The London Radical Bookfair took place on Saturday and I was hyped to go, sure it would be a stimulating experience. I wasn’t wrong.
Bookstalls sold reduced-price publications on all manner of engaging topics relating to socialism, communism, anarchism – and just about everything else in-between. Plus I got my thrilled mitts on two knock-off Chomsky books, which I’m very excited to get stuck into.
The first talk I went to was the most absorbing as it was about the history of the Bishopsgate Institute library archives. I must confess I hadn’t even heard of Bishopsgate Institute until a few weeks ago. But I discovered that its library is home to a rich, significant collection of protest and campaigning materials, with over 20,000 books and pamphlets about labour history alone.
Surprisingly, this institution, which has become such a stalwart for radicalism, was initially opened by the Church and started life as a small lending library. In 1905, however, things really changed, when George Howell became librarian and his collection of anarchist, socialist and communist literature was taken in. Over the years, thanks to donations from various crucial radical campaigners, it’s become a hive of leftist reference materials. The librarian Stefan Dickers’ animated and impassioned commentary really helped in bringing the past of the library to life.
Definitely worth a visit. I’d love to go there again and spend some time browsing the undoubtedly fascinating literature on offer. I strongly urge you to do the same.