The world around Pecket from the 1970s
 
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Mainstream provision was not in general supportive to the struggle of this determined group of people working to set up a residential college run by and for people tackling difficulties with the written word.

However, there was, in the 1970s and early 1980s, a cauldron of ideas and movements that inspired them to  believe that  they could create something for themselves and others like them.   They were willing to fight for their ideals and to link hands with others who were also fighting to be heard .

Gillian Frost , the adult basic education tutor organizer in the group, was able to introduce the members of the group to some of the people and organizations in these movements, those who had influenced her.  But it was the members themselves who overcame all obstacles and fear to travel the length and breadth of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, to build up support for a residential college for people tackling difficulties with the written word.

They appeared and talked on public platforms and to committees, building up close relationships with a wide variety of people – other worker writers, students and tutors in ‘adult basic education’, school teachers, professors and others in universities, people in voluntary projects, in community education, community arts and disability organizations.  The members of the group were listened to and heard. They and the Pecket Well College that they represented, became a respected national presence within these movements.

There was:

* The movement of literacy for liberation, initiated by Paulo Freire, in South America.  His ideas influenced the development of some of the literacy provision in the UK.  Learning to read and write could be a way of taking more control over ones life.

* The right to read campaign.

* The development of ‘second chance’ educational opportunities for adults who had missed out, in the main working class people who had left school with no or few qualifications. The opportunities were both residential  (for example Ruskin College and Northern College), and non-residential, like the Liverpool Second Chance course, and then the whole movement of Access courses.

* The movement of working class people, community groups and other oppressed groups, writing and publishing books about their lives, their histories, their experience, their world view, and expressing their creativity rather than being ‘written about’.

*  The movement of students and tutors in ‘adult basic education’ working together as collectives to further the interests and needs of people with reading and writing difficulties.

* The growing confidence of students involved in these collectives to organize themselves separately.

* The movement for residential adult basic education.

* The development of voluntary literacy schemes and networks connecting them.

* The movement of ‘special activities’ in adult basic education schemes throughout the country – reading evenings, writing weekends, social activities – which brought the students out of isolation and into contact with each other.

In the fruitful and exciting years of building and running the college, a period of over 20 years, the original members and others they had recruited along the way, continued the work of outreach.  There were many organizations and people that were interested in the college.

There were people from voluntary literacy schemes as well as adult education and college schemes where tutors were supportive and encouraged and helped their students to come to Pecket Well College.  There were organizations that trained and supported voluntary grassroots projects like Pecket Well College, and a wealth of other organisations of people asserting their rights and planning their own projects.

Pecket courses were always oversubscribed – so many people for so few places.

But, the world was a very different place by the time Pecket Well College began to run into difficulties, from about 2005. Most of these organizations had ceased to exist, or were struggling themselves. Adult basic education had been taken over largely by mainstream provision and then squeezed out.  The emphasis was no longer on ‘education’ in its widest sense.  Basic skills were seen mainly as a means to gain qualifications and employment.  People who could not progress quickly were no longer catered for.  Adult education provision was being reduced and was gradually disappearing. This was no longer a hospitable world for a college run as a collective for the development of confidence or for an education as broad as the interests of its participants and as creative as their imaginations allowed.

As Pecket Wellians we always tried to stick to our original aims but in the end we had to sell our much loved building.  The money from the sale financed this oral history and archive project that will ensure that the story of Pecket and the work of Pecket Wellians  live on to inspire others.