VOICES 3 ISSUES 14 - 17 1977 - 79
Paperback 6" x 9" 376 pages £9.98
Voices, the Manchester based magazine of working class writing, ran for 31 issues between 1972 and 1984. It included such talents as Jimmy McGovern, John Cooper Clark, Tony Marchant, Jim Arnison and Ken Worpole. This reprint contains the complete text and graphics of the entire series in 5 volumes (available separately).
From the INTRODUCTION to Voices 3
Voices really hit its stride in the period 1977 – 79. Rick Gwilt, taking over as editor, pronounced issue 15 “the most definitive for a long time”. Shortly after this Ben Ainley died. The magazine had been quite transformed from the stapled foolscap pages of its first appearance, but nobody could fail to recognise Ben’s great contribution. As Tom Woodin reports in his paper Building culture from the bottom up: the educational origins of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.
Ainley's ability as a teacher was more than matched by his extraordinary campaigning capacity, which helped to develop both the readers and writers necessary to success. Rick Gwilt, who was to become editor in 1977, recalled that Ainley was a very pragmatic movement builder:
“Ben used to go to labour movement organizations ... and used to say, 'Resolution 42 calls on the movement, blah blah blah, what we are doing about it is ... what we want you to do is to agree to take twenty copies of Voices, whatever, ten copies of Voices, five copies.’ That's what he did. He was brilliant at it. I think one of the strengths of the Communist Party always was that it knew that if you are going to do anything, you probably had to start in quite a small way and you had to build on what there was already ... little chinks of light, little bits of achievement. That's what they did turning Resolution 42 into Unity of Arts into Voices.”
Gwilt himself would take Voices a step further by focusing more exclusively upon working-class writing that experimented with personal experience, contrasting with what he saw as the increasingly esoteric and intellectual work appearing in Voices prior to his editorship.
The question of just what working class writing was came up again in Rick’s editorial to issue 16:
Now VOICES is in a stronger position than ever to
challenge some of the most commonly held illusions about working-class writing:
the idea that to appeal to a non-literary readership it is necessary to resort
to the techniques of the "popular press"; the assumption that committed" writing
has to be didactic or polemical - the moral fable or the hymn fervently
reaffirming one's faith; the feeling that working-class writing is an area of
inferiority where marks are awarded for "trying", or that it occasionally turns
up something "good enough to go in 'Readers' Digest "'.
Quite simply, working-class writing is different, both in style and in content. Which is why our motto now reads simply, "working-class stories and poems". Someone asked me recently, "How do you decide who is a working-class writer? Do you use a means test ?" The answer is, "No", we read what they've written.
With a print run increased to 1500 and sales nationwide Voices was now established. Working class readers knew it when they saw it too.