Five Leaves has a Roma and Traveller section. I’ve written elsewhere (http://fiveleavespublications.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/five-leaves-and-traveller-books.html) about why we have the section, mentioning this book. And certainly if you want to read one book about Romanies this should be it. Ian Hancock is himself a Romani and a professor of linguistics at the University of Texas, his area being Romani linguistics. Indeed, this book has an interesting section on the Romani language. Though it is not covered in the book, Nottinghamshire has a particularly interesting Romani story. So much so that a few years ago some men in Newark decided to publish a dictionary of “Newarkese”, featuring a pile of words they thought were unique to the town. As far as I know their dictionary never appeared, but every single one of their reported “Newark” words was a standard Anglo-Romani word like jukel (dog) or yog (fire). And it is that town I first visited in 1978 or 79 which had signs, which would now be illegal, in pub windows saying No Dogs, No Gypsies.
Hancock traces Romani roots back to India, the story of the Romani journey to Britain, and the history of prejudice against Romani people, including, worst of all, the Porrajmos (“the devouring”), the Holocaust. More positively, there is a chapter about famous Romanies, including, for example, the actor Bob Hoskins, the singer David Essex and, on his mother’s side, Charlie Chaplin. This book was published in 2002, any later edition would surely have included Eric Cantona, a French Manouche (Roma). The book is particularly strong at images, usually not positive, of “Gypsies”. A later edition would have no problem adding front covers from the Daily Express as an example of prejudice. We Are the Romani people includes discussion points suitable for secondary school use.
The bookshop stocks quite a few books that were turned down by the publishing wing of the Five Leaves empire, usually coming out from more appropriate publishers – some bigger, some smaller. This book is one of them. I loved the idea – colour images of Colin Ward’s Anarchy magazine, with supporting essays – I just could not see how it could be produced economically, 100+ full colour images and information about a long-dead magazine that never sold more than 2-3,000 copies. Anarchy was hugely influential though, taking up issues like adventure playgrounds long before anyone else, with lots of important writers cutting their teeth on the mag. The Rufus Segar covers were in advance of their time… but how to sell it?
Fortunately, Daniel Poyner found a much better publisher in Hyphen, which only publishes in the field of graphic design, and which can reach a market outside of political archaeologists.
And what a job they have made of it. £25 is a lot for a paperback book, but it is worth every penny. The supporting essays are by the late Raphael Samuel, who understood the importance of Anarchy and Colin Ward’s ideas, and Richard Hollis on Anarchy‘s design in relation to the 1960s. Ward and Hollis have, separately, had an involvement with the publishing side of Five Leaves but we had no role in putting this book, or the contributors together.
Last week someone came into the shop with a satchel full of library-borrowings, a sort of Wardist grab-bag. Did we know of any organisation locally or nationally that brought together those who followed Colin Ward’s constructive anarchism? I admitted failure on this. Ward remains influential – Lawrence and Wishart are bringing out a memorial volume for him this year, and Five Leaves is planning a final volume of his essays, but those who he influenced are scattered. This book – one of those shortlisted for the 2013 Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing – will make him better known in the design world. But it is hard to think how a permanent organisation promoting Wardism (a term he would have disliked) could survive as his own generation fades out and the generation he influenced most slip into retirement. But the bookshop is here, in part, because of his influence!