The Bookshop in Watney Street, in Whitechapel, and now in Brick Lane, has always been a home to writers groups – encouraging new writers and new writing. A 1970's THAP leaflet stated: ‘Writing doesn’t have to be a grand, solitary or self-indulgent experience, the project’s focus being on sharing and discussing each other’s work.’
In the late 1970's, THAP, Centerprise, Stepney Books and other community publishers and writers workshops from around the UK gave a platform to working class writers who weren't often represented by the literary mainstream. This led to the formation of The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP). This was a non-profit making umbrella organisation for writers’ groups and community publishers, who wish to share their skills and work with their communities.
Working with the publishing arm of the project, a series of books and pamphlets were produced, being sold in the shop and whatever outlet would take them. Garment worker and writer Sally Flood was particularly adept at selling her books, taking them to the readings and conferences which the groups would regularly take part in.
These events took place in rooms above pubs, youth clubs, community centres and local festivals. Although it was not the intention to produce ‘stars’, several people who took part went on to work as writers and performers including East London playwright Tony Marchant.
Poster for reading groups from the FWWCP members.
THAP became an early member of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP). Mad minibus journeys to various parts of the country brought the members together for an annual event to share and discuss their work.
Groups of representative writers visited America and Northern and Southern Ireland, the latter including project worker Roger Mills and Liverpool’s Jimmy McGovern, who later achieved great success writing for film and television.
THAP changed it's name to Eastside Arts and Books in 1994. One-off sessions and long-term residencies were established in schools and colleges, working alongside enthusiastic teachers to generate lasting excitement around poetry, performance and publishing in schools.
For several years in the mid-1990s, the Eastside Stories award scheme for new novelists gave the winner a measure of financial support and an introduction to a literary agent. Several writing careers, such as Ben Richards – author of Throwing the House Out of the Window, and Episodes of television’s Spooks – were launched in this way.