Forty years ago this week, the first issue of 'Fresh Garbage' appeared - and was promptly filed in waste bins across Keble College, Oxford. It was the first of fourteen issues of this left-wing newssheet, which stumbled on until February 1977. Even by the left's standards of exceedingly short-lived titles, Fresh Garbage had an early sell-by date
Fun to put together, 'Fresh Garbage' hardly changed the world. But it was one of those modest, hand-to-mouth enterprises, which are often dismissed as ephemeral - but sometimes caught the mood more than the polished and manicured publications with a clearer message to convey.
It was put together by the college's Left Caucus, a dozen or so students of a vaguely progressive mindset. The early issues were fairly tame. By the autumn of 1976, and the freshers' issue above, we had worked out how to do some very basic graphics on the stencil sheets. Very basic!
I was leafing through Fresh Garbage the other day for the first time in decades. I gave my complete set, along with a rag bag assembly of all the leaflets, pamphlets, papers, badges and general stuff accumulated during a few years of student radicalism, to the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick. I went back there to consult a much more conventional archive, the records of the Gollancz publishing company, but also spent half-an-hour or so communing with my past.
I asked an archivist how many people consult the files I deposited. Thirteen over the previous year, she said - which was about twelve more than I'd expected (though I don't now whether any of them took a look at Fresh Garbage).
One page is a particularly evocative reminder of what we got up to as students ... a listing of local pubs, cafes and stores, compiled by the admirably thorough Colin Orr. Some of those pubs I don't recall at all - but I do remember the Carpenters in Jericho, where, I see, you could then buy a round of five pints of Morrell's bitter (the Oxford brewery closed in 1998, the Carpenters shut down quite a while earlier) and still get some change from a pound note.
It's slightly spooky. As you can see from other pages on this site, I'm a manic collector - political pamphlets, ephemera, lapel buttons. I love the stuff and the vicarious sense of association it allows, the material link to a moment and place and cause.
I've often wondered what happened to all the political detritus I assembled while a hugely ineffective student political semi-activist more than three decades ago. Thanks to a chance web search, I now know.
At some stage over the decades, I have given all this stuff - I guess a cardboard box or two - to an academic archive. (I'd entirely forgotten this act of hubris or generosity.) And there the archivists have, with loving care - or gritted teeth, who can tell - listed every single item. Every handbill, stray magazine purchase, dog-eared poster ... there's even a 45rpm propaganda disc. The list runs to a full fifty pages.
So such ephemeral political publications and causes as 'Strumpet', 'Red Herring', 'Z-revue', 'Fresh Garbage' and Fred Bakunin - which may well have faced the contempt as well as the condecension of posterity - have a toehold in to a new era. And given the amount of time I have spent over the years trawling in archives through political shavings assembled by activist onlookers from an earlier era, I'm glad all this "stuff" has an enduring home.
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