JACK COMMON (1903-1968)
A CELEBRATION TO HONOUR HIS LIFE & WORK
marking the 40th anniversary of his death on 20th January 1968 in Newport Pagnell
ORGANISED BY NORTHERN VOICES & NORTH EAST LABOUR HISTORY SOCIETY
Music from Jez Lowe (performing from his new album 'Jack Common's Anthem'); Kiddar's Luck folk group; Doctor Socrates
with readings from Common's work by Dr Keith Armstrong (recently awarded his doctorate at the University of Durham for his work on Common)
AT THE CHILLINGHAM, CHILLINGHAM ROAD, HEATON , NEWCASTLE ON SUNDAY 20TH JANUARY 2008 7.30PM
ADMISSION £5 (£3)
TEL 0191 2529531 for further information
Jack Common was born in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1903. His father worked at the locomotive works close to the family house in Heaton. He attended Chillingham Road Council School, where he excelled at essay writing, but left at fourteen to attend commercial college and to work in a solicitor's office. Years of indifferent jobs and unemployment led him to move to London in 1928, partly to foster his political convictions and also to escape unemployment in the north. In 1930 he commenced work as a circulation promoter on The Adelphi, a socialist journal edited by John Middleton Murry, Richard Rees and Max Plowman. He was soon employed as assistant editor and took over editorship for a period in the 1930's. Common was a contributor to The Adelphi and other journals such as New Britain, The Aryan path and The New Statesman and Nation, but it was The Adelphi which occupied most of his time during the thirties; writing political and social articles, book reviews, a column called "The Sweeper Up" and helping to shape policy and direction by working with the three editors. George Orwell was another contributor to the journal and it was through their working relationship on the journal that they formed a close friendship.
In 1939 The Adelphi was put out of print and Common sought work as a film script writer and editor for government documentary films and lived in Langham, Essex at the Adelphi Centre, a community set up in 1936. After the war he found more film work with Rank Studios as a script advisor and reporter on suitability of novels as film subjects. He also worked as a freelance for the Associated British Picture Corporation during the 1950s and 1960s, again writing and editing scripts.
In terms of his published work there are two phases to his work, the political and socially conscious essays of the 1930s and the fictional work of the 1950s, which reflect the work he was undertaking at these times.
In 1938 he published Seven Shifts, a collection of seven working men's tales of work which Common edited and introduced. In the same year he published a book of social and political essays The Freedom of the Streets. Kiddar's Luck, the fictionalised autobiography of Jack Common's life up to the age of fourteen, published in 1951, was written under conditions of great hardship. Whilst writing the book he worked as a labourer during the day and wrote and edited film scripts in the evening, using the weekends to write his novel. He was under similar financial pressure when writing The Ampersand, a further autobiographical novel, in 1953-4; despite the favourable reviews given to Kiddar's Luck, the publishers became bankrupt, leaving him without a publisher to market the books and ensuring that the book was not the financial success it should have been.
He also produced many articles for contemporary journals and magazines.
He died in Newport Pagnell on 20th January 1968 before he could complete his third novel.
Posted by keith armstrong at 12:18 pm