‘KEEP ON FIGHTING’ was the very first front-page headline of Aberdeen Peoples Press, the fortnightly community newspaper founded in 1973, and which ran until 1984. Priced at an economy busting 5p, this DIY alternative to millionaire-owned tabloids announced its agenda with a boldness born on its own doorstep.
This was clear from the words ‘says Mrs Simpson’ typed beneath the headline next to a black and white photograph of a local resident who looked a far cry from the earnest image of the era’s young radicals. In terms of making a statement, this calculated alliance of word and image demonstrated exactly how much this new publication was by, for and of those after whom it was named.
This exhibition of archive material from APP is presented by the Aberdeen based Peacock Visual Art, the ‘printmaking powerhouse’ founded in the same era. The connection is telling. Curated in association with the University of Aberdeen Special Collections, the selection of posters, photographs and front pages on show are a timely reminder of a largely hidden grassroots history. It also shows how little the social and political concerns that drove a crucial decade of people power has changed.
Moving beyond the sex, drugs and rock and roll of the 1960s underground press, APP and others driving a wave of community newspapers gave voice to more concrete local concerns. They also learnt how to seize the means of production with a cheap secondhand printer, a sheet of Letraset and a bucketload of idealism.
APP’s roots stemmed from the Aberdeen Arts and Community Workshop, formed by activists and tenants living in the city’s Powis housing scheme. As documented in the captions that accompany the wall of images, this grew into a printshop and workers co-operative. For those involved, the ‘learning curve was steep, not to say vertical….’ as one caption deadpans.
With all shades of grassroots activism on the agenda, APP opened up a central access point for groups ‘who probably only agreed on one thing: that they wanted to change society’.
The visual remains of this comes in polemic, slogans and satirical cartoons drawn from a century of pamphleteering that grew up with the rise of the printing press. A final section of more recent Risograph works produced at a series of Peacock Poster Workshops points towards an equally dissenting future.
A younger generation more used to putting together digital publications with the click of a mouse might consider as well how labour intensive it was to produce and distribute a fortnightly community newspaper such as APP. Another World is Possible spells out the results in black and white, with unmistakable hints of red all over.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh until March 6th.