Radical booksellers and publishers have banded together following a suspicious fire at an anarchist bookshop in east London.
The Freedom Press was set ablaze early on Friday morning (1st February), causing damage to its stock and building.
Coordinator Andy Meinke said: “Thankfully no one was in the shop at the time and no one was hurt, but lots of stock has been damaged. Around 300-400 books have been completely ruined, and nearly everything has some smoke or water damage. Customers have been buying them as souvenirs.”
Around 100 people came together over the weekend to help with clean-up efforts at the shop, which was able to reopen on Monday. Meinke said: “We have been overwhelmed with support. People have been here to help clean, and sending donations. Other bookshops and publishers have all been helping out.”
Freedom Press was originally established in 1886 in Whitechapel, and publishes a fortnightly newspaper as well as books and pamphlets on anarchism. In 1993, the shop was set alight in an attack claimed by right wing group Combat 18, and has since installed metal shutters to improve security.
Other radical booksellers said that the fire, and the current situation in the trade, would inspire them to work together.
Malcolm Hopkins of Housmans, a radical bookseller in Kings Cross, said: “I went along to help with the cleanup—we all have to help each other out.
“Radical bookshops have always struggled along on a shoestring, so are used to dealing with crises. The current political situation has meant more people are interested in learning about the kind of topics we cover, but they are not always in a position to buy books. We run several events every month in the shop—we have to be creative in how we appeal to people.”
Huw Lemmey of Verso, the radical publishing house, said: “We do all try to help each other out, running promotions with bookshops and working alongside them.
“The financial crisis has led people to think more about the topics we publish on, as lots of our books address the crisis of capitalism, and different approaches that can tackle it. We see it as an opportunity not as booksellers, but as people involved in radical politics, which most of us are. We want to create an intellectual discourse and show that there are alternatives.”
Freedom Press has reopened and will continue holding clean-ups this week. Police are investigating the blaze. No arrests have yet been made.