A Greater London: the GLC Story 1981-6’ aims to engage current Londoners with the story of the Greater London Council before its abolition in 1986. By retelling the history of the institution, and its relationship to communities and social movements of the time, we hope to inspire people to think more creatively about the possibilities of city level democracy.
The project was founded in September 2015 by Deborah Grayson and Natasha Nkonde. Debs had come across the Greater London Council through being involved with Soundings Journal, whose founders Stuart Hall, Doreen Massey and Mike Rustin were all involved in socialist politics in the 1980s. Natasha was organising with Take Back the City – a campaign to build a people’s manifesto for the 2015 mayoral election – and was struck at how little knowledge there was about this radical socialist history of London and the need for more intergenerational dialogue in political spaces. The project initially received funding from the Amiel and Melburn Trust and the Lipman-Miliband Trust, and registered as a Community Interest Company in November 2015.
In the past year, the project has run public events, including a public launch in December 2015 and drinks to mark the second anniversary of abolition in March 2016. We have also organised a number of talks and workshops, including at the Just Space community conference, at the ‘We the City’ hustings organised by Compass, and at the Sisters Uncut occupation in south London. In August 2016 we received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to collect oral histories, and this project is currently underway.
We have a management committee of six people – Loraine Leeson, K Biswas, Lynda Dyson and Ego Ahaiwe, alongside Deborah Grayson and Natasha Nkonde.
Tasha and Debs being photo-bombed by Ken Livingstone, March 2016
Oral History training day
Our volunteers met for a day’s training from Verusca Calabria from the Oral History Society, where they learned about the principles of oral history, ethics and consent, how to put together an interview guide, and how to record an interview. Feedback was really positive and the volunteers seemed really excited to learn more about the GLC and how these kind of interviews can be used to capture and preserve forgotten histories.
Heritage Lottery Fund oral histories project begins.
‘Linda Bellos: 80s feminism in the GLC’
Linda led a workshop focusing on the legacy of the Women’s Committee of the Greater London Council (GLC), at the South London Sisters Uncut occupation in Peckham.
Linda chatting to Sisters Uncut
‘Radical Histories weekend’
Tasha and Debs did a presentation about the project at a weekend hosted by the Amiel and Melburn Trust in Eastbourne.
‘How did we get here? Forgotten Moments, Lost Leaders, and Remembering our Recent Radical Past’ – listen to the podcast (from 1 hour 46 minutes)
Tasha and Debs talked about the project and why the politics of the 1980s matters today at a seminar at Open School East on May 31st. This was part of the Culture, Power and Politics series organised by Jeremy Gilbert.
Walking tour of the Southbank
We ran our first walking tour of the Southbank for a group of civil servants from Seoul, South Korea, co-ordinated with the think tank Spreadi.
‘Community politics of the GLC’
Hilary Wainwright and Loraine Leeson led a workshop about the GLC’s approach to participation in planning and the arts, as part of the How 2 Do It conference at Kings College.
Hilary and Loraine at How 2 Do It
We the City hustings
Debs talked about London’s radical history and its implications for today at a hustings event for the upcoming Mayoral elections, hosted by Good London.
30th anniversary of abolition drinks – watch the video
March 31st was the 30th anniversary of the abolition of the GLC. We co-hosted drinks at the Slug and Lettuce near Waterloo station, which used to be the Architects’ Library thirty years ago when the building was still part of the council offices. Around 70 people joined us, including former leader of the GLC Ken Livingstone, lots of former staff, and younger people who have become interested in this history through our project.
Ken Livingstone talks to former employees of the GLC
This planning meeting in January 2016 focussed on the following questions for three areas: housing and property, arts policy and reimagining the state. Twenty people considered the following questions:
- Why do you want to retell this aspect of the GLC story?
- Who do you think should hear about it?
- What kind of outcome would you hope to see?
- What questions might open up good intergenerational discussions?
- How might we tell this story?
Notes from one of the groups at the planning meeting
‘A Greater London’ launch event – listen to the podcast
On December 2nd 2015, ‘A Greater London’ launched at the Rag Factory in East London. Around 100 people across a wide age range came together to remember the legacy, look at materials from the time and think about the relevance of the GLC for today.
After a last-minute cancellation from Ken Livingstone, the panel was made up of Linda Bellos, Hilary Wainwright and Loraine Leeson, all of whom were involved in the GLC of the 1980s. From Linda we heard about her work as an officer for the Women’s Committee, from Hilary we learned about popular planning and the Greater London Enterprise Board, while Loraine spoke about her work with the Arts and Recreation Committee.