Anti-fascist voices preserved in University of Northampton’s unique far-right archive

Date 15.03.2016

Recorded interviews with anti-fascists who stood up to Sir Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts, and a far-right activist turned anti-fascist spy form part of an exclusive new archive at the University of Northampton.

The University’s research team have completed 54 exclusive recordings with anti-fascists about their experiences, discussing the postwar history of anti-fascism and what caused them to get engaged in the movement.

The project was co-ordinated by Dr Paul Jackson, Senior Lecturer in History and Lead Researcher with the Radicalism Research Group in the University’s School of Social Sciences.

Dr Jackson explained: “This collection is an important resource, not just for researchers but as part of our country’s heritage. The history of how anti-fascist groups have challenged racist organisations, such as the National Front, is very easy to forget. Yet these struggles have helped to define the multicultural society we have today, and now the University of Northampton is at the forefront of preserving that memory. This major new collection of interviews also adds to our existing Searchlight Archive, and will help foster new research into the movements that have fought against extreme right politics, in the recent past and today too.”

The oral history project’s collection includes recordings taken during interviews with members of the original 43 Group (Jewish anti-fascists who opposed Mosley after the war), as well as an interview with Father Ken Leech recorded just weeks before his tragic death. Ken, a Christian Socialist Anglican priest who challenged racism in society and supported the needy, founded the Centrepoint charity in 1969, and was a co-founder of the left-wing Anglo-Catholic Jubilee Group.

The new archive also includes interviews with Ray Hill, a former leading activist within the far right turned anti-fascist mole, who disrupted far right attempts to bomb the Notting Hill Carnival (as laid out in the Channel 4 documentary The Other Face of Terror). In the interviews Ray talks candidly about what led him to reconsider what he stood for; his time in the army, his role in the Racial Preservation Society, and his role in the British Movement. He also shared with the interviewees his wife’s views on politics, and discussed the formation of the British National Party – of which he was a founder member – and the destruction of the National Front.

The oral history project’s recordings will be housed alongside the University’s existing Searchlight Archive, a major source of archive material that documents the activities of British and international far-right and anti-fascist movements. The archive is one of the largest collections of its type in the UK, with approximately 1,000 archive boxes of information in total, and almost 400 are already listed in the catalogue. The Searchlight Archive includes many extremist periodicals and publications, details of clandestine gatherings and briefing documents, which have been collected by the anti-fascist Searchlight magazine since the 1960s.

The oral history project and Searchlight Archive forms part of the larger University Archive and is housed on the University’s Park Campus. A formal application process will be in place for anyone wishing to gain access. Find out more about the University of Northampton’s Archive. If you have any questions, please contact Dan Jones, Searchlight Archivist and Associate Lecturer in History on 01604 893035 or email.