The Rocky Basic Reader Books – Slideshow
The pilot editions of the Rocky basic readers. The books were aimed at black students in adult basic education

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Handprint Project: The Rocky Basic Reader Books
Handprint Project: Rocky the Woodcarver
Handprint Project: Rocky’s Village
This book introduces Rocky and shows how he creates beautiful African-influenced carvings
This book takes us on a tour around Rocky’s village
We are introduced to his neighbours, his friends and his family

Using the materials which we brought back from Jamaica we prepared an application with NACRO and applied to ALBSU for funding to set up a project to produce educational materials for African Caribbean students. Our application was successful and ALBSU granted us funding for a two-year research and development period to produce a set of pilot publications to be monitored, and a report produced. We called the project Handprint.

Handprint was formally set up in January 1983, sponsored and managed by NACRO, staffed by myself as the co-ordinator, Jennifer Dale as part-time administration assistant and Derek Bishton as design and production assistant. The project was based at 137 Soho Road in Handsworth, in premises above a fruit and vegetable shop.

There was a lot of work to do organising the space in what was a fairly dilapidated set of offices. We had to redecorate, and buy and equip the place. Fortunately, all the experience I’d had with HAS came in very useful.

But in every other respect, setting up Handprint and turning myself into a publisher was a completely new experience. Derek and I had spent many hours looking at the photographs and materials we had brought back from Jamaica, and several ideas had emerged for books and audio visual materials – but now we had to turn them into reality.

One of the sets of photographs that had aroused a lot of interest was of a wood carver called Rocky we had met. Derek had taken some pictures of him working and some of the finished carvings, which were extremely striking and beautiful. Using these images as inspiration, I had sketched out two basic reading books that featured Rocky as a central character. But in order to make them work, we needed to take some more specific photographs of him to fit the narrative I had constructed. In many ways, it was like the storyboarding exercises we had undertaken on the HAS film course.

So, in the summer of 1983 we spent some time in Jamaica. Derek had signed a publishing contract with Chatto & Windus to write a book about Rastafarians based on the work he had done earlier at Sidelines and the visit to Shashemane, and he used his advance to fund a six-week trip. I joined him for a couple of weeks and we spent several days with Rocky, photographing him going through the process of making a carving, and meeting up and interacting with his friends and neighbours.

When we came back, Derek printed up lots of images and we made some dummy trial editions of the two books we had planned using photocopied images and text – Rocky the woodcarver and Rocky’s village. These were tested by our advisory group, and their comments were then incorporated into the process of detailed revision and editing I was to become familiar with as we developed more materials.

 Handprint project: Survival Magazine – Slideshow
From rough sketch to final product

Survival Magazine was a 28-page A4 book designed in the format of a woman’s magazine, presenting topics such as fashion, child care, diet, literacy and health issues with an African Caribbean perspective. It was produced with the help of black women living and working in the Handsworth area, and was designed specifically for use in colleges, especially access courses. We also produced a Notes for Tutors booklet outlining ways the material could be incorporated into lesson plans to suit the needs of various literacy levels and teaching situations.

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Handprint project: Survival Magazine
In the pre-computer era, designs were produced by hand. Alan Hughes worked with me to visualise what the magazine would look like, producing these beautiful ‘roughs’
From these rough designs, Derek along with John Reardon set out to take the photographs. From the
contact sheets we selected the images we wanted printed up to use in the magazine.
I organised the text – writing some myself, taping interviews and cajoling others to put their experiences and expertise down in words
A landmark moment: the first proof of the cover comes off the presses at John Goodman printers in Digbeth
The design was based on the format of contemporary women’s magazines such as Honey, but was also influenced by my work in literacy: key words were displayed in large, bold type; text was split up into short, manageable chunks; navigation was clear and decisive, with multiple entry points for differing literacy levels.
Julia Shervington, who worked at the Rafiki House women’s project in Handsworth,
prepared a seven-day vegetarian meal plan, which involved a shopping list and recipes
Christine Seymour, who had studied tie dye techniques in Africa, wrote about how to create distictive, personalised designs
Ifemu Omari, a former colleague at Handsworth Alternative Scheme, wrote this short story and we commissioned Pogus Caeser to illustrate it
Marcia Griffiths, the Queen of Reggae. When she came to Birmingham I went to interview her, my first journalistic experience. When I explained the project I was working on, she was very sympathetic, and just a lovely person to talk to
We also included a health section which explained sickle cell syndrome, something which people from African Caribbean ancestory are more prone to suffer from.
An interview with Yainka from the Culture Shop looked at the risks and rewards of trying to start your own business

