The Feminist Library to open in Peckham in January 2020

The Feminist Library to open in Peckham in January 2020

The Feminist Library will open its new premises in Peckham in January 2020, following a successful £65,000 crowdfunder, with a number of opening events and a documentary, which pop musician La Roux is helping to develop.

Following a special evening celebration on 31st January, prioritising those who donated to the crowdfunder and a second event on 1st February billed by the Library collective as "a big opening party for all to celebrate the its new home", with the opening taking place almost a year later than originally planned. There will be an opening events programme featuring readings, performances and music, with more details to be announced later this month.

At 1,500sq ft the new space at Sojourner Truth Community Centre is 50% bigger than the Library’s previous premises, and is completely wheelchair accessible. It will provide a substantial increase in shelving space, office space, and a kitchen to cater for community events, the collective behind the Library said. 

Currently “an amazing team of women and non-binary architects, designers and makers” are helping the collective to refit the building, move the stock – featuring many thousands of items – and prepare for events. The Library is appealing for more volunteers to help with the “lengthy unpacking process” as well as other opportunities. 

Fundraising coordinator Magda Oldziejewska told The Bookseller how lengthy negotiations held up the opening date, originally scheduled for March 2019. “The main reason for the delay was agreeing the lease with the landlord (Southwark Council) has proven more challenging than anticipated. We don't have the times for opening [date] yet, as we'll have to recruit new, more local volunteers now, after the move [though it will be in February]." 

She said the archiving experience threw up some surprises for volunteers. “We have had about 60 new volunteers helping out with cataloguing for the move. There were lots of lovely surprises found among the books while we were cataloguing and packing up ready for the move - approximately 4,000 books were catalogued if I remember correctly, but I don't think anyone has the exact number. Among the gems that we found was almost a full box of the 'Down There' pamphlet, which is about self exams, and was produced during the second wave but we're now selling it in our bookshop again.”

Emma Thatcher, member of the collective, told The Bookseller: “I know from speaking to the volunteers that it has been a very sociable and enjoyable experience for the cataloguing volunteers, together discovering all the amazing books in the collection up close.”

Trustee Patrizia di Bello thanked the volunteers, funders, donors, pro-bono professionals who had helped as well as "everyone working at the Library".

The new space has been designed by HI-VIS, a feminist design collective for women and non-binary designers, that offers pro-bono design and construction services to community groups and actions, along with designer Lucy Sanderson, of design agency Studio. The fittings were built by Power Project, a free programme for women and non-binary individuals in DIY & making. To accompany the "fresh look of the new space", the Library also has a new logo and branding designed by the graphic designer, Anna Lincoln of London-based studio The Dots.

To document the journey Sanderson and artist Lilian Nejatpour are making a film about the Library’s move – it will be produced by Tracy Bass, film-maker and Goldsmiths academic with sound design by popstar La Roux (also known as Elly Jackson).

Martha Rawlinson, founder of from HI-VIS said: “It’s been a long time coming and it’s so exciting to finally begin to see this project realised.”

The new premises comes after the Library launched a crowdfunding campaign in October 2018 to raise £30,000 to allow it to move from its Westminster home of 30-years. The volunteer-run archive was forced to move because of a redevelopment of its Westminster Bridge Road site. More than £35,000 was raised and the target was later extended £65,000 to ensure all the essential costs for the move were covered. The Library was still £5,000 short a few days before the deadline in March before Blood Orange author Harriet Tyce stepped in with a £5,000 donation.

The Feminist Library was founded in 1975 by a small group of volunteers and features aroun 7,000 books, 1,500 periodical titles from around the world, several archives of feminist individuals and organisations, pamphlets, papers, posters, and ephemera. With no government or external funding, it has survived for nearly 45 years through the work of volunteers and the support of the public. It opens five days a week and welcomes visitors of any gender.

The events programme will be confirmed later this month along with the line-up for the opening party and how to order a ticket. For more information, visit feministlibrary.co.uk.