From Bonfires to Beaches: The Legacy Collection and Brighton Societies

Last week saw the nearby town of Lewes turn into a fire-filled wonderland to celebrate Bonfire Night. Lewes is really unique in that it’s home to not one, not two but seven Bonfire Societies (this, apparently, is small compared to the twenty five that used to exist). This got us thinking: Lewes may have its bonfire societies, so surely Brighton must have some equally wonderful (if somewhat less gunpowder-filled) organisations? To the Legacy Collection we go!

Karl MushroomBlack Flame Span










Brighton has long been known as a city with strong political affiliations, and the publications within the ‘Anarchism’ box show that revolutionary notions extend far beyond Lewes. The Federation of Sussex Anarchists (SAF) published a broadsheet called ‘Fleabite’ during the 1970s; we hold three issues, all of which are filled with cartoons and poetry satirising left-wing society and communism. Issue three features a hand drawn comic about “The incredible adventures of Karl Mushroom revolutionary”, mocking socialist ideas. The ‘Fleabite’ broadsheet eventually evolved into a smaller publication called ‘Black Flame’, published by Brighton Anarchists, but continued to feature cartoons alongside discussions about anarchy in the South East.

Brighton VoiceThe Legacy Collection also includes well over 100 copies of the alternative local newspaper ‘Brighton Voice’, which was published (roughly) monthly throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was created by an academic here at the University and soon the team of people working on the paper grew to around 50 in number. Most issues were sold here on campus and in town at Infinity Foods. The paper complements ‘Fleabite’ and ‘Black Flame’; all three opposed state power and were critical of the fashionable radicalism found in Brighton. However, ‘Brighton Voice’ focuses much more on local issues, such as the development of Brighton Marina (which it strongly opposed), the state of the beach (pictured below) and the welfare of Brighton residents. ‘Brighton Voice’ also worked with other local groups such as the Brighton Society: in the 1970s, a plan was proposed to redevelop Brighton station by knocking down the main concourse, moving it underground and putting a hotel in its place. Luckily this never happened, thanks to campaigning by local groups.

On a different note, we’ve also discovered that we hold a couple of copies of a publication called ‘Librarians for Social Change’, which was based in Brighton. Librarians and politics have often gone hand in hand (such as the Radical Librarians Collective) – but this is the first evidence we’ve found of it in the Legacy Collection. Little seems to be known about the ‘Librarians for Social Change’ but judging from the two issues we hold, the magazine seems to be concerned with many of the same topics that concern us now: justice and equality, attracting more people into using libraries, and technology in the workplace. However, the group seems to be much more inherently suspicious of computers than we’ve ever been: issue 20, from 1979, examines how new technology such as computer screens leads to job losses and negatively impacts health.

Librarians For Social Change 2

Librarians For Social Change










We’ve been really surprised by how much local material is held within the Legacy Collection, and are looking forward to discovering more. One thing appears certain, though: Sussex’s reputation for political radicalism and debate is long-established through the incredibly creative publications of its past. Long may it continue!

As ever, if you’d like to view any of the material held within the Legacy Collection or have any queries, do get in touch with us.

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