"The books that help you the most are those which make you think the most.” Theodore Parker

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New Beacon Books joins the ARB

We are delighted that New Beacon Books, specialists in African and Caribbean literature since 1966, have joined the ARB! Following a crowdfunding campaigns in January 2022 New Beacon are currently considering their next step so as to keep the shop thriving into the future. We hope the ARB can play our part in making that happen.

The Story of New Beacon Books

New Beacon Books was founded in 1966 by John La Rose and his partner Sarah White. New Beacon was the UK’s first black publisher, specialist bookshop and international book distributor. For over 50 years New Beacon Books has made available to Britain and its communities, poetry, literature, non-fiction, history and children’s books from Africa, Caribbean, Asia, African America, Europe, South America and Black Britain. 

New Beacon was inspired by John La Rose’s advanced political and cultural vision derived from experience in the Caribbean and South America. These ideas were stated clearly in New Beacon catalogues. “Growing up in a colonial society made John La Rose acutely aware that colonial policy was based on a deliberate withholding of information from generation to generation. There was also discontinuity of information from generation to generation. Publishing therefore was a vehicle to give an independent validation to one’s own culture, history, politics – a sense of self – and to make a break with discontinuity”.

New Beacon was never just a book business. As a publishing house, New Beacon has produced an important body of publications. Our titles are available from this website. For 30 years, New Beacon Books was run by Sarah White and Janice Durham, with the regular assistance of John La Rose and his son Michael La Rose. New Beacon always had and still has the commitment of volunteers like Claire Shepherd, Barbara Beese, Lorine Burt, Rawle Callender, Tony Wallis, Pat Harris and Leleith Duncan.

New Beacon Books now works with a new group of volunteers. The bookshop has been at the centre of many ground-breaking political and social projects, organisations and campaigns including the George Padmore and Albertina Sylvester Supplementary Schools, Caribbean Artists Movement (1966-1972), CECWA campaign against putting black children in Educationally Sub Normal (ESN) schools, The International Book Fair of Radial Black and Third World Books (1982-1995), the Black Parents Movement and Black Youth Movement, who campaigned against police racist brutality and fit-ups (1975- 1990s), the Alliance, the New Cross Massacre Action Committee (1981 ), the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya (1980s),  George Padmore Institute GPI; archive of the struggle of people of African, Caribbean and Asian descent in Britain (1991) and European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice (1990s).

After celebrating 50 years of achievement in 2016 the directors of New Beacon Books recognised that New Beacon bookshop, as it was currently organised, could not economically survive. The modern book industry with new ways of buying and reading books like Amazon and Kindle, and the formation of super publishers and distributors was killing independent specialist bookshops like New Beacon. There was a national movement of independent Black bookshops which included Bogle L’Ouverture (Walter Rodney Bookshop), Grassroots, Head Start and Sabaar Bookshop that have not survived to today.

The directors took the decision to close New Beacon Bookshop. This was announced at the celebration of 50 years of New Beacon Books at the British Library. They calculated that it would take a while to clear stock and reorganise the bookshop. At the beginning of 2017 a group which included Janice Durham (director), Michael La Rose (director), Renaldo La Rose (John’s grandson) and his wife Vanessa La Rose decided they would attempt to keep New Beacon Bookshop going. The individuals came together as the New Beacon Development Group which included Gloria Cyrus. Calling on volunteers and voluntary work, in the New Beacon tradition, the group reopened the bookshop (temporarily) from Wednesday to Saturday between 1.30pm and 6pm in February 2017. The remit of the group has been to make New Beacon Bookshop survive and explore a new economic model to sustain its survival and raise New Beacon’s profile with a new generation of social media activists, students, educationalist, parents and children.

With the aid of social media, the community responded in force with some donating their time and services. A crowd funding campaign to raise money to reconfigure the bookshop space, upgrade the IT system and build a website in our battle for survival; was launched in March 2017. This raised £12,500 and has allowed us to start the work and provide the tools to attempt to find sustained financial viability. We wish to thank all those who have contributed to our exciting project and for supporting our attempts to make New Beacon Bookshop survive for the future.

In January 2022 New Beacon came under threat of closure again and a very succesful crowdfunding appeal was launched. An administrative group will be set up to ensure the expenditure of the crowdfunding monies is accountable, transparent and used solely for the purposes publicly stated.

