The Peckham Publishing Project was one of the many groups that made up the international Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers in the 1980s. This group met at the Bookplace, Peckham High Street – a community bookshop, adult education, and coffee shop built on the same principles as Centerprise (Hackney). The group was established by local working class people wanting to use their local knowledge, social history of the area, sometimes recently acquired literacy skills and many times political activism to come together to write collectively about their individual experiences. The writings of the PPP show the diversity of experience, thoughts and feelings of working class people in Peckham in this decade in which working class identity was heavily under threat. The collection includes diarised accounts of working mothers, migration narratives from children, experiences of moving to Peckham from Africa, Vietnam and the Caribbean, honest accounts of difficult family relationships, abject poverty that can’t be hidden and mothers who were not the martyrs that many working class narratives depict – all of which widen the genre of working class life stories and challenge the dominant narrative of British working class identity to offer an alternative, ‘a working-class identity without guarantees’. Out of this the research shows a re-imagining of working class identity that fits our world today, as even though the language of class might not be as strong a tool to mobilise social action, the injuries of class are still deeply entrenched. As Jon Lawrence explains, ‘Community hasn’t died, but it has changed’ and inspired by the FWWCP’s redefining of class to fit their era, there may be hope to do the same in 2021.
This talk is part of the Invisible Histories series at WCML. We hope to run it both in person and live-streamed – please check www.wcml.org.uk/events for details.