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Anarchist Bookfair 2008

Keith Parkins | 20.10.2008 14:08 | Free Spaces | Social Struggles

Autumn, the leaves turning golden, the Anarchist Bookfair. Stepney in East London, Saturday 18 October 2008.


If you have never been, the Anarchist Bookfair is worth going to, but like Green Fayres, once you have been to one, you have been to them all as they all tend to be much of a muchness.

This year was the same venue as last year, Queen Mary College, a bit of a trek but an improvement on last year with an extra large room for stalls, and so not so crowded.

I'm beginning to wonder why I go. You find books you do not find elsewhere, but I have all worth having.

One of the few stalls worth visiting is Indymedia for the DVDs they have on offer. I came away with half a dozen. Last year I got We – the unauthorised Arundhati Roy and Manufactured Landscapes, both I'd highly recommend.

To coincide with the book fair, Indymedia London was launched. The Indymedia stall had flyers for the new site, but the flyer omitted to include the web address!

Other stalls worth visiting are Corporate Watch and Rising Tide. I regret that I did not go back to pick up their publications.

Missing were Undercurrents and SchNEWS. A pity as I would have liked to have picked up a copy of On the Verge from SchNEWS.

Even Notes From the Borderlands were not there, peddling their fantasies. Always good for a laugh.

In addition to the stalls there were also talks. I would have like to have attended the one given by John Pilger, but did not learn of it until later.

I would have liked to have seen Mark Thomas there as he has just published a book, Belching Out the Devil, an account of Coca-Cola, but he had other engagements for the day. Luckily for myself, I saw him two days before at the Guildford Book Festival. If he is promoting the book near you, go along. Also buy the book.

There needs to be a wider diversity of groups with stalls. Each year it gets narrower and narrower. Suggestions which others can add to: Colombia Solidarity, Bolivian Solidarity, Palestinian Solidarity, Kurdish groups, War on Want, World Development Movement. Many, if not all, of these groups have been there in the past. Why do they no longer come? Anarchist Bookfair is the lesser occasion without this wider diversity.

Afterwards there was a couple of parties. One was apparently at a bookshop on the way to the other party at Ramparts.

The Ramparts party went on until the early hours, but I did not stay. I grabbed some food, heard the opening group, punk with attitude, white noise and enthusiasm which barely made up for lack of talent (I've seen better on the streets of Brighton), then headed home.

I thought that Ramparts was no more, that an eviction had taken place. I was therefore surprised, that as last year, there was a party at Ramparts. Ramparts has been re-occupied and with the collapse of the property market, it could be occupied for some time.

There and back the usual third world transport. At my local station, a long queue at the ticket office, only one person selling tickets, two goons manning the ticket barrier, one of whom refused to open the gate to let me through. They need the goons in case someone tries to dodge the fare. Ironic when they rob us blind with their fares, fares which go up faster than inflation every New Year, whereas the quality of service goes down. The train was overcrowded, only five coaches for a busy mainline service.

I guess I should be relieved that being weekend, there was not the dreaded rail works, though I did notice several tube stations and lines were closed, fortunately not on my route.

On the way, I looked in the recently opened Crypt of St Martin-in-the Fields.

A thought for the future which I discussed with a few people who thought it a good idea. Know a good book? Leave a copy which you have registered on BookCrossing for others to pick up. Maybe an area or table set aside for the purpose.

Anarchist Bookfair 2004

Anarchist Bookfair 2005

Anarchist Bookfair 2006

Anarchist Bookfair 2007


Keith Parkins
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Hide the following 15 comments

Needs some sparkle

20.10.2008 14:54

I missed the fair this year but have been for about the last 5 years. Last year I did find it stuffy, clicky (spelling?!) and a little dull. I agree about more diversity of groups/talks/workshops. I think the promotion could be a bit more upbeat. Previous years event posters/stickers have all seemed militant; masked activist, molotov cocktail type thing. I don't think that will attract you're average Jo.

It's a great event but how about a bit more sparkle next year? :P


I thought this year's Bookfair was awesome

20.10.2008 15:26

Keith's report seems to be a fairly dismal version of what I felt to be one of the best and most upbeat and diverse (for the @ scene) Bookfairs for years. As a boring old fart who can remember the first Bookfairs in a pub in Kings Cross, I do have a certain amount of dread at these annual balance-sheets of the movement.

