In November 1967, the actor David Webb read an article in the Guardian newspaper about the activities of Mrs Mary Whitehouse and her organisation, the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association – now known as Mediawatch-UK. He resolved there and then to set up a rival organisation, but it was not until 1976 that he did anything more than talk about it.
After writing to a number of potential high profile supporters, he launched NCROPA with a letter in the London Evening Standard of April 29, 1976.
At this point it was known as the National Campaign for the Repeal of the Obscene Publications Acts; Webb was both the Organiser and the only member. His first response from a member of the public was dated the same day. The name of the organisation would shortly be amended to National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts, and later Webb’s title to Honorary Director. Its Committee included the solicitor E.A.C. Goodman as its Legal Consultant. These two men were the bedrock, while other Committee members were active in various capacities. In 1981, a seven member delegation lobbied the Home Office.
As with many campaigning organisations, NCROPA was run on a shoestring. It did from time to time receive generous donations in both cash and in kind, including the latter from the publisher David Sullivan, but it had a rule that no one with a financial interest in “pornography” could sit on its Committee.
NCROPA was a lobbying organisation rather than one for street activists or stunts, the nearest it came to the latter was when Webb stood against Prime Minister incumbent Margaret Thatcher in her own constituency at the 1983 General Election.
NCROPA had an overlapping membership with the Campaign Against Censorship, and over the years as David Webb, then approaching 70, wound down his workload, it did less and less. The last year for which it had any measurable activity at all was 1998.
With the coming of the Internet, censorship of magazines, etc has been somewhat academic, so the need for a dedicated organisation like NCROPA has very much diminished; there are also now many groups that monitor and campaign against censorship on-line.
With the death of its founder in June 2012, NCROPA has effectively ceased to exist; Goodman, who was Webb’s executor, took over as Acting Director. He also carried out Webb’s wishes and then some, and it is entirely due to his dedication both that the NCROPA papers have been preserved and that this Archive exists.
December 3, 2013
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