A brief history of Commonword up until the year 2000. Subsequent milestones will be added in due course.

  • 1975: Lifetimes

    Lifetimes, the biographies of thirteen working class people from Manchester is published. It comes from a project set up by journalist-turned-community development worker Greg Wilkinson to encourage people to tell their own stories.

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  • 1977: Commonword established

    Greg Wilkinson sets up Commonword, starting with the Commonword Writers Workshop, a weekly session that takes place on Monday evenings. Funding is secured to employ some part-time staff and to rent office space at 12a Piccadilly in Manchester city centre.

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  • Late 1970s

    Women-only writer groups Mum’s the Word and Home Truths are set up by Commonword workers to widen writer participation. Commonword publishes Marshall’s Big Score, centred on an interracial relationship between two men in the north west of England.

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  • Early 80s: Northern Gay Writers, new premises

    Northern Gay Writers, a lesbian and gay writing group is set up. Their first publication, an eponymous collection of short stories and poems comes out in 1983. Commonword moves its offices to 61 Bloom Street.

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  • 1984-85: Moss Side People’s Writing Group

    After taking up a marketing role at Commonword, Mike Narayansingh sets up the Moss Side People’s Writing Group to encourage writing from people in Moss Side. It takes place at the Greenheys Centre (now the Greenheys Adult Learning Centre) on Upper Lloyd Street, Manchester.

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  • 1986: Formation of Cultureword

    Commonword appoints Lemn Sissay as its first development worker for Black writers. He sets up Cultureword, a programme dedicated to Black and Asian writers.

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  • 1988: Identity


    Identity, a weekly writing workshop for Black and Asian writers is set up at Commonword through its Cultureword programme and publishes its first anthology, Black and Priceless. Commonword also publishes She Says through its new imprint, Crocus Books. It features the work of five contemporary women poets from the north west of England.

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  • Early 90s: Disabled writers, debut novels

    Commonword publishes its first collection of work by its North West Disabled Writers Group, Patronizingly Challenged Beware! in 1990. More disabled writers are showcased in 1992’s Rainbows In the Ice.
    Two debut novels set in Manchester are published by Crocus Books: A Matter of Fat, Sherry Ashworth’s comic story slimming club and Looking for Trouble by Cath Staincliffe, which ends up being shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s best first novel award.

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  • 1995 to 2000: Poetry and spoken word

    Commonword holds a series of poetry slams, some in conjunction with Manchester Poetry Festival supporting writers such as Dike Omeje, Rosie Garland, Marvin Cheeseman and Zahid Hussain whilst publishing poetry collections by Mandy Precious, Pam Leeson and Healing Strategies for Women at War, a collection of poetry by five black and Asian women.

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