William Morris – ‘Art of the people’

24th March 2016

Today was the anniversary William Morris‘ birthday 24th March 1834 – 3rd October 1896.English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement.

[It also happens to be my father’s birthday… 1919. I could have chosen to read some of my father’s poetry or writings but feel, although part of my autobiographical memory, they are not relevant to this particular work].

I already had a copy of the book, Art and Socialism (1999) and decided to read from The Society of the Future (1887) originally delivered at meeting sponsored by the Hammersmith Branch of the Socialist League, November 13, 1887.

In it Morris affirms his convictions that the human pleasure of making and using items of beauty and please extends beyond ‘art’ and architecture to the arrangement of farmlands, the planning of towns and aspects of human life and the everyday. ‘Space’ as it may be interpreted from the point of view of social relations.

Here is a clip of my reading, on the 5th attempt because of poor signal… probably not helped by the rain!

I read from chapter The Art of the People, where he discusses art and labour; as below

I believe we should sow the seeds of a happiness which the world has not yet known, of a rest and contentment which would make it what I cannot help thinking it was meant to be: and  with that seed would be sown also the seed of real art, the expression of man’s happiness in his labour – and art made by the people and for the people, as a happiness to the user and the maker.

and The Society of the Future, into which he would like to be reborn…

It is a society which does not know the words rich or poor, or the rights of property, or law or legality or nationality:a society which has no consciousness of being governed; in which equality of condition is a matter of course, and in which no man is rewarded for having served the community by having the power given him injure it.



I had relatively few viewers for this broadcast (see figures on the video) and the chat was mainly an artist colleague, Clare Carswell  who had just started to use Periscope, was following me and notified about the broadcast, we discussed seeing the Elisabeth Price Exhibition and the owls on my umbrella,

a neighbour who realised  I  would be wet and told me that  the kettle was on’,

and Queen1982 from Essex who liked the chat and Scope and the scenery… when they could see it!

It is difficult when broadcasts ‘fail’ due to connection problems, and the broadcast was very pixelated. I know from experience , it is tempting just to move on and watch something else…

Just as in a gallery setting…

I did get chance to mention in the chat that Louise and I would be rolling Easter eggs on Easter Sunday, 27th; and invite people to join us!

For me, it was as always, an action completed – whatever the consequence : a remediation of Morris’ text, through my body, spoken out loud and broadcast… seeds sown and they fell where they may…and embodied within me thought he action of reading for further dissemination through conversation and discussion at a later date .

Like his contemporary Lewis Carroll, Morris was another scholar and person of influence living, studying and working in Oxford, 24 miles from Banbury and the site of Crouch Hill, but a ‘world away’ in terms of lifestyle and labour.

Banbury at that time ( and until 1980’s) was an agricultural market town,whereas  Oxford, where there is apparently evidence of teaching as far back as 1096, so making it the location of the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest surviving university and also of the Bodliean Library one of the workds oldest libraries..


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