Publishing for Social Change

Fighting with words against inequality, injustice, poverty and war.

Taking place:

The Buckley Building, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford OX3 0BP.

Thursday 12th March 2009

Publishing is not just an industry. It's very largely how a democracy works (when it works!), so it's far too important to be left entirely to markets, press-barons and governments. Humanity's greatest battles - against slavery, for the vote, against poverty, oppression, exploitation and war - are fought increasingly, and often won or lost, in the publishing media.

Publishing for Social Change (held in March 2009) was a one-day conference for people who write and publish for a fairer, more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable world:

"Whether you produce leaflets, books, blog posts, magazines, news-sheets, research reports aimed at influencing policy, or email postings to internet news groups, we hope you will come and share your experiences and ideas.

Aims of P4SC  2009:

The conference was for grassroots activists, charities, campaigning organisations, trade unions, socially-engaged publishing firms - everyone who publishes work that promotes progressive social change. It is organised by the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies (OICPS) at Oxford Brookes University, home of Brookes's long-established BA and MA courses in publishing. We hope:

  1. To raise awareness of the vital need for socially-engaged publishing in the modern world.
  2. To consider how Brookes might help social-change organisations develop their ability to make an impact.
  3. To help our undergraduates and postgraduates get a greater sense of how they could use their own skills and talents in the cause of social change.

The speakers:

  • Sigrid Rausing - philanthropist and publisher. In 1995 she used her family fortune to set up the Sigrid Rausing Trust which, this year, will award around £20 million to organisations working in the human rights field. She is the publisher of Granta; in 2005 she co-founded Portobello Books
  • Anne Beech - Managing Director of Pluto Books, the radical UK publishers whose massive list includes the likes of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, John Pilger, Sheila Rowbotham and Vandana Shiva. Investigative journalist Greg Palast calls them "our weapon of mass instruction".
  • Alice Cutler - The Trapese Collective; co-author of "Do it Yourself: a Handbook for Changing our World" (Pluto 2007)
  • Firoze Manji - founder and Director of Fahamu, the pan-African human rights information network that uses new and conventional media in innovative ways to promote "a vision of the world where people organise to emancipate themselves from all forms of oppression".
  • Rahila Gupta - member of Southall Black Sisters; author of "Enslaved: The New British Slavery" (Portobello, 2007) in which she argues that immigration controls have created a new class of people in 21st-century Britain who are effectively slaves.
  • Rob Cornford - Communications Manager in Oxfam GB's Policy and Practice Communications Team. He is fascinated by the problem of "how to make content visible and accessible to people who want to use it".
  • Sarah Sexton and Larry Lohman - The Corner House, the research group that recently brought the Government and BAe Systems Ltd to court over alleged irregularities in arms sales.
  • Hamish Campbell and Richard Hering - VisionOntv (massive new online video channel "for social change and saving the planet"), and Undercurrents.
  • Chris Brazier - co-editor of The New Internationalist: the Oxford-based social-justice magazine, run as a workers' co-operative, which for 30 years has been initiating international campaigns on issues ranging "from the cynical marketing of babymilk in the Majority World to human rights in Burma".

What we covered:

  • Finding funding and making a living in the cause of social change
  • Mainstream media: how do we compete? (or work with them?)
  • Digital media and the internet: techniques, opportunities, costs and case-studies.
  • Can commercial publishers make a difference? (Who are today's Victor Gollanczes?)
  • What role can fiction play? (Who are today's Victor Hugos?)
  • Greenwashing, "Geldofisation" and other hazards
  • Finding common ground and building alliances between social change groups

What it cost, etc.

Registration costs £25 (£10 for students and unwaged), which includes refreshments and a sandwich lunch. To book, please download, print and return (by post) the booking form to our Administrator, Zoe Townsend, with either a cheque or your debit-card details.

For latest information about the conference, and to be added to the announcement list, please contact me, Bob Hughes (the organiser of this conference).