The William Morris Society always has a commemorative event around Morris’s birthday on March 24th, involving a birthday cake and a collective toast over glasses of wine, and I imagine many of us in private have more sombre commemorative thoughts on the anniversary of his death on October 3rd. Both such dates, however, make for rather general reflections, marking a life in its entirety rather than any particular aspects of it, so I feel that we need more specific Morrisian anniversaries in addition to these two life-markers.
So, in the spirit of the ‘Revolutionary Calendar’ that Commonweal used to publish, I’d like to suggest that we have an annual ‘News from Nowhere Day’ to celebrate the greatest of Morris’s literary works and, more generally, the genre of Utopia to which it belongs. What would be the appropriate date for such an event? Well, the book itself answers that question; for ‘it was winter when I went to bed the last night, and now, by witness of the river-side trees, it was summer, a beautiful bright morning seemingly of early June’ (ch II).
So let us declare, say, the first Saturday in June to be News from Nowhere Day, on which we commit ourselves to organising some celebration of that work in particular and/or the genre of Utopia in general. Such events needn’t be elaborate and might simply take the form of a reading of one chapter of Morris’s utopia followed by discussion of the issues it raises (a model he used in his own lifetime, as it happens); but if we could make this happen up and down the country on 4 June 2011, then we might begin to make his finest work – and the politically crucial genre to which it belongs – socially current again.