There will be no quick fix in these uncertain times. New Beacon Books will carefully consider all options for the difficult aim of developing a realistically sustainable and viable future.

New Beacon Books will need your continued support to survive into the future. New Beacon Books needs you, as well as the younger generation, elders and students to visit the bookshop, order books on the website or by email. Get literature, poetry, gain knowledge and ideas. Invite New Beacon Books to provide bookstalls for your events, schools and places of work. Support New Beacon Books’ events and campaigns. Register your contacts on New Beacon Books’ website and we will keep you updated. New Beacon Books’ future will depend on your support.

The crowdfunding has been a huge success and shows what is possible and it proudly expresses our collective values. It has given New Beacon Books an important lifeline and has increased its options. A great achievement.

New Beacon Books would like to sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to the crowdfunding and has offered assistance.

https://www.newbeaconbooks.com

Radical Bookselling History Newsletters


In 2019 we – Dave Cope, John Goodman, Rick Seccombe and Maggie Walker – organised a conference on the history of radical bookselling 1970-2000. Our aim was to celebrate the phenomenon of radical bookshops and begin to assess their impact, record their history and preserve what records remain. We invited as many people as we could trace who’d worked in the 100 or so radical bookshops and distributors that existed over that period, plus a few who were still in the much-reduced trade. In February 2020 we published an illustrated report of the conference in pdf format. It is DOWNLOADABLE HERE.

At the conference we undertook to produce an occasional newsletter. In this post you will find newsletters one and two. We hope you enjoy reading it. Its future depends on your reactions and what you send us. We need snippets of news, queries, notes about any existing appropriate websites, blogs, archives, obituaries, publications, short biographies, notes on bookshops, reviews, works in progress and so on. Information on new shops would be most
welcome. While the emphasis will be on bookshops we welcome material on publishers, distributors, printers, typesetters, designers, cartoonists, photographers, libraries and archives.

RADICAL BOOKSELLING HISTORY

Newsletter Issue 3, October 2021

CONTENTS
Editorial
Publications Distribution Co-operative: The Early History
A PDC Day – Repping in Birmingham
PDC – A Bookseller Remembers
My Time at The Independent Bookshop – Sheffield
Richard Carlile 1790-1843
Trouble at Mushroom
Review: The Radical Bookstore: counterspace for social movements
Bits and Bobs
News and Links
Obituaries

DOWNLOAD LINK

Newsletter Issue 2, April 2021
CONTENTS
Editorial
Buying New Books Online
News Items, Old Items, Obits And Odd Bits
Obituaries
Collets
Days Of Hope
Books About Radical Bookshops
Housmans: 60 Years Of Books And Activism
In Other Words
Grass Roots

DOWNLOAD LINK

Issue 1, August 2020
CONTENTS
• Editorial
• Photographs
• Oral histories
• Records and archives
• Bookshops listing
• Bookshop (and distributor) histories
• New items, old items, obits and odd bits
• Branching out
• Thomas Spence: A history

DOWNLOAD LINK



Nine new bookshops join the ARB!

Its very cheering to see so many new radical bookshops not only opening but thriving. We’re happy to announce nine new members of the ARB, with the latest member Lockdown Books literally opening its doors for the first time today (23/04/21). If you’re ever in their area do pop in and give them your support – and of course many have well-stocked online shops too.

The Nine:

Bookish Type an independent queer bookshop in Leeds https://thebookishtype.co.uk

Category Is Books are fiercely independent Queer and LGBT Bookshop in Glasgow https://www.categoryisbooks.com

Lockdown Books is a bookshop in Kington, Herefordshire with a focus on radical politics alongside some poetry, letterpress work and a small amount of art. https://lock-down-books.com

Portal Bookshop in York with a focus on Science Fiction, Fantasy and all of the LGBTQIA books we can source from the UK, the US and beyond. https://the-portal-bookshop.square.site

Rubicund in Falmouth is a radical bookshop, vegan cafe and lending library. https://www.rubicund.co.uk/

Shelflife Books and Zines in Cardiff are not-for-profit booksellers focused on making space for marginalised voices, stocking books from independent, micro- and self- publishers. https://www.shelflifebookshop.com/

The Feminist Bookshop is an independent bookshop, vegan cafe and event space based in Central Brighton. https://thefeministbookshop.com

The Second Shelf in London is a snug independent bookstore focusing on works by women, including rare & first editions. https://www.thesecondshelf.com

Wrecking Ball Music and Books in Hull is a record and bookshop with a focus on literary works, especially the often neglected poetry and short stories, and an ever-expanding stock of left-wing political books and pamphlets 
https://wreckingballstore.co.uk

How best to buy books online and support independents

With bookshops closed for much of the last year many of us have turned to online book-buying. New platforms such as hive.com and bookshop.org have sprung up as rivals to Amazon and some independent booksellers have their own online sales web pages. We thought it would be useful to look into how we can best support radical booksellers in this online world.

