September 7, 2011, by Andrew Burden

Connie Ford: Keepsakes of an Activist

Tom Kew, our guest blogger, has been working with Manuscripts and Special Collections on the Connie Ford archive on placement from the Arts Graduate Centre at The University of Nottingham.

Round black badge with gold text 'Only Rotters Hunt Otters'

A badge from the Connie Ford collection

Through my placement with the Arts Graduate Centre, I was recently thrust onto the front lines of revolutionary politics, armed only with a pencil and acid-free paper. The poetry of Connie Ford may not be widely read today, but her legacy as one of Britain’s first female vets and a tireless supporter of the communist party, remains intact. My assignment entailed a trawl through decades of personal artefacts, the keepsakes of a voracious collector and compulsive hoarder: the kind of character beloved of archivists.

Until her death in 1998, Connie resided in West Bridgford, where she relished easy access to the River Trent and its opportunities for sailing. She used the district as a launch pad for her adventures into folk dancing, bird-watching, geology and Anglo-Hungarian solidarity. Connie left behind relics of her many political endeavours, including a large collection of pin-badges, my personal favourites being ‘Only Rotters Hunt Otters’ and ‘Cat Lovers Against the Bomb’. On a personal level, we have notebooks containing comprehensive lists of presents given and received over 50 consecutive Christmases, prizes for captaining the school Gardening Club and perhaps most impressively, the MBE awarded for outstanding contributions to Veterinary Science.

Embarking on a placement with Manuscripts and Special Collections has eradicated many of my preconceptions about archival work. The breadth of material at King’s Meadow reaches far beyond rustic scrolls and disintegrating charters: it is a goldmine of accessible history, both ancient and modern.

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