VOICES 1 -6 1972 - 1975
Ken Clay (editor)
Paperback 6" x 9"
The first issue of
Voices appeared in 1972.
Its founder, Ben Ainley, an academic
teaching English in
“I can make no great claims for these pieces,
except that they are, it seems to me, varied, interesting, freshly
written, and in most cases the work of men and women taking up a pen
late in life; with some qualms, though with real curiosity as to how
it will turn out.”
But it flourished; Ben had struck gold. Over
the next 12 years 300 contributors produced nearly half a million
words. It became a national phenomenon; there was nothing quite like
it before – and there hasn’t been since. When asked for financial
support the Arts Council scratched its head, squirmed and pronounced
worker writing: 'successful in a social,
therapeutic sense, but not by literary standards’.
Ben was a Communist Party activist - without
his energy, commitment and contacts
Voices would have died an
early death. His banner under the title from issue 6 onwards became
“working class poetry and prose with a socialist appeal”. Politics
and aesthetics remained tangled right up to the end.
This volume reprints everything in issues 1
to 6. By May 75 the eighteen foundation writers had been joined by
another sixty. The tone was becoming more confident and the
treatment more artistic – though those early accounts of the Glass
ran for 31 issues until 1984 with contributions from Manchester,
London, Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle. Original sets are now
impossible to find – there are some in Universities and one in the
Working Class Movement Library at Salford.
The background to
Voices is well covered in
the excellent papers of Tom Woodin, extracts of which appear on the
Voices website. A more
synoptic overview of British proletarian writing, which also touches
on Voices, can be found
in Ken Worpole’s classic
Dockers and Detectives.
The complete reprint of Voices will appear in 5 volumes