Working Press Archive, books related to and about working class artists

Scope and Content

Correspondence and financial material of the Working Press, including letters regarding the Working Press books and publishing and networking activity.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Working Press self published book collection was initiated by Stefan Szczelkun, (an academic currently at Westminster University) and book artist.

His experience of being Polish in Brixton Artists Collective from 1983 - 1987 led him to think about his other identity - that of being working class. He met Graham Harwood at the Bonnington Square Festival for Peace in 1985, who as well as producing vibrant paintings had worked as a graphic artist.

They decided to form a group of working class artists who wanted to self-publish books under a collective imprint. They published their first self-funded titles in 1987 and having managed to get get Central Books to be their distributor they achieved sales that were able to sustain further publications.

Stefan invited almost every working class artist he met to self-publish, whether in written or graphic form. He has stated that while 'few artists have the energy, self-confidence and multiple skills to self-publish... the open invitation seemed a good way of networking and validating artists' work. They had informal meetings and also one formal day conference.

In the ten years from 1987 they published eighteen original titles. These included high profile names like Conrad Atkinson and others who have become well-known like Alison Marchant, Shaheen Merali and Matthew Fuller.

The Arts Council gave a grant to research the British Artists' Book scene which was somewhat fragmented at that time. Stefan used the research and a conference to make the book artists aware of each other and to raise the profile of books by artists in the UK. This work was continued by Tanya Peixoto (BookArtBookshop) with her three Artists' Book Yearbooks, and by Marcus Campbell with his annual Artist Book Fair; and into present time with Sarah Bodman's work at UWE Bristol. Stefan held out an open definition of 'artists books' which included such formats as Zines, 'comix' (sic) and polemical pamphlets circulating in England at the time.

The collection represents a unique project than interconnects many issues within alternative cultural and social activity at the time.

Working Press publications include the early works of now well-known artists like Graham Harwood; leading academic writer Matt Fuller; illustrator Clifford Harper; theorist Howard Slater, with letters by them in the archive

Working Press acheived several historical firsts, including the first computer generated comic (Graham Harwood), the first book on football culture (Turner), the first book by and about Greenham Common Yellowgate women (Junor), and first book by Micheline Mason (disability /inclusion leader and artist)

Working Press gives an insight into self-funded publishing activity of the time.

Working Press represents the technology, communications and networking of the time which was the cusp of the digital era, for example photocopy art

Working Press looks at perception of working class, women artists, disabled artists and black artists, and explores the notion of an artist as an oppressed group

Access Information

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Related Material

Working Press publications, pamphlets and Artist Books. To be catalogued on UCA's library catalogue