2022 - 2023

Mapping Radical Bookshops

Radical bookshops, once found in every major town and city, are spaces of possibility and resistance, offering quiet browsing, public discussions and encounters between writers, readers and activists.

On the Record is working with the Alliance of Radical Booksellers and the Radical Bookshop History Project to produce a digital map of radical bookshops past and present, with seed funding from the Barry Amiel and Normal Melburn Trust.

If you have details of a radical bookshop you would like to add to the map please contact us.

In October 2023, as part of Black History Month, we delivered three workshops to groups of young people aged between 13 -16 years old who attend Oaklands School in Bethnal Green and Westminster Kingsway in King's Cross on the history of New Beacon Books and the life of John La Rose as part of our Radical Bookshop Map project. The workshops - curated from research at the George Padmore Institute - explored in detail the life of John La Rose and the various Black British social movements he got involved with in the 1960s and 1970s. The young people discovered the different types of books that were published and sold by New Beacon Books and the reasons behind their publications as well as learned about the political and cultural aspects behind the history of the Notting Hill Carnival. The workshops incorporated various creative activities such as freeze frames and writing a collective spoken word. 

We have had amazing feedback from the teachers and young people: 

"The activities enhanced our knowledge regarding the importance of radical bookshops" 

"I enjoyed learning about the history around powerful movements and learning about key figures who have created change and impact."

"I feel very informed. I will be visiting the bookshop! Love learning new things about Black politics."



On 26 November 2022, Rosa Schling from On the Record curated a day-long event at the Barbican celebrating radical bookshops past and present. Barbican Library hosted a bookfair with stalls from Britain’s best-known radical bookshops including Housmans, New Beacon Books, Gay’s The Word, Five Leaves, Shalimar Books, Roundtable Books, Freedom, Bookmarks and Newham Bookshop along with radical publishers and organisations such as Pluto Press, Verso, the Feminist Library and Bishopsgate Institute, alongside two talks about Radical Bookshops Past and Radical Bookshops present and a lino printing workshop.

Listen to the audio from the talks at these links below.

Radical Bookshops Present Talk

Radical Bookshops Past Talk