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Senate House Library

Spineless Wonders: Community Publishing, Multilingualism & Environment


Written by
Leila Kassir, Academic Librarian: British, US, Commonwealth, Latin American and Caribbean Literature & Tansy Barton, Academic Librarian: Manuscript and Print Studies

Explore the next event in the series from the Spineless Wonders network of artists, writers, academics and librarians, creating and researching small press publications... 

The Spineless Wonders series continues with Community Presses; Multilingualism and Translation; Ephemera and the Environment on Friday 18 February 2022. There will be three panels to fit the themes plus a poetry reading by Sean Borodale to celebrate the value and variety of material published without a spine.

Community Presses: ‘Dedicated to the Unpublished Writer’**

Senate House Library is co-organising with the Institute of English Studies the first panel of the day, focussing on the role of community presses. During the 1970s and 1980s, several community presses were founded to provide an outlet for writing by those whose voices and stories were often unheard within mainstream publishing, due to biases and prejudices related to gender, race, age or class. Some of these presses organised under the collective banner of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers, while others worked entirely independently. The spirt of these presses continues today via community publishing ventures which take their inspiration from the groups of the past to provide an outlet for today’s under-represented writers. 

Scribe Sistren: Poems by Benji (Thandiwe Benjamin) - London, Centerprise Trust, 1987

The community presses panel at Spineless Wonders connects the late twentieth century to the early twenty first, to discuss the history and future of these (often radical) community publishers. The panel features talks from five speakers. Desrie Thomson-George will talk about the Brixton-based Black Ink Collective, which was founded in 1978 and published work by young Black writers. Kadija George will discuss the work of Centerprise, which was based in Dalston, Hackney, and existed from 1971 to 2012, publishing works by a wide range of Hackney residents. Jess Baines will present the perspective of the radical print shops and their role in the creation of community press works. Tamara Stoll will talk about her contemporary publication series The Road Less Travelled, while Amy Todd, Nick Toner, and Caroline Ritchie from the Newington Green Meeting House will highlight their new publication N-Zine! 

Sealed letter from George Eden, Earl of Auckland, Governor General of India to Maharajah Sher Singh, 1842

The afternoon panels are curated by the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, and UCL Libraries. The first session focuses on multilingualism and translation and is wide ranging, covering Ethiopic, Syriac, Armenian, and Copto-Arabic illuminated manuscripts, research into ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ and translation, universal language movements in the 17th century and a poetry reading informed by reading of Eastern European poets and censorship. There will also be an introduction to some uncatalogued non-European material in the Fuller Collection at Senate House Library. The Fuller Collection is mainly British and European documents and seals but there are some examples of material from around the world. The presentation for the panel will feature a box from the collection that contains documents and seals from the Indian subcontinent and will look at how they relate to the rest of the collection and issues of ‘outlier’ material. The final panel of the day is Ephemera and/in the Environment, which includes poetry, performance, and artist’s talks to explore relationships between language, place, environment, and art. 

Sign up to join this free event 

**Quote taken from Black Ink Collective’s Black Eye Perceptions (1980)