But 7 Days was an uninhibited ‘weapon’ of revolutionary advocacy, advance and learning, or so we thought!

How did it influence me? I felt vindicated as well as defeated. It meant my experience of that period was different from many of those who joined organisations like the IMG, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), or even became Bennites. It was defeated but it deserved to have survived. I was greatly helped overcome the loss by gaining the friendship and mentorship of John Berger, whom we’d asked to become a ‘Trustee’ of 7 Days. He was a wonderful example of how to retain voice and principle even when times are dire.

I’d like to add one codicil. We were not helped by the state of England. In his article, Nairn quotes Tony Crosland, once the most interesting of Labour intellectuals. Now he denounced ‘participation’ and ‘liberation’. The British people, Crosland claimed, “prefer to lead a full family life and cultivate their gardens. And a good thing too … we do not want a busy bustling society in which everyone is politically active and fussing around in an interfering or responsible manner”. This still shocks. It expressed the deep conservatism of the political class and the revulsion shared by the Labour leadership of democracy itself. Unfortunately, at the time, far too many voters agreed. They had still to vomit up the loathsome elixir of fatalism, deference and belief in British superiority and this effected everyone. This helps explain why 7 Days was also like an oasis in a desert.   

Dance layout

The spirit of 7 Days in this stunning layout. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

17 November 2021

Football fanzines from print to the digital age: call for academic partners

The British Library is pleased to invite academics at UK universities and Higher Education Institutions to collaborate with us on two jointly-supervised doctoral research projects. One research topic is entitled Football fanzines and fan communities in the digital age, and the other is Investigating the origins and development of the Cotton collection. You can read more about them on the Library's website.

Both studentships will be funded for up to four years through the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships scheme. The research projects draw on the Library's collections, expertise and resources, and are aligned with our vision statement, programmes and purpose as a national library. Prospective HEI partners are invited in an open competition to submit proposals to bring their own expertise and perspective to our research themes.

We would welcome applications from academics of postgraduate status currently employed at UK universities/Higher Education Institutions, who would be interested in joint supervision of a collaborative doctoral project that draws on the Library’s extensive holdings of printed football fanzines and fanzine websites in the UK Web Archive. The project would begin in October 2022.

Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships at the British Library

The Library’s curators can offer guidance on how to locate and access items in its printed collections and on ways to undertake research using the web archive.  We would be keen to collaborate with academics with experience of researching fanzines and/or football fandom and with research interests in digital communications and fan websites. This project will also offer significant opportunities for wider outreach and engagement, ranging from blogposts for more general audiences and content creation on the Library’s website, to the creation and development of collections in the web archive of fanzine and fan websites.

Heathen and Brian Moores Head

Copies of the Gillingham fanzine Brian Moore’s Head and Birmingham City fanzine The Heathen.

The main purpose of the research will be to investigate the way football fanzines and fan websites communicate with their readers, and how they contribute to building fan communities and giving voice to the concerns of fans, in a forum separate from, and often critical of, clubs and organisational structures.

The Library holds an impressive, but under-exploited, collection of the football fanzines that emerged as an offshoot of punk culture, and it continues to build on those collections. While the late 1980s represent a high point when many new fanzines were established, their transition into the era of digital publishing has been uneven. Some print editions have been replaced by websites and e-zines with fan input, others use their online communities to add to the content of the print edition and extend its reach.

OLAS last issue

The final print issue of long-running fanzine OLAS / Over Land and Sea as West Ham moved from the Boleyn Ground at Upton Park.

This doctoral project will investigate the extent and impact of digital publishing for football fanzines and consider how fanzines and fan forums can be archived, preserved and made accessible where they transition from print to digital formats or exist in dual formats.

Beesotted April 2013

April 2013 capture of Beesotted, a Brentford fan’s network in the UK Web Archive.

As well as extensive collections of printed football fanzines received through legal deposit from the 1970s onwards, the Library holds a wide range of football-related websites collected from 2005 onwards (with a majority 2013-present). Much of the existing research on football fanzines pre-dates the move towards digital publishing, although there has been some more recent research on fan forums linked to fanzines.

This project offers an opportunity for new research that encompasses both print and digital materials, but it does not seek to prescribe a particular set of research questions, whether approached thematically or in relation to a single club or group of clubs. Depending on the interests of the academic partner, it would be possible to look at the portrayal of gender and the representation of women both in the game and fan communities, or to consider the representation of sexual identity through fanzines from a critical perspective, both to highlight progressive elements and to understand the challenges to change within the game.

There is scope too to examine racism in football and efforts to challenge and stand against racism within fanzine communities. It is possible that the extension of online fan forums has opened up fanzine websites to the expression of racial hatred or nativism similar to that found on social media more widely, in a way that runs counter to the fanzines’ origins in punk and alternative culture. It would be possible to pose questions about editorial control and codes of conduct within fan forums and fanzine websites.

The research could also investigate the way changes in football ownership and ticket pricing have impacted on the social class background and economic status of matchday fans. It may further explore the degree to which fanzine websites and online forums have extended the reach of fanzines and enabled those who follow a team but are unable to attend matches to be part of an online fan community.

Dial M for Merthyr 2019

March 2019 capture of Merthyr Town fanzine Dial M for Merthyrin the UK Web Archive.

More information on the call for academic partners can be found on the Library's website.

Completed application forms and brief CVs must be submitted to Research.Development@bl.uk by 5pm on Friday, 10 December 2021. Late applications cannot be accepted.

Before submitting your application, please ensure you have read the Information for HEI Applicants and are aware of the specific characteristics of the AHRC CDP scheme, the selection criteria and the envisaged timetable.

 

Contested ground

Contested Ground fanzine.

What can we learn from legal deposit data? A PhD placement at the British Library

By Lottie Hazell

 

I joined the British Library over the summer to discover what can be learned from the data that is generated by the Library from the acquisition of legal deposit books. Specifically, I was interested in the data available on publications submitted using the Publisher Submission Portal (PSP). The PSP is used by publishers who produce fewer than 50 items per year, to deposit publications which exist only as digital copies. The Library was keen to explore this topic further as the UK has a very large number of publishers who fit this description, but it can be hard to find out about them.

Whilst I joined the library under the PhD placement scheme – I am currently researching a Creative Writing PhD at Loughborough University – it was my experience as a marketer in the publishing industry that drew me to the placement. The aim of this placement is to better understand the current behaviour and engagement of publishers using the PSP, examine the British Library’s current outreach strategies for Portal-eligible publishers, and inform recommendations to further support publisher engagement.

But who are the publishers that exist in the PSP? How representative are they of the small publishing landscape in the UK? And how can the British Library continue to grow the numbers of small publishers using the Portal? By the end of December – which is when my placement comes to an end – I hope to have answered these questions. To do this, I am gathering two primary forms of information: data about works deposited using the PSP and survey responses from publishers currently using the Portal.

By examining data from the PSP I will be able to determine publisher behaviour patterns, including frequency, quantity, and type of deposit. The decision to gather and process data that is readily available in British Library systems ensures that any analysis undertaken in this placement can be built upon in future library work.

The survey of publishers using the Portal will provide a fuller picture of how the Portal is serving its current users. Additionally, publishers will be also be asked where else they congregate with other publishers or peers in their industry so the British Library can ensure strong connections are fostered with as many small publishers as possible. The intended outcome of the survey is to inform a series of recommendations that will suggest how the British Library can engage new publishers, encourage frequent deposit, and ensure that small publishers are included and represented within the collection.

You can read more about Legal Deposit and the Publisher Submission Portal on our website. To learn more about the Publisher Submission Portal you can watch the video at the start of this blog post.