An audio documentary to celebrate the life and work of the British anarchist Colin Ward and to mark the centenary of his birth in 2024.
Colin Ward was far from the stereotype of the black-masked, bomb-throwing anarchist, and yet until his death in 2010 he was the foremost writer – and one of the greatest thinkers – of what remains a misunderstood philosophy, but one that has a profound relevance for us today. His greatest belief was in people, and that freedom is a social activity, but most importantly that it is always rooted in the local and the everyday.
To mark the centenary of Ward’s birth in 2024, Patrick Bernard – an audio producer based in Norwich – is crowdfunding an audio documentary about Colin Ward which tells the story of anarchy in the UK through his life and work, and an alternative history of the 20th century seen from an anarchist perspective.
The documentary will be recorded and edited in spring/summer 2024, and then it will be broadcast later this year on Resonance FM – a community arts radio station based in London – and at a series of events and exhibitions which are currently being organised.
In the documentary we will hear from contemporary experts and practitioners in the many fields that Ward wrote about during his long and varied career – from allotments and architecture, to planning, education and the environment – and who are still influenced by the ideas in his books and the many articles he wrote in newspapers and journals such as Freedom and Anarchy.
We will also hear from friends, family and fellow anarchists, and from the man himself in the wealth of archive material that he left behind – from his many media appearances to interviews and recordings from his and other personal collections – but also in classic books such as Anarchy in Action, Arcadia for All, Cotters and Squatters and The Allotment which continue to be read, reprinted and republished.
The documentary will track the progress of his anarchist education and ideas, from his childhood in Essex and early exposure to anarchism; his experience of the war and involvement with the Freedom Press group and trial; to finally becoming a founder and editor of the journal Anarchy. It will also follow his professional career which ran parallel to his anarchist activities, beginning with his apprenticeship as a draughtsman to the architect Sidney Caulfield, to his role as an Education Officer within the Town and Country Planning Association.
We will discover how his life and work went hand in hand, and how his many personal and professional interests are reflected in his writing – for example, how the pioneering work he did at the Bulletin of Environmental Education inspired his books Streetwork and The Child in the City which explore the relationship between children, play and the urban environment, and what it reveals about the experience of and wider participation in society.
We discover that anarchy is not – as it is commonly (and mistakenly) understood – simply about a lack of power or authority, but is instead a highly complex theory of organisation. Colin Ward’s anarchism was neither utopian or sectarian but practical and pragmatic, based in the here and now, the local and the everyday. Anarchy for him was not an ‘indefinitely remote’ goal but always already in existence, or to use one of his favourite phrases from the novelist Ignazio Silone, like ‘seeds beneath the snow’ which had only to be nurtured in order to grow.
From allotments to plotlands, holiday camps to adventure playgrounds, anarchy exists wherever and whenever individuals choose to voluntarily associate and co-operate with each other in the pursuit of their personal and collective goals – many listeners may be surprised to learn that they are themselves anarchists!
This is a unique opportunity to tell the story of a rich and overlooked tradition in British thought – and a radical alternative to mainstream politics – which found its greatest advocate in the figure of Colin Ward. Anarchism is a philosophy that continues to challenge many of our most deeply held beliefs and assumptions, but it also provides a vital lesson in how the world might be transformed not from the top down but the bottom up – like a seed beneath the snow.
Patrick Bernard is an audio producer based in Norwich. He has worked for several years at Resonance FM – a community arts radio station based in London – and has produced documentaries on a wide range of subjects, from the German writer W. G. Sebald and the Yiddish poet Avram Stencl to the role of translation in the French Revolution. His first feature for the BBC, ‘Learning from the Great Tide’, about the North Sea Flood of 1953 was broadcast in January 2023. Please visit his website for more examples of his work.
The documentary will be independently produced by Patrick Bernard – from research and writing to recording and editing – and your donation will help to fund the project and cover the costs of production including time, travel and expenses.
The project is not-for-profit and any remaining funds that are not used in production will be split between Freedom Press – which is currently fundraising to improve their building – and Resonance FM which also relies on donations from their supporters.
Support the project here.