Plowright Press

Plowright Press 1995 – 2013
PO Box 66 Warwick CV34 4DB

All books are usually available second-hand. Original details shown after each book title.

A limited number of brand new copies of some Plowright Press titles are available on

Plowright Press was a small not-for-profit publisher, part of Ruth's community history activities. All funds from sales were ploughed into the books. They were produced to a high standard, including stitch binding for longevity. Details of the books are shown on this website. They continue to have second-hand interest.

St Ann's Nottingham: inner-city voices by Ruth I. Johns proved that, even without a marketing budget, books can travel. This one has travelled the world and gained academic recognition including by David Kynaston, the historian. A preface to the second edition was written by Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Plowright Press originated from a response to a publisher’s directive Ruth I Johns refused to follow in the early 1980s. Her book Life Goes On was accepted by two major publishers who then asked her to amend the text to create a prescriptive book on how to run a self-help organisation. This, she was told, would be a huge marketing success. Ruth had already witnessed damage inflicted on society by panacea ‘models’ imposed only for commercial ends or Political ideology.

She was advised that an unknown publisher would never make an impact or get any reviews. So her daughter Naomi devised the Unknown Publisher logo under which Ruth published Life Goes On! It received 25 good reviews and did make an impact. The Job Makers by Ruth I. Johns also appeared under this logo.

The community project she described in Life Goes On was already influential. Groups from the UK and overseas were interested in learning about Nottingham’s Family First, and sharing ideas to help resolve ways of appropriately meeting needs in their own communities. The Gulbenkian Foundation supported the book as an iconoclastic and descriptive one about Family First’s initial ten years.

The Unknown Publisher became Plowright Press in 1995 and continued publishing community history. For example, it was the first publisher of a life story by a female child migrant born in the early 1920s and involuntarily sent aged seven to Australia. After Flo Hickson’s book, Flo child migrant from Liverpool, became known in Australia and the UK a significant archive of letters, news cuttings, photos etc built up. This has been deposited by Ruth’s Archive in the State Library of Western Australia.

Ruth's health gradually declined in 2012 including visual disturbance when working on her computer. In 2013 she planted the garden for summer (and bulbs). She managed a weekend with Walter in Nottingham including a programme for Radio Nottingham with John Holmes on Easter Day. And she was determined to visit her younger son, Neil, and family in London. In recent years, travelling became more difficult for her.

All her community history work – almost all unpaid – has been done after she was told in the mid-1980s by a hospital consultant that she must accept that her then active life was over. Grandchildren were born and grew up in these years. That was wonderful: great times together.

Remaining copies of three Plowright Press books about Nottingham have been distributed to Nottingham Academy (formerly Elliot Durham School); Radford Care Group; Stonebridge City Farm: St.Ann’s Library and other community meeting places in St. Ann’s. Organising this book collection and distribution was a voluntary initiative of Pamela (Pam) Ellison. After visiting the Children of the Croft exhibition in Nottingham Museum held for four months over 2012/2013, Pam wanted to meet Ruth I Johns and heard of her wish for the above books to be utilised in Nottingham free of charge.

With practical skill, Pam with husband David’s help, found the willing co-operation of Nottingham City Council to provide a van and temporary storage. Pam and David had already taken some spare copies of Ruth’s two books about Nottingham’s Family First to interested groups in the city. The new task was also achieved by them and by others collecting copies of the books in temporary storage. The books quickly found appreciative ‘homes’ many of them in St. Ann’s.

Any use – written, electronic or other - of text or photos etc. in Plowright Press books must always acknowledge authorship of a book and its publisher. For details of copyright law see the website of the Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders (WATCH)

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