Born on August 4th 1930 in Stratford, East London, John Gorman was the son of a London carpenter, whose own father had came from Devon, and a domestic servant, who had been born in a South Shields mining community.
He entered the world of work as a carpenter and became a fine silk screen printer.
With then fellow-Communist, Lionel Bart (see separate entry), he founded G&B Arts, the successful silk-screen printers, which won national and international awards for fine printing. Its posters were to be found as far away as the foyer of the Folger’s Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, USA.
Gorman became attracted to the Communist Party in 1949, whilst he was in the RAF.
He and his wife, Pamela, were very active at the Party’s grassroots for a long period. John was a very lively membership organiser for West Ham Communist Party. Gorman left the Party, with mixed emotions but remained very much on the left. John was twice arrested for acts of civil disobedience in support of CND.
His great achievement was the remarkable book, “Banner Bright” (1973), and related follow ons, “To Build Jerusalem” (1980) and “Images of Labour” (1985). Each of these used photographs and text to provide a vivid sense of working class history.
Gorman also produced a partial autobiography, “Knocking down Ginger”. The inspiration for `Banner Bright’ had been the rescuing of an otherwise discarded union banner; many others were saved for posterity, including some great and rare ones.
He eventually joined the Labour Party in 1980 and three years later the left-led Greater London Council appointed him a governor of the Museum of London. He also served on the Advisory Board of the National Museum of Labour History from 1990.
John Gorman died aged 66 on October 31st 1996, following two heart attacks in a row.
Sources: Morning Star 2nd November 1996; Guardian 6th November 1996;
John Gorman `Knocking Down Ginger’, Caliban, (1995)