Colin Ward was Britain’s most famous anarchist, and his abiding interest in forms of self-organisation, mutual aid, learning through experience, and direct democracy, remain as relevant and timely as they ever were – perhaps more so.
Ward was the author of nearly thirty books, covering allotments, architecture, self-build housing, children’s play, education, postcards, town planning, water distribution and anarchist theory, many of which gained him an international following. His book The Child in the City (1978), frequently reprinted, influenced planners and teachers from Liverpool to Latin America. Arcadia for All: The Legacy of a Makeshift Landscape (1984), written with planner Dennis Hardy, opened up a whole new field in 20th century social history around self-organised communities, echoing John Stuart Mill’s belief in the democratic importance of experiments in living. Another book, The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture (1988), with David Crouch, held the line for this uniquely friendly form of local self-sufficiency, and is once again in print thanks to Five Leaves Publications.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Ward wrote for the anarchist journal, Freedom. Between 1961 and 1970 he edited (and wrote much of) the monthly magazine, Anarchy, where he encouraged young writers and thinkers on social policy issues such as Hugh Brody, Stan Cohen, Ray Gosling, Tony Gould, Richard Mabey, Carole Pateman, Kate Soper, Laurie Taylor and Jock Young, to contribute. The spirit of Colin’s anarchy subsequently flourished in the journal, New Society, for many years, where reports from fields, farms and factories (and prisons, housing estates and adventure playgrounds) disclosed an attentiveness and sympathy to the detail of people’s everyday lives that much socialist theory and politics ignored.
I first met Colin in 1973, when he came to talk at a London teachers’ centre where I was on a term’s sabbatical study. From then on we began to exchange letters, postcards, notes, photocopies of favourite articles and reviews, a habit which continued up until his death, though we also met as often as we could. Like many others interested in alternative perspectives on the world, wherever one’s work or interests led, one always found that Colin had already been there before – and probably written a wonderful book about it. He never said a bad word about anyone, and ‘accentuated the positive’ in everything he wrote and did.
To honour the memory of this remarkable man, and wonderful companion and friend, a Colin Ward Memorial Gathering is to be held this Saturday, 10 July at 2pm at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
All are welcome to attend. There will be short speeches, music, bookstalls, an exhibition, and the showing of an extract from Mike Dibb’s film of Colin Ward in conversation with the late Roger Deakin.
For more information about the Colin Ward Memorial Gathering go to: www.fiveleaves.co.uk