“Litter is dangerous”….

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been in London (UK), researching. The results were mixed. I spent a few days at LSE – London School of Economics and Political Science – looking at papers of the Young Liberals and the Woodcraft Folk. Dating from the 1950s or 1960s, it warns against dropping litter in the countryside. Visually, it does its job quite well, depicting a calf lying on the ground injured, surrounded by litter, with the headline ‘Litter is Dangerous – Respect the Life of the Countryside’. There is then a list of the Countryside Code.

My trawl through the Young Liberal papers was for a specific reference for an organisation, Commitment, which was started by Young Liberals in 1971. My search was not fruitful and I could not find any reference there. But speaking to a member of that group the following week, did reveal much about the organisation and new avenues of research. The group staged a demonstration in London, for example, in December 1971 about pollution, carrying balloons full of ‘fresh air’ to Oxford Street. I was able to pinpoint key dates and going through old newspaper editions further enhanced the picture.

One thing LSE was good for is having a complete run of the magazine Resurgence, an early environmental magazine published from 1966. This allowed me to look at the complete collection upto the mid 1970s, and I’m still working through.

My second week in London I spent mostly at the British Library Newspaper Archive in Colindale, north London. Here I cross-referenced dates of Young Liberal and Commitment activities with other events and activism. The Guardian, the Observer, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express are all searchable electronically, as well as the Times, the New York Times, the Irish Times and the Times of India, which all cover my period. Other newspapers I’d have to look at via hard copy.

This gives a – somewhat – political balance – the Mirror usually supporting Labour, the Express usually more rightwing/Tory. The Guardian & its Sunday stablemate the Observer liberal/centre left, with the Times being centre right. The information gleaned about Commitment will be used for a forthcoming conference paper I’m giving in June. As ever, when you interview people, they suggest other people to speak to. The oral interviews are increasing as more and more people come forward.

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