I think it was a really good part of my life and I really enjoyed it and I really thought it was worthwhile. People were really trying to do something to build community and to make things good for themselves and other people and, you know, and work and enjoy it and- I don’t know, just I don’t know really, I can’t really explain more than that. I mean, just make a community and to share skills, share expertise, build things, rather than knocking them down. And, yeah, it was- I mean, yeah, there were lots of rows, lots of difficulties, but that’s not what sticks in my mind. I suppose, that’s what I’m saying. And I think that once I got- you know, once I got a job in an institution, you know, it was more like you do your hours more. And you make that separation between your life and your work much more.
Jud Stone was born in 1944 in north London. She spent her adolescence marching against nuclear weapons and camping in damp fields with Forest School Camps. She ‘learnt to think’ while training to be a teacher at the Institute of Education where she was introduced to ideas that stuck: ‘the whole thing about starting where the children are and helping people find their own voice.’ After a spell of teaching and living abroad, Jud started working at Centerprise in 1972, teaching an innovative course in Community Studies to young Post Office workers. Meanwhile she got involved in the women’s movement and started a commune with a group of friends, which was partly ‘about freeing women up so they weren’t doing all that looking after the housework and the children’.
A few years later Jud trained as a volunteer literacy teacher with Hackney Reading Centre, going on to become a paid sessional tutor, teaching there and at other centres until around 1990. She was also part of Centerprise’s co-operative management committee. She remembers how they coped with a financial crisis in 1981, slept overnight in the coffee bar to protect the building in case the National Front tried to burn it down again and helped to look after a woman who walked naked into the coffee bar one day.
Jud explores the radical ideas behind Hackney Reading Centre’s work and how ethnicity, class and power in practice influenced the dynamics between teachers and students. She ‘loved’ working with students to publish their books in her own time; the work felt ‘seamlessly’ part of her own life. She now works as a group psychotherapist.
Interviewed by Rosa Vilbr (now Schling)