Today, On the Record Community Interest Company has received a grant of £87,500 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for an exciting heritage project Housmans: 60 years of books and activism, in Kings Cross, London. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project will tell the incredible story of Housmans Bookshop, one of the leading progressive, radical bookshops in the UK, and Peace House, the building it is based in, which has provided space for grassroots movements for peace and social change since 1959. Read the full press release here
In 1959, Peace House was officially opened by veteran peace activists, including Vera Brittain, at 5 Caledonian Road. Meanwhile, the anti-nuclear movement was bursting onto the scene, with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, (CND) and the Committee of 100 emerging in the same period. Over the following 60 years, the flow of books, ideas and people through the building has reflected how grassroots politics in the UK has changed. Apart from the bookshop’s many customers, the building has sheltered a diverse crowd: peace activists seeking to ban the bomb or support conscientious objectors to war, activists from the Gay Liberation Front who started the first helpline for LGBT people in Housmans’ basement (now known as Switchboard), and dogged environmental campaigners who defended themselves against McDonalds in the UK’s longest ever libel trial, to name a few examples.
Housmans: 60 years of books and activism will engage young people, aged between 18-25, as volunteers. They will carry out research, conduct oral history interviews, collect and digitise an archive dedicated to the fascinating building at 5 Caledonian Road and the diverse group of organisations and individuals that have passed through its doors since 1959. With the support and direction of an experienced theatre director they will write and perform site-specific theatre based on the stories they have uncovered. Housmans bookshop will host these performances, a sound installation, and several discussion events based around its fascinating history. A full history of the building will be published, using original archive material collected. On the Record will be recruiting volunteers and a Youth Theatre Coordinator soon – register your interest by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org