This Once Was Us: the life and death of Penguin Education
THE WEST DRAYTON COLLECTIVE
2018 paperback 96 pages, 140 colour illustrations, £28.00
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About the book
This Once Was Us is a celebration of a bold and innovative venture, Penguin Education, which shone briefly in the publishing firmament in the 1960s and 1970s, before being cruelly extinguished by its owners. It is a remembrance of things past, put together by many of those who worked for the company during its mould-breaking years spent re-inventing the schoolbook. These detailed and colourful pages bear testament to the unique style of collaboration that marked the Penguin Education way of working. They also record the widespread protests, from both inside and outside education, which emerged when the shutdown brought the pioneering work to an abrupt and untimely end.
Part 1: The Books
1 Innovation: Reinventing the Schoolbook
2 Hot Topics: The Education Specials
3 Going Higher: Books for Students and Teachers
Part 2: The People
4 Inside the Office: People’s Stories
5 Shutdown!: The Axe Falls
6 Aftermath: The Post-Penguin Years
7 Carrying On: Chameleon and Ikon
This book is a celebration of a bold and innovative venture, which shone briefly in the publishing firmament in the 1960s and 1970s, before being cruelly extinguished by its owners. It’s a remembrance of things past, put together by many of us who worked for Penguin Education during its mould-breaking nine years spent re-inventing the schoolbook.
The idea for the book arose when Kathy Henderson, one of our editors, noticed that the history of Penguin Education, which published books from 1965 to 1974, was unaccountably missing from the lengthy Penguin Books Wikipedia entry, which covered all the other major imprints and series. After we spent several months digging up the past and battling with the Wikipedia red tape, we were able to correct this omission, and ensure that our work was given its due recognition there.
However, the Wikipedia entry was necessarily formal in tone, limited in length, and really only scratched the surface. We felt the need to go wider and deeper into the exhilarating experience we had been through, to remind ourselves of the radical ideas that informed our thinking about schoolbooks, and more generally about education. We also wanted to tell a fuller, more detailed and personal story than was possible on Wikipedia, including the decision by Penguin-Longman to close down our division.
Penguin Education was the last bold initiative of Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books. His aim was ‘to carry the radical and populist spirit of Pelicans into the schoolbook market’. The division was established in a separate publishing operation from the main office in Harmondsworth, and was based in nearby West Drayton in Middlesex alongside the Grand Union Canal. It began as a small outfit, and grew steadily during its short and successful life, so that by the time the closure came as many as 42 people were working there.
The imprint was run under the inspiring leadership first of Charles Clark and then of Martin Lightfoot. Charles was appointed managing director in 1966, a role he combined from 1967 with running Penguin’s hardback imprint Allen Lane the Penguin Press. He had a special interest in the law and psychology books, and was responsible for creating among other series the Mind Specials. Martin was appointed editor of the schoolbook list in 1967, and took over as managing director when Charles left in 1972 to assume that role at Hutchinson.
These pages bear testament to the unique style of collaboration that marked our way of working. It also records the widespread protests, from both inside and outside education, which emerged when the shutdown brought that work to an abrupt and untimely end. The final section of the book, highlighting our later careers, shows clearly what a lasting and positive impact the experience of those years had on our subsequent lives during the next half century.
Myra Barrs Penguin English Project
Michael Buttler Science schoolbooks, Biology Topic books
Jonathan Croall Psychology and Education books
Francesca Greenoak Penguin Primary Project
Kathy Henderson Human Space and Geography schoolbooks
Richard Mabey Connexions, Penguin Primary Project, Education Specials
Bob Osborne Science and Mathematics schoolbooks, Extensions
Loveday Herridge, Tony Lacey, Kate Woodhouse, Anne Gray, Robin Frampton
Stuart Jackman, Arthur Lockwood, Gerry Watt, Keith Whitehead, John Maddison
Colin Smithson, Peter Tucker
Angela Bailey, Ursula Huws, Wendy Palmer, Diana Phillips, Christine Vincent
David Bann, Kenneth Cowan, Justine Dewar
Marian Morgan, Sue Oldfield
Mog Ball, Author, Death
Robert Hutchison Editor, Warwick University Ltd
Eric Midwinter Author, Priority Education
John Walmsley Photographer, Neill and Summerhill
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