One week into the project and we have a clear plan for what we will be doing over the next few months. Initially, we will mainly be doing archival work examining documents held publicly and privately in both the UK and South Africa about City Group and the Non-Stop Picket. Later, we will interview former picketers.
Helen is currently sorting through the vast amount of papers relating to City Group and the Non-Stop Picket that have been stored away in the offices of the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) since the end of the Picket. It is too early to have a clear sense of what is there, but this archive clearly includes copies of many of the newsletters, posters and leaflets that City Group produced in the late 80s. There is also a lot of correspondence there about the Picket and between City Group and various ant-racist and anti-apartheid activists around the world, including representatives of the Southern African liberation movements. Finally, we know that this archive includes many of the ‘Picket book’ logs that were completed daily on the Non-Stop Picket. It will take us some time to work through this material.
The photojournalist, Paul Mattsson, who was a supporter of the Non-Stop Picket and covered many of the rallies, protests and direct actions organised by City Group, has kindly offered us access to his photographs from the time. Most of the negatives and images are largely unsorted, so making sense of what is there will take some time too. But, this will be a fantastic resource for the exhibition and our analysis.
In the autumn, we will be dipping into the material that has been publicly archived by the national Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) and the London Committee of the AAM to examine their internal discussions about the Non-Stop Picket and the events that led to City Group’s expulsion from the national movement.
The final strand of the archival work will take place in early 2012 when Helen will visit South Africa to study relevant material lodged in public archives there. In particular, we are keen to examine Norma and David Kitson’s personal papers and to look for reports about City Group’s work produced by exiled representatives of the liberation movements who were based in (or visited) London at the time.
Once the bulk of the archival work is completed we will start interviewing former picketers. At this stage, we think we have already managed to track down nearly 70 former City Group activists, and hope that most of them will agree to be interviewed. We want to record their stories of life on the Non-Stop Picket, how and why they got involved, and how the experience has shaped their lives since. Already several people have been kind enough to share their photos and other material from those days with us, and we hope more will do the same.
If you were involved in the Non-Stop Picket, please get in touch. We want to hear not just from core activists who were involved throughout the Picket, but also from people who were more occasional participants, or who had a short, intense period of activity there.