At the same time we were working on several other projects. Although much of my work at HAS had been directly involved with young men, I was also very aware of critical issues facing young black women and I wanted to produce something they would pick up instantly. Several things influenced my thinking at that time but the most important was that there were no black magazines easily available. Unlike now, when you can walk into almost any newsagents and find several titles with beautiful black women on the cover, in 1983 these didn’t exist. Young black women couldn’t pick up a magazine and expect to find advice about hair, skin care, diet, health issues and so on that was relevant to them.

That was the thinking behind Survival magazine: that we should take the design and format of a popular woman’s magazine and let the women of Handsworth take it over. All the articles, the short story, the advice and information sections were contributed by women living locally. The issues raised are those which were highlighted and suggested by local people.

I think one of the successes of the project was in channelling and reflecting the incredible vitality and talent, ambition and determination of so many black women at that time. In my Survival editorial I wrote: ‘This pilot publication highlights two very important factors: there is a wealth of talent and resources in the community which needs outlets; and Survival gives an indication of what can be achieved when some of this talent is harnessed.

 Rasta and the return to Africa tape slide – Slideshow
This was constructed as a four-part (45 min) audio visual production comprising more than 300 colour transparencies and a soundtrack which includes reggae music. It gives a broad historical introduction to Pan-African ideas in relation to the Rastafarian movement and provides an up-to-date account of Rastafarians living in Ethiopia. The tapeslide was used to structure a series of lessons and workshops in adult education institutions and with Rastafarian groups such as the Ethiopian World Federation.

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Handprint project: Rasta and the return to Africa tape slide
Returning to Africa was a burning issue for a significant number of young black people in the 1970s and 80s. Deeply alienated from the ‘Babylon system’, many embraced Rastafari, the religous liberation movement founded in the ghettos of Jamaica and championed in the music of reggae singers such as Burning Spear and Bob Marley.
The Rasta and the return to Africa tape slide was an attempt to provide a dynamic teaching aid for understanding Rastafarian ideology in the broader historical and cultural context of resistance to slavery.
Accompong in the Cockpit country of central Jamaica was one of the strongholds of Maroon resistance. The first Maroon war ended in 1739 after nearly 50 years of guerrilla warfare and the Maroons were granted freedom and their own lands – which they still have to this day
A map of Africa drawn by Sebastian Münster in 1542, which was based on co-ordinates drawn up by Ptolemy in Alexandria shortly after the birth of Jesus. Note that the whole of the African continent is referrd to as Ethiopia.
Two pioneer Pan African thinkers: on the left, Edward Wilmott Blyden, born in the Danish West Indies, he studied in America. His writings in the mid-19th century foreshadowed Marcus Garvey. On the right: Joseph Robert Love. His newspaper, the Jamaican Advocate, first published in 1899, popularised many Pan African ideas.
Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 in St Ann’s Bay on Jamaica’s north coast. He moved to London in 1908 after a period spent travelling around the Caribbean, and worked on the radical newspaper The African Times and Orient Review. He founded the United Negro Improvement Association which, during the 1920s, became the most powerful voice for the redemption of black people through education, economic self-help and repatriation to Africa
A share certificate from Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line
The coronation of Ras Tafari as HIM Haile Selassie in 1931 was regarded as the fulfillment of Garvey’s prophecy ‘Look to Africa where a Black King shall be crowned’.
JN Hibbert was one of the first preachers to see a symbolic importance in the crowning of Ras Tafari, and thus the Rastafarian movement was born
Ras Sam Brown was a vocal Rastafarian poet and politician who argued that the ill-treatment and social stigma suffered by Rastas was unjust.
A newspaper cutting from the 1960s describing the widely held view that rastas were drug-crazed lunatics
In 1959, the persecution of Rastafarians became so intense that some Rasta elders, including Ras Sam Brown, approached sympathetic staff at the Uiversity of the West Indies in Kingston, asking them to compile a report about the origins and aims of the movement. The report, published in 1960, ushered in a new era of understanding and respect for Rastas
A delegation of Rastas and academics was sent on a fact-findng mission to Africa, where they met with Emperor Haile Selassie, who made it known that he had set aside some land in a town called Shashemane for black people in the West who wanted to return ‘home’.
Inez Baugh (seen above with her children) left Jamaica in the 1960s to find a better life in Ethiopia. Her husband Clifford, works on a nearby farm.
Noel Dyer was another pioneer settler.
After spending some time in England, he set out to walk to Ethiopia in 1964, a journey that took him nearly two years
Handel Parris, a musician, was one of the new wave of settlers who arrived in the early 1980s, as part of the Twelve Tribes group – which Bob Marley was affiliated to. The tape slide emphasised the need for those thinking of going to Africa to have skills and training to offer a developing nation

