Bruce Wilkinson writes:
Dave Cunliffe spent much of the early 1970s in Blackburn’s alternative bookshop Amamus. Increasingly a magnet for much of the town’s underground activity it was here that he met anarchist Peter Good recently arrived from a Welsh commune. Good painstakingly hand-printed prankster magazine Anarchism Lancastrium (AL) a few miles away in Whalley from where he walked to sell his publication. According to Mike Waite’s paper “Remembering Anarchism Lancastrium – Notes on ‘the Cult Seventies Prankster’ 1974-1981” (2002) Cunliffe contributed a range of material to the tract under a variety of aliases and, using insider knowledge from Arthur Moyse, spread salacious gossip about political activists making as much mischief as possible. Printed on recycled newspaper, cardboard boxes and anything else Good could find, AL often came with pull-out extras including anti-fascist beermats and revolutionary stickers (‘Too many chiefs not enough anarchists’) which he asked readers to distribute.
Anarchism Lancastrium attacked the politics of the then prevalent neo-fascist National Front and other right-wing groups but Good attracted flack for poking fun at the language and attitudes of the left, satirising the lack of humour within the militancy of the period. Articles lampooning the dialectics of socialist collectives either went completely over the heads of their intended targets or caused outrage amongst those who spotted the clever in-jokes and gags. Good and Cunliffe’s habit of turning up to political assemblies in a variety of bizarre costumes and AL’s use of sexual language eventually got them both in trouble, Moss Side Printers rejecting the material, alternative bookshops refusing to sell it and the pair often banned from the very events they advertised in their publications.
Both Cunliffe and Good worked as part-time nurses within a group of Ribble Valley psychiatric hospitals known as the Langho Colony. Peter Good received a doctorate writing about alternative forms of mental health treatment, later turning his Psychiatry PhD research into Language for Those Who Have Nothing (Springer, 2001). He became briefly infamous for his involvement in an industrial dispute at Calderstones hospital where he worked as a qualified nurse. Unexpectedly elected as the institution’s union representative, Good was outraged that unqualified nursing assistants often found themselves in charge of two or sometimes three wards throughout the night. An elderly patient died in a pool of vomited blood, huddled around a toilet bowl, while a young girl in the throes of an epileptic seizure trapped her arm behind a radiator and suffered severe burns. Unsuccessfully raising the understaffing issue with the local health authority, Good balloted for industrial action, returning a 91% vote in favour but, unwilling to conduct a complete walkout for fear of further harming patients, the nurses worked to rule which management merely ignored. Out of desperation Good organised a sit-in of a hospital wing containing 46 residents, lasting 13 days, gaining national media attention and forcing the authorities into an inquiry at which promises were made about future employment levels (later reneged upon). Good was subsequently sacked after plainclothes policemen visited the hospital and he was effectively blacklisted from the NHS, taking up bus driving in order to feed his family.
The Cunningham Amendment is Good’s beautiful follow-up to AL, started after moving across the Pennines to Bradford and then continued from his current home in Norfolk. Printed with an ancient salvaged letterpress machine on found objects including toilet paper, cheque books and lottery tickets it now runs to more than 14 volumes lasting over thirty years, continuing Good’s anarchic satire.
Cunliffe and Good maintain a strong friendship through written correspondence reflected by missives of lively badinage shared between two provocateurs always on the lookout for trouble. Peter has now kindly donated his letters to the Dave Cunliffe Archive at the John Rylands Library which, along with full sets of Good’s publications, represents a wonderful history of British anarchism since the 1960s.