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


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.


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.


Newsletter Issue 3, October 2021

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


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


Issue 1, August 2020
• 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


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 

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.


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!


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.


Help October Books to Buy a Bank!

October Books, Southampton’s only independent bookshop, is buying a bank! We’re borrowing funds directly from the community to buy the Natwest building on Portswood Road in Southampton. The aim is to create not only a new home for the bookshop, but also a venue for community events, workshops and meetings.

We’re looking to raise £360K from loanstock and donations and we’re now over half way there. We have a crowdfunder for donations, however, most of the funds are being raised through the issuing of loanstock. Loanstock is a kind of community share in which interested people can purchase stock which is then later paid back with interest when the stock matures.

The rest of the funds for purchase and renovation are being raised through a co-operative community loan, and (when the building is bought) sale of the upper floor to the Society of St James. The Society of St James is a Hampshire-based charity who provide supported housing for homeless people.

More details available on the website.

About us
October Books is a co-operative radical not-for-profit bookshop. It’s run directly by the workers, with the help of customers members of the co-operative, with profits going back into the shop. It turned 40 last year, having been in the Portswood area of Southampton for the last 15 years. The shop sells a wide range of new books and magazines with a special focus on political, social and environmental issues. It also sells organic and Fairtrade products.

Previous Coverage



October Books
243 Portswood Road
SO17 2NG

Open: Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm
Web: www.octoberbooks.org
Tel: 023 8058 1030
Fax: 023 8058 1040

Derry Radical Bookfair // 27th January 2018

On Saturday 27th January 2018 Derry will host its, now annual, second Radical Bookfair at Pilots Row Community Centre in the city’s Bogside area.

We are pleased to announce that following on from last years successful first ever Radical Bookfair in Derry that we will begin plans to hold our second annual Radical Bookfair in 2018.

Following on from this years event held during the Bloody Sunday week of events we have had continuous support and encouragement to make the Radical Bookfair an annual event as part of the political calendar of Derry.  Our first Radical Bookfair played  host to many participants from all over Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales played  part of the Bloody Sunday week of events leading up to the annual Bloody Sunday March, which itself hosted a series discussions and debates, film and theatre that centred around a wide range of local, national and international contemporary social justice issues.

As ever we would like to extend our hand to participants again to the Radical Bookfair with different visions, ideas, practices and radical traditions.  Again we hope that our second annual book fair will be used as an opening in support of small press publishers and independent book sellers and producers, circulating radical reading materials and information from independent distributers, non-party political campaigns and groups to share their publications and merchandise, which normally would be hard or impossible to find at mainstream book shops. Books of local, national and international interests including social and labour history as well as themes covering radical feminism, queer liberation, anarchism, marxism, republicanism and environmentalism.

It is worth noting that Derry has a long and proud tradition of working class radicalism which has influenced many historical events, standing out beyond most other cities that has both challenged and changed society around us for the better.

At present we are allocating stall space and as seen last year at our first ever radical bookfair, space is limited.

If your book store, distribution or publishing collective would like to book a place at the radical bookfair then now is the time to confirm.

At the moment things are staring to take shape and its looking to be an amazing day of stalls, books, records, zines from independent booksellers, political and historical groups, local radical projects, small press and more.

Check out our website for stallholder info and how you can book you place. https://derryradicalbookfair.wordpress.com/

Derry Radical Bookfair

Online: derryradicalbookfair.wordpress.com

Email: radicalbookfair.gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/derryradicalbookfair/

The Big Freedom Rebuild

Freedom needs your help! Or at least the Freedom Building in Whitechapel does.

One of East London’s last radical bastions, since we moved into 84b in 1968 the Freedom building has weathered firebombs, arrests, police infiltration, stalkers, threats of all kinds and more movement shenanigans than you can shake a very large stick at. And now we’re facing a major rebuilding project, costing up to £50,000, including vital works to fix the roof, walls and even stairs.

A survey carried out last year highlighted that emergency repairs are needed to the roof and walls that will total around £13,000. Our aim is to raise this amount by August 2017 so that the building works can take place in the Summer. As of February 2017 we have raised £5,000 to get us started.

But the fun doesn’t stop there – over the coming three years we will need a lot more money to treat dampness in the walls, insulate the building, install a boiler and look into making the whole place more accessible. In the long term costs could be between £40-50,000 to bring the building back to its best, including things like fixing up the lovely (but old-style) sash windows.
The building is an important resource providing space for; an anarchist bookshop that is open 7 days of the week; Freedom news and publishing group that has been producing anarchist propaganda since 1886; office space for Haven Distribution, Soldiarity Federation, Anarchist Federation, Corporate Watch, IWW UK, the National Bargee Travellers Association – London branch and the Advisory Service for Squatters ; Decentre , a social room for meetings, events and organising; and for supporting groups such as London ABC , Legal Defence and Monitoring and the Green and Black Cross who regularly use the building.

Help us bring 84 back to its best so we can continue to work as a vital hub for the anarchist movement!

All of the rewards on offer are for collection from Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel. If you would like to organise for postage of your item(s) please contact shop(at)freedompress.org.uk

Rewards up for grabs include

Freedom Tote Bag

Save the Freedom Building t-shirt



The All Important Link:


ARB Interactive Map

The good people over at Book Nest have put together a handy map showing all the ARB member bookshops. Book Nest is the online community site for independent booksellers in the UK, and is well worth a visit: http://www.booknest.co.uk/

View Radical Book Shops in the UK in a larger map