On 2nd June 2018 the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB) will be holding the 6th London Radical Bookfair, and also celebrating the 7th Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing. These are grassroots projects: carried out with no corporate sponsorship* and with the work done voluntarily by a small group of people working in radical bookshops. It can be exhausting, but its worth it.
There are several key motivations for the effort: to promote radical books and the ideas within them, to create a welcoming space that brings new people into contact with our politics, to have common traditions that belong to our collective movements, and to have moments where like-minded people can come together in a united cause. In a virtual and fragmented world this last aspect becomes increasingly important.
Although the ARB’s activities were forged in the last decade, we are carrying the baton from the work done by our previous incarnation, the Federation of Radical Booksellers, out of which many bookfairs arose, including the London Anarchist Bookfair, International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books and the Socialist Bookfair. Time shows that these projects are fragile. Reliance on voluntary work and public good will keeps us independent but vulnerable.
At a time when so much energy is being spent trying to reclaim the Labour party from privatisers and neoliberals, it is particularly important not to forget our grassroots activities and institutions.
Radical bookfairs and bookshops are fragile, yet despite set backs there are reasons to be hopeful. Many new radical bookshops have opened in recent years, and a whole host of, primarily anarchist, bookfairs have sprung up around the country. But these activities happen against the odds and against the logic and pressures of market forces.
The point of all this is to say that radical bookshops and radical bookfairs cannot exist without your solidarity and support. We hope to see you on June 2nd: spread the word!
*We thank the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust for the seed money that allowed us to launch the London Radical Bookfair and book awards, Ross Bradshaw and the GFTU for donating prize money towards our book prizes in previous years, and Housmans Bookshop for their continued support.