While I was busy trying to bring Survival together, Derek worked on the Rasta and the Return to Africa tapeslide programme. This was an ambitious four-part (45 minutes in total) audio visual production comprising more than 300 colour transparencies and a soundtrack which included reggae music. The format was influenced by TV documentaries where a narrator takes quite complex ideas and concepts and tries to bring them alive, using graphics, and by filming on location.

Obviously we didn’t have the resources for anything like that – this was the pre digital era – but an audio visual using a slide projector and sound track was possible.

Using lots of material he had collected for his Rasta book, including the images he had taken in Ethiopia and Jamaica, Derek wrote a script that attempted to give a broad historical introduction to Pan-African ideas in relation to the Rastafarian movement and an up-to-date account of Rastafarians living in Ethiopia.

Originally we asked David Hinds, the lead singer from Steel Pulse, to act as narrator, and he did begin recording for us but the band’s touring schedule intervened. Milton Godfrey, a member of the steering group and an accomplished musician and actor, stepped in and gave the voiceover credibility, and a real sense of authority and confidence.

During this period, many young designers, artists, and photographers became involved with Handprint. Alan Hughes, who worked with me on Survival, and John Twinning and Paul ‘Speedy’ McPherson who worked with Derek on the tape slide deserve special mention.

All the pilot materials were published during 1984 and tested and used by a variety of educational institutions.

Handprint Press Cuttings Library
Handprint established a press cuttings library covering topics concerning black issues, drawn from newspapers, books, magazines, leaflets, etc. We subscribed regularly to The Guardian, The Voice, The West Indian World, Caribbean Times. We particularly looked for materials which highlighted African Caribbean achievements, and /or portrayed a positive image of people of African Caribbean origin.

The cuttings were filed under a variety of headings, including education, health, politics, housing, health, immigration and there were sections devoted to individual personalities from the worlds of art, culture, politics, sport and entertainment. There was a special focus in the cuttings on issues and personalities from the Birmingham area. Every week we would mark up the newspapers and volunteers from local colleges and projects helped to cut them out, paste them on to A4 sheets and file them under a system which we adopted from the Runnymede Trust. Special mention must be made of the work carried out by my son Hamish, who worked on the library for several years.

When Handprint closed, the press cuttings library was donated to Birmingham Central Library where it can be viewed by researchers.

    Handprint Monitoring Report
    As part of the terms of the ALBSU funding, all the pilot materials were tested by a variety of educational institutions, and a Monitoring Report was produced that concluded:
  • Handprint pilot publications were overwhelmingly welcomed by both students and tutors;
  • There was an urgent need for culturally relevant books such as these pilot publications;
  • These publications should be made available to schools;
  • There was an acute shortage of multi-cultural books.
The Monitoring agencies were:
  • Afro-Caribbean Community Development Organisation (ACAFESS), 198 Moseley Road, Birmingham 13.
  • Holte Adult Education Institute, Wheelers Street. Lozells, Birmingham 19.
  • Handsworth Technical College Job Preparation Unit, Summerfield Old School, Dudley Road, Birmingham B18 4EJ
  • Burra Project, 395 Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.
  • Holyhead School/Community Centre, Holyhead Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.
  • Bournville College of Further Education, Selly Oak, Birmingham.
  • Garretts Green Technical College, Garretts Green, Birmingham.
  • Rafiki House (Women’s Project), Hall Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.