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.

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