… is a loose collective project that explores working class, social, subversive and underground history and geography, mainly (but not always) around the areas where we live in London – in print, online, and through walks and occasional talks or actions.
We’re interested in the past, not as an academic exercise divorced from our own lives and experiences, but because our current struggles to change the world around us for the better resonate with the movements of the past, and have taken place in the same streets and spaces. The ways we work, get housed, feed ourselves may alter over the years and decades – at heart we labour under basically hierarchical social relations – ties and divisions based on class, race, sex, who we choose to sleep with… and the other walls we desire to break down.
In our doubting ways, we work for a future without pointless work, inequality, war… And if we don’t see that future, we’ll live as much of it in the present as we can create for ourselves and the people around us.
Initially past tense began as the work of one person, uncovering the subversive, hidden and esoteric past around the Elephant and Castle and Southwark. As it exists now it has grown to include several individuals, often autonomously following their own historical trails, publishing new texts and reviving old, out of print ones. However we also work together, for instance through the South London Radical History Group, which existed irregularly since 2003 and 2008, as an open forum, discussing historical issues, organising history walks, inviting speakers on various topics. Our discussions have wandered across many struggles and neighbourhoods: gentrification in North Southwark, the battles to preserve green spaces in South London, anti-war movements historically and in our own experiences, the 1984-85 South London Women’s Hospital occupation, Mayday in tradition and modern times, and many more. Although we originally came together in South London, we were never bound by arbitrary borders, we’ve trespassed all over the world at times!