The Commonwealth of Britain


Doug Nicholls was first elected as a trade union General Secretary in 1987 and retired as General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions in 2023 as the longest serving union secretary of his generation.

This collection celebrates Britain’s red thread of progressive thinking from the early concepts of an egalitarian commonwealth, to the actual first republic, and the founding of socialist ideas.


“My good friends…”. Step into this joyous celebration of what we hold in common, “the power in all: our creativity”. It’s difficult in these dark times to hold on to hope, and remember how it feels to share it. But here hope is — passionate, rollicking, tender, rebellious. In our families and growing generations, in histories of labour, mining, building and making, in the might of voices. Doug Nicholls’ poems keep faith with our capacity to imagine the future anew, for the many and not the few. Here’s a commonwealth, of human heart and hand.’ — Carol Watts, Poet and Professor, University of Brighton.

‘Nicholls deftly finds the pulse of everyday living – through, rhythm rhyme, meter and scansion he unravels poems which speak into our humanity, our history and discord. These are resonant lyric hymns which bring together a complex and multivalent moment.’ — Anthony Anaxagorou, poet.

‘Poetry of deep humanity. People in their private selves and in society. Bravo.’ — Jan Woolf, Writer and Playwright.

‘William Blake invited us to “To see the world in a grain of sand” as a way of understanding the tremendous potential contained within the noun ‘human’. In this collection Doug Nicholls takes his cue from his brother poet and reflects on how our daily practising of language and labour also reveals “The dignity and the delight of being”. Whether writing of childhood memories, family milestones, or chosen moments from the long history of the People’s struggle to free themselves, these poems highlight the inescapable connections between the personal and the political, between history and the here and now, while never losing sense of our potential, individually and collectively, to change things. These are poems which seek to place “Warm hands around a world defined by need’s short reach” ’ — Michael Sanders, Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture, University of Manchester.

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