A preview of material from the archive. From its inception Commonword has been a platform for the diversity of working class experience: voices bearing witness to themselves and for themselves.


Coming Up!

“We’re after the facts of life and the hopes and fears it inspires. Memories and images of things that might be. Not just pretty pictures no propanganda for this cult or that cult. If at times we seem to paint it all a bit too black, this does not mean a lack of faith. (In the depths we may find common ground, we may have to hit rock bottom before we bounce.)”

A joiner’s son dares to do something else with wood.  Syd Jenkins reports back from the Unemployed Workers Movement Demonstration. Stories, poems and memories from students at adult literacy classes at Abraham Moss Centre in Crumpsall, North Manchester. Greg Wilkinson interviews members of the Mental Patients Union talk about detention, hospital conditions and treatment. Coming Up! is the product of working people.


Write On 12

A teenage Doris Sydenham can’t understand why her mother keeps having children. Hannah Chetham from Wythenshawe Writers Group remembers the outdoor market.  Joan Batchelor describes life on the factory line as ‘an automaton dressed in flesh’. Kevin Otoo lends us a bit of perspective:


Addicts would inject themselves beneath this wall:
Dogs would urinate into its shadows

After dark —
when the old clock in the cathedral tower
had offered us the midnight —
I too would walk beneath this wall,
Like a criminal returning
To the scene of a crime:
And reflect upon my arms
And ruminate upon my wrists
And laugh, and cry,
And bring my life into perspective.

Kevin Otoo

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Thoughts Feelings and Lovers by Elaine Okoro

‘You tell me I am beautiful. What is beauty? Not even a reflection of myself. There are times I want to hit you with such force that you lie there motionless and quite – dead. I have great satisfaction in that fantasy. A sense of achievement in being able to walk away. But in reality I find reasons for not walking away that make my exit much harder… to do.’

– The Trap Feeling

This is Elaine Powell’s first and only collection of poetry, published as part of Tightfisted Poets, a series of cheap, accessible pamphlets produced by women at Commonword.

Speaking in 2019 about her the poems she wrote in the 1980s, Elaine says:

“They are heartfelt poems, they resonate with other people, they are relateable. It’s quite direct, people get it. And I wanted something like that, people could just take something away with them.”