The appearance of Spare Rib in the Briarcroft Training centre of the Wigan Youth Service back in 1978 was symbolic. Whether organised on the shelves or strewn amidst the cushions in our ‘trendy’ groupwork room it reflected a major shift in the youth work outlook of that northern Metropolitan Borough. Even getting the agreement of the education bureaucracy to subscribe to this dangerous magazine was greeted with dismissive opposition. However the sheer energy and passion brought into the Service by women involved in the Women’s Movement, the force of their arguments, won over key men in the Education Department hierarchy. ‘Boys Rule not OK!’ events were organised. A Youth Service Women’s Group, bringing together part and full-time workers, secured support and funding. The very first full-time Girls’ Worker was appointed. Girls’ Nights flourished. Male workers and young men were challenged. The local CYSA branch was to be transformed, playing its part in the creation of CYWU with its radical constitution, the Women’s Caucus to the fore. It was a time, dare we use words exhausted by their relentless and inappropriate invocation nowadays, of creativity and innovation. This Wigan experience was replicated in Youth Services across the country.
Hence, in reminding us of this history, of a challenging youth work practice that had to make its case against the odds, it’s brilliant to see that all 239 editions of the landmark feminist magazine, Spare Rib are to be published online for the first time.
Few titles sum up an era and a movement like Spare Rib. With its commitment to challenging the status quo, Spare Rib battled oppression and gave a voice to the struggles, discussions and debates of diverse groups of women over the 21 years it was in print (1972-1993)