The meetings (as important as the bookselling) were great! This year there seemed to be some urgency in the meetings for people to actually start addressing what is going on on the ground and not in some overly-theorised and perfect anarchist dreamworld. There also seemed to be a lack of intolerance and sectarianism.

In my opinion, there were lots of diverse anarchist stalls with a ton of good new ideas and publications.

If the anarchist bookfair doesn't have stalls from every solidarity campaign, it's because the clue is in the title - the Anarchist bookfair!

Usually i come away dispirited and down by the often head in their arse feel of many anarchists. This year I thought that we might actually begin to act as a movement once again.

Best wishes to all who put in an amazing amount of work each and every year to keep the Bookfair going.


For @

20.10.2008 15:51

Were you at the same bookfair as me ?

Dull, tedious and lacking in originality. This is the last time I'll bother traipsing across London to attend the fair.

Sorry to be so negative but it needs to be said. Apart from the London Indymedia launch which was good the rest of the fair was a waste of time.


Please, on the other hand, theres more bookfairs in UK,Pilger,Paul Mason

20.10.2008 15:54

& other contempary well known figures come to our events. Not all the solidarity groups are based in London& with political climate of today people with immigrant status etc often avoid radical political events. Not all life revolves around London, which you should happy about.
The Bookfair this year sounded good, personally sometimes I find the so called diversity of stalls annoying with 2-3groups doing the same thing, sometimes its good to see groups with the same politics etc merging&often becoming stronger.
The entertainment looked good too, although best to have some bigger names like Thomas etc for that,& yes Smokin Aces babe & singer ALicia Keys would have great if she really is a anarchist as she told the Gaurdian. But grey for the webpage was a bad idea.
People know we are militant that we are willing to stand up to the nazis & government when it attacks us they dont need to see it on literature,which often helps the state. People want to see us organising & hear our positive solutions on syndicalism,worker coops, universal federations etc.
Groups that go to the anarchist bookfairs still put on the most exciting biggest mass demo's, with things like stop the cities, J18,Seattle,CCamp being majorly influenced by thinking & ideas from here. Sadly we havent been able to organise the Stop War movement yet, thats been our biggest downfall in the last decade. We cant just blame this on SWP, we werent agressive enough in recruiting people at the start of the war to get involved in NVDA, we did everything else from organise buses,music, actions etc whilst the SWP concentrated on packaged holiday demos with speakers in set boring places & recruitment.
As for venue next year, how about a sport venue with conference facilities? I remember there was a goodhumoured short 5 aside footy tournament at the first bookfair I went to about 10 years ago, never seen it since.
Howz about a St Pauli pic on next years advertising?


Didnt mean to say please in the title of my last comment to any moaners

20.10.2008 16:12

if there was more unity at this years bookfair, that can only be a good thing. It did look abit grey.


Great bookfair

20.10.2008 16:17

As somebody whose first bookfair was at Conway hall approx 20 years ago - i can safely say that it was great. Lots of great and busy meetings, most with good contributions. Some of them full to overflowing.

The space the bookfair needs is huge, and i must confess I didn't like the main busy hall - with stalls laid out roughly like figure of 8. Instead we were in the octagon room and its great, like the big room at the british museum. Here the stalls were all around the edge, with 6-8 tables in the middle which could seat 10-12 people - the best place to sit, have a cup of coffee and chat with long lost friends. The atmosphere in the Octagon room was progressive all day...

What is MORE significant, is that this is the biggest radical event (anarchist/socialist/Marxist) in the calendar every year. It IS bigger than Marxism, which can only be good for anarchism. Some launched their books here, many leaflets were spread, contacts made, networking achieved, and practical engagement with struggles was debated with suggestions made which will be implemented. This is the NOT TO MISS event in the radical calendar now, across the left.

Many friends

I enjoyed it...

21.10.2008 00:45

Well, fair enough to those who didn't enjoy it. I really enjoyed it, personally, but then I always do. It's great to have a chance to socialise with so many others in the movement as well as pick up interesting material and do some practical organising too.

Maybe I'm biased - but I love the bookfair and always have :)


What a whinger

21.10.2008 09:12

wot a whinger!

Didn't know this was happening/ didn't go to that/ didn't look around carefully enough to see that/ couldn't be bothered to do anything/ went to this but it was soo boring...sounds like a Harry Enfield "kevin" skit.

