Friday, 12 February 2010

Colin Ward

The anarchist writer Colin Ward, who died on the night of 11th February, was indirectly responsible for the existence of Five Leaves. We’d met years before, and like several people I later met, I’d been vaguely collecting Colin’s Anarchy (first series), still the best anarchist magazine produced in this country. A small group of us in Nottingham, publishing as Old Hammond Press, brought out a couple of pamphlets by Colin, one on housing, one on William Morris’s ideas of work. But in 1994 I got so fed up waiting for Faber to bring out the paperback of The Allotment: its landscape and culture that I offered to buy the rights. Colin said that as long as his co-writer, David Crouch, was in agreement he’d be pleased if Faber were to hand them over, and if it helped, the co-authors would do without royalties as they were simply pleased to have the book available in paperback.
Well, thousands of copies later Colin never regretted his generosity, and as well being the first book published by Five Leaves (though initially, for the sake of any bibliographers reading, Mushroom Bookshop), for years The Allotment kept the press afloat. We went on to publish Colin’s Arcadia for All (co-written with Dennis Hardy), Talking Anarchy (with David Goodway) and Cotters and Squatters. Colin also wrote the introduction to our edition of The London Years by Rudolf Rocker, who of course he knew. Rocker in turn knew Peter Kropotkin, whose Mutual Aid had such an influence on Colin as a political thinker. I’d hoped that we’d manage to fit in an edition of Colin’s Goodnight Campers! (on the social history of the holiday camp) while he was still with us, and his wonderful book on Chartres that was only ever published for Folio Society members. They will appear.
Five Leaves was not his only publisher by any means. Freedom Press brought out - and kept in print - his classic Anarchy in Action and other books on housing, social policy and - in advance of his time - a book on ecological transport. Housing, environment, transport, architecture, unofficial uses of the landscape, the education of children - Colin’s subjects were always full of positive examples of the way some people live now, and the way we could all live later. He had no time for what he called tittle-tattle. Colin developed a kind of Wardite politics and a close and loyal following ranging from George Mombiot to young libertarians who saw that there was more to life than permanent protest.
There will be many full obituaries, in the broadsheet, the anarchist and the housing press in particular. There are so many things that could be mentioned here, but I’ll simply say that every conversation with Colin was rewarding, educational and fun. He was the most generous of people, strengthened by his many years with Harriet, an activist and writer in her own right. We have been proud to have worked with Colin over many years and will miss him.
Ken Worpole - another Five Leaves writer (who, like Colin, has been published by several other publishers) - will be fronting communications about any events and memorials. Let us know if you would like to be kept informed. Colin's funeral will be at 2.00pm on March 1st at Ipswich Crematorium. Our condolences to Harriet and the family.

1 comment:

Richard Westall said...

Colin was a friendly, kind man. I knew him when he was editing the early issues of 'Anarchy' when a few of us met at his place. He published a few things I wrote, mainly on Africa and the theory of anarchism. He joked about one piece - publishing what 'Freedom' refuses to put in.
I disagreed about a number of issues with Colin, one was the split between the anarchists and the syndicalists. He questioned my version of history but when he said 'I will show you', he went to his filing cabinet and said 'Why the hell should I?'
Albert Melzer always maintained Colin forgot the class struggle and, for a while, I was persuaded of this view. However I now think Colin was the heir of Kropotkin and that examples such as 'Adventure Playgrounds' really do show the anarchist spirit in action.
Colin loved jazz and one piece he wrote for Freedom about Billie Holiday was reprinted in Jazz Monthly. The editor of Jazz Monthly was Albert J. Macarthy who wrote once that the spirit of jazz was anarchist. That statement changed my life and I enjoyed with Colin the use of the word jazzarchism in print in the pages of Freedom.
Jerry Westall