The best thing you can do is to buy direct from an ARB member. Most of them have websites and many of those have a ‘shop’ tab or similar for online buying. The shop will send you your books in the post and some have a click & collect option for customers who can come to the shop. Where the shop doesn’t have a website, ring them up to order (and pay) over the phone.

Where that’s not possible, the next best option is the independent https://uk.bookshop.org/, (a ‘B Corp’). What’s crucial, however, is to choose a shop first from the ‘choose a bookshop’ tab. You will find many of the ARB members there. Once you’ve done that the shop will receive 30% of what you pay. If you don’t choose a shop first and instead go straight to browse, find the book and order it, ‘your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookshops’.

Hive, another alternative to Amazon, is less generous to booksellers than bookshop.org. It is part of Gardners, the UK’s dominant wholesaler of books and related products. As an incentive to customers wanting to support independent booksellers, after you’ve bought something from them, you choose a bookshop and they give the shop a percentage of your money. They’re rather coy about the percentage, but it’s never more than 8%, well short of bookshop.org.

We’d be pleased to hear from our readers if you know of other ways to buy remotely from radical booksellers during lockdown – and once it’s over too, because we hope that the habit will persist for those of you who for whatever reason can’t visit a radical bookseller in person.

John Goodman

‘Changing the world, one book at a time’

Ross Bradshaw, activist, publisher and writer, was recently invited to Haarlem in The Netherlands to speak about radical bookselling. He knows his trade, which is why Nottingham’s Five Leaves Bookshop, which he founded in 2013, was named Independent Bookshop of the Year at the 2018 British Book Awards.  The following article was the basis for the talk that he gave.

Changing the world, one book at a time

by Ross Bradshaw

In 1984, the Federation of Radical Booksellers published Starting a Bookshop: a handbook on radical & community bookselling. The radical booktrade in Britain was in its pomp, with its own regular printed journal, The Radical Bookseller, and a reviews journal, News from Neasden. The book exuded confidence. The cover featured logos of bookshops across the country — York Community Bookshop, SisterWrite, First of May Bookshop, Lavender Menace (surely the best bookshop name ever), Oakleaf, The Other Bookshop, Single Step, The Smiling Sun, Mushroom, Lamp, Bookmarks …  One chapter missing from an otherwise detailed book was on how to close a bookshop. All the shops and distributors on the cover would come to that point, save for Housmans and Bookmarks of London and News from Nowhere in Liverpool, the great survivors.

Six years later, I wrote an article in Tribune, at the time a weekly Labour Movement newspaper, expressing concern about the number of bookshop closures, caused by political defeats of the Left during the 1980s, and radical territory having been co­opted by the main chain, Waterstones, selling feminist and environmentalist books. I reported some bookshops having difficulty recruiting staff due to low pay for a job involving long hours, poor conditions and weekend working. There were some shops doing well, particularly those which had moved on from being the pole of attraction for ‘a few lefties who have been buying obscure Trotskyist or anarchist material in dowdy premises for years might find it difficult to understand why bookshops had sold out by having carpets and books that people actually want to read’. The remaining bookshops were leaving behind the ‘assorted whiffs of squalor and self­righteousness’ and widening their stock and reach.

Read the rest of this page »

Dorset Radical Bookfair

Back for its third year – anarchy in the sticks!
Full details here:
https://dorsetbookfair.wordpress.com

New member: Connolly’s Wee Bookshop in Carlisle

A new member to the Alliance is Connolly’s Wee Bookshop, run by Christopher Connolly. Christopher used to jointly run The Besotted Wretch in Sheffield but the rent was too much to survive so he has started again inside Carlisle’s historic Market Hall.

A small second hand shop, the specialist subjects are football, politics, history & philosophy. Absolutely no chance of finding any right wing polemics, war stories or books about hunting!

Connolly’s Wee Bookshop, Unit 1, Market Hall, Scotch Street, Carlisle, CA3 8QX
Open Tue, Wed, Fri & Sat. 20% discount for customers in receipt of Universal Credit.

