2024 marks the centenary of the birth of Colin Ward (14 August 1924 – 11 February 2010), one of the leading anarchist thinkers of the twentieth century.
Colin Ward was a wonderful storyteller and prolific writer, and published over 30 books and many articles, papers and reviews. These – as well as his wider work as editor, teacher, lecturer, architect and education officer for the Town and Country Planning Association – saw him develop and apply anarchist thinking to many issues and problems of contemporary societies. Ward advocated the creation of cities, places and spaces based upon respect, grassroots networks of self-help and participation – of making the city as a mutual project. His books and writings celebrated moments where people had taken the opportunity to do things differently. He continues to influence and inspire people today.
Roman Krznaric wrote about Ward’s life and work here. Krznaric says:
‘For most people the typical image of an anarchist is a bomb-throwing Russian from the nineteenth century or a black-masked youth at one of today’s anti-capitalist demonstrations. Colin was neither. He came from a different anarchist tradition, one which saw social change emerging not from violence and revolution, but from expanding social cooperation and mutual aid in everyday life. His writings celebrated worker cooperatives, tenant housing associations, allotment holders, children’s adventure playgrounds, Friendly Societies and organisations like the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. This is where he saw “anarchy in action” – people organising themselves on a voluntary, non-hierarchical and decentralised basis – a social model reflecting the anarchism of one of Colin’s major influences, the Russian writer and geographer Peter Kropotkin. Colin believed that an anarchist society was not an imagined future state, but rather something that existed in the here and now, all around us. It was a latent force, “like a seed beneath the snow” as he used to say, that had the power to push back the boundaries of the centralised state and the capitalist system.’
Many of Ward’s books are out of print. There’s a good selection of Ward’s writing in Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility – The Colin Ward Reader. Freedom Press has recently brought back into print Talking to Architects with a foreword by Paul Dobraszczyk, and also publish and distribute other books by Ward including the classic The Child in the City. Five Leaves Publications has brought some of Ward’s works back into print and will republish Anarchism: People and Ideas with a new introduction by Ruth Kinna in July this year.
In advance of the centenary of Ward’s birth, Bristol Ideas is commissioning a series of essays that aims to show how Ward has influenced people’s work and lives in different ways. These essays will be published on the Bristol Ideas website throughout autumn 2023, to coincide with this year’s Festival of the Future City.