Brisbane Realist Writers Group

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Name: Brisbane Realist Writers Group

Group: Scholarly Society

Type: Institutional Location

Years at Location: 195?-Current

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The history of the Brisbane Realist Writers Group is tied up with several of its founding members. Jim Crawford, a traveller, originally from Manchester, ended up unemployed and living at the 'Bagman's Camp' in Victoria Park around 1932. He was a member of the Unemployed Workers Movement, which was active in protests in Cairns and participated in riots in Mackay. In Brisbane, though, Crawford gave lectures on William Shakespeare to his unemployed acquaintances. Radicalised as a Marxist in these early years of the 1930s he joined the Communist Party of Australia (1934). He then formed a theatrical group, Roving Reds Revue Company, also known as ‘The Proletarian Players’. The aim of the Company was to raise money for the Unemployed Workers' Movement and also to criticise the Australian establishment in every possible way. In 1935, Crawford left for Melbourne. In 1948 he returned to Brisbane and briefly worked on the ‘Queensland Guardian’ on a temporary basis (Crawford had worked on the Melbourne Guardian for ten years). Crawford moved to Tamborine Mountain to write in 1949.

The Realist Writers Group was a collective of writers, usually communists but also composed of left wing supporters and established in Australia in 1944. The first collective began in Melbourne and the movement spread to Brisbane in 1950, then to Sydney in 1952, Perth in 1960 and Newcastle in 1963. In 1960 a National Council of Groups was established to internationally link the branches with groups in New Zealand, Canada, the United States and countries under communist rule. The Realist Writers intentions were defined by their constitution as “literary organizations of the working class movement... to carry forward the revolutionary and democratic traditions of Australian literature”. The first published journal came from the Melbourne branch titled Realist Writer and appeared quarterly from March 1952 to April 1954 when it was incorporated into Overland. The first two issues were edited by Bill Wannan and by Stephen Murray-Smith for the next seven. Noteworthy contributors included David Martin, Frank Hardy, Laurence Collinson, John Manifold, John Morrison, Eric Lambert and Katharine Susannah Prichard. A version of the Realist Writer appeared from the Sydney branch in renewed form in 1958 edited by Frank Hardy and from 1960 appeared three times a year until the groups began to disintegrate in the 1970s.

Impact on Brisbane Society

Further research is underway.

Citations

Jim Crawford, 'Papers; Realist Writers Group 1965 – 1970', Papers of Jim Crawford, UQFL301, Box 3, Folder 13, Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library.

Image Citations

Not a Toy. The Courier-Mail, Wednesday 20 September 1950, p. 12. NLA Trove

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