Thanks to stall holders and guests alike at the London Radical Bookfair 2017. We certainly had a wonderful time and hope you did too: the vibes were fantastic.
In 1979, Conservative central office received a fawning letter requesting a high-quality photo of the then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Unbeknownst to those who duly sent it, the black and white photograph was incorporated in the poster shown below.
In one simple image, Thatcher’s political duplicity towards women had been laid bare for all to see. This image, titledTough! is just one of the many familiar posters created by the See Red Women’s Workshop, a grassroots feminist collective established in 1974 in London lasting into the early ’80s. The aim of the group was to dismantle pervasive patriarchal attitudes towards gender, race and class. Like much feminist art of the ’70s, the group produced posters, illustrations, cartoons and photographs which ‘deconstructed, questioned and exposed’ negative images of women, such as in advertising, subverting the oppressive messages contained within.
‘Don’t break down, break out’ and ‘So long as women are not free, the people are not free’ are symptomatic of the collective’s approach. These rallying cries were often accompanied with the simplest of designs, lending the posters a DIY aesthetic that in no way undermined them. Indeed, the collective’s slogans and images were intentionally straightforward and accessible yet very effective. As Sheila Rowbotham points out in her foreword to this publication, ‘It’s not actually that difficult to perplex with layer upon layer of words; to clarify abstraction with just a few constitutes a rare skill’.
Written by See Red members, this book catalogues the posters they produced and situates the workshop historically, socially and politically. Following the aesthetic principles of the collective, this edition, slightly larger than A4, is simply designed, with a rather utilitarian feel. The text is very accessible, a clearly written introduction describes the political context of the time, how the women got together and why they did so. The introduction also includes some contemporary correspondence and photographs of the workshop and its members at work. The book contains all of the See Red Women’s Workshop original screen prints and posters designed for radical groups and campaigns, including, for example, Greenham Common.
Ending the book with short biographies of a scattering of the collective’s members, the women write: ‘we had no eye for posterity’. Many of the original documents and photographs that record the workshop’s history have been lost. However, this book still manages to provide a thorough account of the collective’s work. The writers positively note the resurgence of interest in their output, from galleries, museums, and design festivals, but express the hope that it will be a source of inspiration for younger feminists. As many of the posters’ messages are still relevant, the images will no doubt strike a chord and inspire the current generation of feminists, especially those oriented towards DIY activism and zine production.
The See Red’s Women Workshop will be discussing their book in a free talk at the bookfair. No need to book, all welcome. Details here.
Deptford and New Cross in S.E. London have long and surprisingly radical histories which have played a central role in English life: e.g. from the so-called <Peasants Revolt> 1381 to the deadly New Cross Fire (1981) which led to UK’s largest ever Civil Rights demonstration.
For centuries Deptford was the headquarters of English colonialism (Raleigh, Frobisher, Drake etc.). The neo-baroque Deptford Town Hall (1905) was built to celebrate the area’s maritime grandeur which by then had come to an end; its iconography offers an opportunity to deconstruct that problematic past. Goldsmith itself has produced some outstanding figures in art and culture e.g. Malcolm McClaren who began his career as a promoter here.
Goldsmith was at the heart of many radical protests e.g. the Battle of Lewisham 1977 where the violent Far-Right, National Front, were massively outnumbered and defeated. 5000 police outnumbered both sides. Ray is presently writing a new book (‘ The Last Queen of Scotland’) and play about the Scot & civil rights activist Kath Duncan. She played a central role in the Battle of Deptford Broadway (1932) which played a big part in the formation of the NCCL (Liberty’s predecessor).
Fittingly Deptford is one of the locations in the UK where historical sites are keenly contested,
Experienced guides Ray Woolford and Tim Gluckman will lead the walk.
Ray Barron Woolford, lifelong community & political activist, broadcaster and author ‘Deptford’ (a radical history); as founder of UK largest independent food bank, wrote ‘Food Bank Britain’. Ray is a successful social entrepreneur who has won awards for his work on housing & green energy, as well as writing on food, poverty & social justice,
Tim finds exploring history, architecture and local environment etc. adds to his pride in being – like Ray – a local resident
The walk starts at 3pm and should finish around 5.15pm; suitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs and people with limited mobility. The eventbrite link will be posted shortly.
We’ve just updated the website with the speakers’ programme for this year’s fair. Check it out here.
All the tables are booked! We have a great range of radical booksellers, publishers, zine makers, DIY and small press this year.
We are currently updating the website with our list of stall holders and programme of talks. Keep an eye out as we will be adding exhibitors throughout the week, plus updating the food venues page with some great vegan places to eat.
Registration for the 2017 London Radical Bookfair will be opening in a few days. For the second year running, the bookfair will be held in the Great Hall at Goldsmiths University, in South East London.
Apart from a wide range of radical booksellers, authors and publishers, there will also be stalls with comix and zine makers, artists and exhibitions, plus workshops and talks.
You can download the official 2017 London Radical Bookfair poster here for social media purposes.
If you also need posters or flyers, let us know.
More info coming soon!
The 2017 London Radical Bookfair will be on Saturday 24th of June at Goldsmiths University, New Cross. We are currently updating our website and FB page. More info to follow very very shortly. Stay tuned! For enquiries email Cristina at cristina[at]housmans[dot]com