Research Plan: how you can help

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.


About Gavin Brown

Associate Professor in Human Geography University of Leicester
This entry was posted in Archival research and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Research Plan: how you can help

  1. Hema Patel says:

    Hi Gavin

    Here is a very brief summary of my introduction and relationship with City AA:

    I was teacher training at Goldsmiths College, New Cross 1987 and out on a summer’s evening with fellow students. I was intrigued by a commotion outside St Martin in the Fields and went over to investigate. Richard Roques was the guy who enlightened me and explained why they were not able to protest outside South Africa House. His eloquent explanation gripped me! I decided to remain there for the rest of the evening. That was the beginning and I did not look back. I continued to be active with the picket until Mandela’s release in 1990.

    I had very little spare time as a single parent with a demanding job, but nearly all my spare time was devoted to the picket. I joined the City Group Singers (under the formidable management of Charine John), took part in many of the protests and had regular shifts on the picket. I did a number of assemblies at the school in which I worked about apartheid and taught my tutor group to sing Nkosi Sikeleli.

    By nature I was a quiet person who rarely stepped out of line – a conformist. The picket brought out a whole side of me that I didn’t know existed. I remember one time, protesting against the white only elections when we sat in the road at Trafalgar Square to stop the traffic, I was out of my comfort zone. Norma Kitson could see this. She sat beside me and held my hand. Theo Bakker babysat for me so I could take part in the protest.

    I am still essentially a conformist; I believe this allows for a respectful and harmonious society. However there are times when it is important not to conform. Deciding when this should be is, I guess, down to personal integrity.

    Today I still have the songs in my heart and cannot be in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square without being flooded with memories.

    I will upload some of the pictures I have onto the fb page.

    Hope this is helpful. Please do let me know if you wish me to elaborate on, clarify or correct anything I have written.

    Kindest regards

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