Perpetuating the memory of one of the greatest men of the Victorian age

The William Morris Society’s AGM will take place on Saturday 12 May at 14.15.

The meeting will be followed by a talk by Lord Sawyer of Darlington on ‘William Morris and me’. The Society’s new President will speak about how Morris has influenced him in both life and politics, and will show a number of Morris’s books from his collection that have been in the ownership of leading members of the labour movement and discuss their influence on their owners. All members are welcome to attend this free event.

The William Morris Society is delighted to announce the appointment of Lord Sawyer of Darlington (Tom Sawyer) as its new President. He succeeds Jan Marsh, who has served the Society with distinction for the past ten years.

Tom Sawyer began his working life at the age of 15 on the factory floor of a County Durham engineering works. He went on to have a distinguished career in the labour movement, including serving as deputy general secretary of NUPE and later UNISON, before becoming General Secretary of the Labour Party from 1994-98. He recently stepped down as Chancellor of Teeside University after serving a twelve-year term.

Tom first encountered William Morris’s writing at the age of 21, when he read Morris’ classic Utopian work News From Nowhere. He says of his relationship with Morris:

‘Throughout my years as a union official I would often turn to Morris for inspiration and incorporate ideas from his work, particularly signs of change, into my speeches…His message and his principles are timeless. He has enriched many lives – mine included.’

Lord Sawyer has a particular interest in the art and craft of bookbinding. In 2008 he commissioned a number of designer bindings of seminal texts in the history of British socialism, including Morris’s News from Nowhere, for an exhibition which he organised at the House of Lords.

Lord Sawyer, who has been a member of The William Morris Society for many years, will take up the post for a five-year term at the Society’s AGM on 12th May, where he will give an introductory talk on how Morris has influenced him in life and politics. He says:  ‘I am very pleased to be taking up the Presidency of the William Morris Society. Morris spoke in an accessible and relevant way to working class activists like myself and I am keen to promote the continuing relevance of his ideas in contemporary society.’

We’ve just launched an appeal to raise funds to carry out vital conservation work on one of the treasures of our collection, this beautiful Honeysuckle design for wallpaper by May Morris. Read more and support us here.

We are delighted to host a launch event for Florence Boos’ new edition of William Morris’s Socialist Diary on Wednesday 21st March.

William Morris was the most prominent Victorian artist to embrace the new socialist movement of the 1880s. Written at Kelmscott House in 1887, the Socialist Diary is one of only two extended diaries of his activities which he kept in his life, each of which represents an effort to record and analyse experiences of a new phase of his work and thought.

Editor of the Socialist Diary Florence Boos, author/editor of several books on Morris and Professor of English at the University of Iowa, will be in conversation with Martin Stott, Chair of The William Morris Society. Florence will sign copies of her book which will be available to purchase.

This is a free event but space is limited, so please reserve your tickets here.

Our museum will be open as usual on Thursdays and Saturdays from 2-5pm during the festive period. If you need a last minute gift, we have lots of ideas in our shop! You can find Christmas cards, calendars, handmade Morris decorations for your Christmas tree, a selection of mugs and limited edition William Morris packs of Taylors of Harrogate coffee, beautiful silk scarves and much more…

Iceland elected a new Prime Minister in November 2017. She is Katrin Jakobsdottir, leader of Vinstri Graen (RedGreen). She served as Minister for Education, Science and Culture in the Green Left Government of 2009-13 and has taught at the University of Iceland where she is a specialist in Scandi crime literature. She is also an enthusiastic Morrisian and gave a lecture to the Society tour in 2013.

In the lecture, entitled Good afternoon Mr Morris she demonstrated an extraordinary knowledge both of Morris’s range of contributions to society, culture and politics, but also to their continuing impacts in Iceland. She structured her talk after the time travel of News from Nowhere, around the idea of Morris’s reappearance in present day Iceland ‘our demented age’, where he joins her and her two brothers in a discussion over dinner.

The themes of their ‘discussion’ ranged over what she considered to be likely to be Morris’s chief interests on his return; the survival of the Icelandic way of life including the way Icelandic embroidery has influenced modern Icelandic design; the preservation of historic houses and the pressures of redevelopment;  Morris’s views on how to build new businesses based on beauty and quality; the importance of the local as opposed to the mass-produced;  the difficulties faced by socialism, particularly ‘the fragmentation that seems to be a constant of the political left wing, exactly as he experienced in the late nineteenth century’; democracy and the role of the media including social media and the experience of direct democracy in Iceland’s recent history; the chasm between the power of big corporations and the working class; the integration in perspective between ‘domestic beautification’ and the class struggle and equality; sustainability and the intrinsic value of wilderness, and finally his likely views on ‘Game of Thrones’.

A feminist, socialist, peace activist and climate change campaigner, she leads a coalition of centre right parties who mainly represent fishing and farming interests and are strongly Eurosceptic.

Photograph: Katrin Jakobsdottir centre, with current and former Society chairs Marin Stott and Ruth Levitas in a pub in Reykjavik.

The Society’s Trustees are looking to appoint a new Chair for the Society when Martin Stott steps down in 2018 after four years in post.
The role involves:

  • Chairing Trustee meetings and managing Trustee/staff and Trustee processes – including convening and chairing the Finance and General Purposes Committee – between meetings
  • Engaging with external partners e.g. through the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Arts & Crafts Hammersmith project
  • Managing the Society staff
  • Acting (with others) as the public face of the Society

Enthusiasm for the ideas and legacy of William Morris and his circle, the ability to lead and take a strategic perspective, and having the skills and experience to manage staff and chair meetings are essential. Knowledge of the charity sector and its governance, and of the museums and arts sector are highly desirable. Fundraising and financial skills are very helpful.
The Society is in an exciting period of its development as it takes up the challenges of the successful Arts and Crafts Hammersmith project.
The post is unpaid though expenses are paid, takes approximately 3-4 days per month, requires reasonable accessibility to London (the Society is based in Hammersmith) and might attract someone recently retired from senior management in the public, private or voluntary sectors.
The post holder will be co-opted onto the Trustee Board as soon as is convenient, to take up the post from the May 2018 AGM.
For further details please contact the Society’s Administrator here.

The craftsman who made one of the beautiful bookcases in our library recently visited the Society after more than 20 years. Read the story of his visit here.

The Society’s Annual Report for 2016 is now available to read here.

The Society’s 2017 AGM will take place at 14.15 on Saturday 20 May, in the Coach House, 26 Upper Mall, Hammersmith W6 9TA. An election for Trustees will be held during the meeting.

Members are encouraged to attend, but please note that the talk which follows the meeting is now sold out.

For further information please contact: societymanager@williammorrissociety.org.uk.