Help repair the Cowley Club

ARB member The Cowley Club in Brighton is a much-loved, long-established and well-used co-operatively run bookshop, cafe, social center and music venue.

Their building is over a hundred years old, and is facing some costly and urgent repairs. They need to raise enough money to hire contractors, put up scaffolding and pay for materials.

They are aiming to raise £11,700 to repair the crumbling plaster on the front on the building, the leaking roof, and the cracked chimneys.

Once the plaster is repaired, we will create a permanent memorial to Anna Campbell (Hêlîn Qereçox) in the form of a mural visible from the busy London Road.

Before travelling to Kurdistan, Anna was a valued volunteer and organiser at the Cowley Club. She was tragically killed while fighting with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Unit in 2018.

How can you help?

Every donation helps, no matter how large or small, and all money raised through this crowdfund will be used exclusively for the urgent repairs mentioned above.

They have some great perks to thank you for your generosity. You can also visit their website and learn how to set up a regular donation or invest ethically in the Club; this will form part of our regular income and reserves:

Please visit their crowdfunding page to find out more!

https://www.chuffed.org/project/lets-repair-the-cowley-club

New ARB Member: Quaker Centre Bookshop

The Quaker Centre Bookshop is based in Friends House, Euston Road. Our stock is informed by Quaker faith and work, with books on peace, social justice, anti-racism, politics, LGBT rights,  activism, ecology, feminism and religion and spirituality, as well as a large selection of progressive and spiritual children’s books. We also sell books published by Quakers in Britain. Our adjoining café has excellent cake.

www.quaker.org.uk/bookshop

Five Leaves Bookshop wins the Independent Bookshop of the Year Award 2018

Ross Bradshaw who founded Five Leaves writes:
“Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham became the first radical bookshop to have won the Independent Bookshop of the Year Award at the British Book Awards, the booktrade equivalent of the Oscars.

The bookshop was presented with a cheque for £5000 and a trophy by author Benjamin Zephaniah at a “black tie” event at Grosvenor House in London in front of around a thousand people from the book trade nationally.

Ross Bradshaw, from Five Leaves Bookshop, said “It was not the most likely setting to find a radical bookshop, but we coped pretty well! By coincidence, Nottingham writer Jon McGregor won the very next award for Book of the Year, Fiction with his Reservoir 13. Jon was our first ever customer in 2013. We launched Reservoir 13 when it came out so we were able to celebrate together.”

The judges of the Independent Book Awards identified Five Leaves’ key strengths as including a sharp increase in sales in 2017, putting on around 90 events over the last year attended by over 6,000 people, having a politically-conscious outlook with initiatives including Nottingham’s first ever radical bookfair (which included a stand from the Morning Star) and an extensive in-house publishing programme.

Beyond all of that “Five Leaves creates a distinct identity out of its emphasis on political and social issues, a passion for diversity and a reputation for poetry” carrying a stock that is “finely tuned to its market”.

Five Leaves began life as a publisher in 1995, opening the bookshop in 2013, giving special interest to literature and to books advocating social change. This June the bookshop launches the national Feminist Book Fortnight, with the support of thirty other independents across the country.

Five Leaves is proud to pay a minimum of the Living Wage to all members of staff, which team includes people who used to work at Waterstones, Blackwells and Leicester University Bookshop, while owner Ross Bradshaw worked for many years at a previous radical bookshop in Nottingham, Mushroom Bookshop.

Ross Bradshaw added “Despite the setting, it felt like winds of change are blowing through the book trade. The winner of the non-fiction (narrative) book section was Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, while the joint winner of the children’s book of the year was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, whose main character is a black girl from a poor neighbourhood in the USA.”

Among the other winners, the publisher of the year HarperCollins was credited for “making great strides … on diversity” by increasing the number of Black and minority ethnic (BME) authors it publishes and for being the only publisher to feature in the Business in the Community’s Best Employers for Race list. Faber, winner of the Independent Publisher of the Year award, was also praised for its commitment to Black and minority ethnic internships and work with Creative Access, an organisation which aims to increase the number of BME workers in creative industries.

Before announcing Five Leaves’ award, Benjamin Zephaniah remarked that it was a small community bookshop – now long gone – Page One which published his work for the first time and it was at that moment that the Five Leaves team thought this year their radical and community-based stand would win through.”