Every year its different...has good and and not so good things about it...
Next year I hope you will stop being a passive consumer of radical whatever and organise the kind of event you think should be happening...


i agree with Martyn

21.10.2008 10:34

yeah, it was great this year - excellent talks. A reakl coup to have had Pilger - though i missed him. The Paul Mason talk was bloody excellent as the man has researched the subject of the Paris Commune to a vast degree.

One criticism was the appalling lack of signposting inside the venue, and no map in the bloody programme!!! How were people expected to know where to go? The answer is probably that they should self-organise and collectively write them out themselves!


It was great!

21.10.2008 14:29

Sorry, but what do you really expect from a bookfair? Bookfairs will never be the most exciting events to attend, but so what? They don't pretend to be. And of course most stalls sell most of the same books, again, what do you expect? It's not like there are new books on anarchism coming out every week, is it?

The bookfair was great, well organised and a good tun out. I think we should try as much as possible to support this event because if not we could quite easily loose it.

Props have to go out to veggies for always delivering the goods, without them i can imagine a lower turnout at these events. Also the after party at Ramparts was great, Hello Bastards were a breath of fresh air to a relatively stale anarcho punk scene - good work guys.



21.10.2008 19:36

I agree with those who disliked it.
Having been to many in the past it's become the same old stuff . Same tired old 'newsletters' etc albeit with different headlines, and forthcoming demo's that, seems to me, achieve little these days, and put on recycled flyers...

As for Pilger, the room was far too small- and 'airless' to accomodate all who wanted to listen . I couldn't get past the tiny and narrow entrance so left very disappointed. Too many people appeared sat at the front of the side stairs instead of moving back. If there had been several people in wheelchairs, they'd never have got in. (This applies to other parts of the building- sets of steps and only the one small lift)

With only Veggies outside providing food and a small tea bar inside, you couldn't get a decent meal either.

The venue as too far out of central London. For those who come from outside London, it's too much of an extra trek- especially on the sardine cans that pass for Underground (a fair way from the venue also) or the equally sardine like buses (many now on diversion way off routes so taking ages to get anywhere)


A quick cure to all you issues!

22.10.2008 08:01

If you are not going to help arrange or get involved with the bookfair fuck off complaining and Don't come back next year you whining john pilger loving middle class assholes!


Boring shite at the bookfair + a slagging

22.10.2008 11:41

The Brits couldn't organise themselves out of a paper bag, it is a one day merchandise gig only.

London Anarchist Bookfair has always been a disappointment for me, it's lacking in political bite and not worth getting involved in as everybody knows - all the brits hate each other and no good will come from them. John Pilger? Fuck off and die.

"Want to make it better? Come and get on our bandwagon."

Here's to Manchester & Bristol Bookfairs! Fuck London you Wankers!!!!!!!!!!!!

@nother @narchist

Some of these comments are childish

22.10.2008 15:12

Ooooh stamp your little feet, then!

"This year there seemed to be some urgency in the meetings for people to actually start addressing what is going on on the ground and not in some overly-theorised and perfect anarchist dreamworld."

That's what I thought, too. Best bookfair for a few years.

The venue is always a headache. There really aren't very many suitable places in London. This place is the best we've had since we outgrew Conway Hall.

Apart from the formal meetings (only had time to go to the one I was speaking at, unfortunately), I guess nobody has a handle on the number of informal meetings at the bookfair, or over that weekend, where people organise actions to come.and plan projects.

Of course, people just wandering round looking for things to moan about wouldn't know about that.


Anarchist Bookfair: great bookfair, shame a bout the anarchists?

22.10.2008 15:43

I personally had a great fair, attendence was up, recruitment to decent campaigns and groups was up, money to campaigns was brilliant, the stalls were well organised and stocked and the meetings were well targetted towards activity. Saw lots of old faces painted with new enthusiasm.

Everything points towards a modest resurgence and acceptance of social anarchism if not class struggle anarchism out and out.

The comments from the people here that had a "bad bookfair" seem to be that things were a bit dull, not enough daft shit going on. Fuck you. We will continue to organise your little playground for you to be 'anarchists' in (read: petulant children cum social outcasts) and you will continue to whine to the person in front of you as you follow on regardless. We do not care, the struggle is outside the insular and largley bullshit concept of 'anarchism' as an actual movement in the country.

I know it seems odd, but i'd actually like to say i'm saying this with a smaile on my face in a positive way, but fuck the moaners. We do not need you; the bookfair is best enjoyed as a networking and social event, where you are a participant not an audience.

Frank le Frank