Posted by: helenrobertsbradford | October 5, 2009

The circle game

The PaxCat project has recently completed the cataloguing of the archives of the Commonweal Collection itself.  These are the records which tell the story of Commonweal’s creation by David Hoggett in the late 1950s, its operation as a postal library for activists in the peace and direct action movements, the foundation of the Commonweal Trust in 1963, the move to Bradford University after David’s death in 1975 and over 30 years of operating as an independent library within the JB Priestley Library.

Design for the Commonweal Collection, [1970s]

Amongst the more unusual items in the collection is the black and white version of this Commonweal logo, based on the subject classification scheme created by David Hoggett in 1972.  David was paralysed from the chest down after a near fatal fall from the roof of a house during a project to build homes for Hungarian refugees in Austria in 1956.  The archives of Commonweal reveal how David devised routines and ways of working which enabled him to run the library with the help of his carers and committed volunteers.  His system of abbreviations and speed words has left the most obvious trace in the archives, rendering notebooks, index cards and draft bibliographies difficult to make sense of.   His strength of character, enthusiasm for life and hope for the future are woven through the archives.  I like particularly that he has left behind the lyrics of his favourite songs.  These are very eclectic and range from German folksongs to Tagore to Joni Mitchell, whose ‘Circle game’ I learnt at primary school.

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