July 1, 2016
UK Indie on the path forward after Brexit
by Simon Reichley
In the aftermath of last week’s Brexit referendum, we’ve devoted a fair bit of coverage to the economic challenges facing the UK publishing industry. An unstable pound and uncertainty over copyright law have given commentators on both sides of the Atlantic much cause for concern.
Publishing—particularly independent publishing—has a cultural, as well as an economic, responsibility to the society that it serves. And while it may be simpler to frame the issues of the day as primarily financial or regulatory, and thereby confine them to an arena that’s more or less well understood, there remains, for many publishers in the UK, a complex ethical, political, and cultural challenge ahead.
One early commentator on the issue has been Influx Press, a UK independent founded by Gary Budden and Kit Caless. As reported in The Bookseller, the staff at Influx (which includes editorial assistant Sanya Semakula) has posted a statement of intent on their blog, charting the path forward for a press that publishes “from the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces and sites of resistance that remain under explored in mainstream literature.”
The statement is short, sharp, and worth reading in full, but the bulk of their aims are laid out here:
Regardless of how you think our political parties should progress, we are sure we can all agree that the most pressing issue we face as writers, publishers and cultural producers is protecting and fighting for the cosmopolitan, heterogeneous and inclusive future of the UK. We must fight for the margins, with the unheard, and alongside those who want the same fundamentally plural society we have managed to create in large parts of this country. We must continue to forge cultural relationships with Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. We must challenge cultural fascism at every turn
Influx Press promises to do this not only by publishing the voices of those who are under threat from racist violence and xenophobia, but by amplifying others who publish these voices too….
We will help create physical spaces where those at threat from this buoyed nationalism can feel safe. We will be on the street when organised fascism is there too. We will speak up and take action whenever we witness discrimination, verbal and physical violence.
This is a stirring call to action and bold reminder of the powers and responsibilities of an independent press. It ably frames the social and cultural struggles that have been facing Britain for years, and which Brexit has thrown into sharp relief. And it falls neatly within the general mission Influx has set for itself. But there is another, perhaps less sexy, piece of cultural work that needs doing, and it has very little to do with the margins.
The voting bloc that carried the day in the referendum, and proved most vulnerable to the fear-mongering depredations of the Leave campaign, tended to be older, less educated, lower-income, and living outside the cosmopolitan financial mecca of London. And these people matter too. As Melville House author Owen Jones wrote in The Guardian, “Millions of Britons feel that a metropolitan elite rules the roost which not only doesn’t understand their values and lives, but actively hates them. If Britain is to have a future, this escalating culture war has to be stopped.” This sense of a highly partisan ruling elite is not unfounded, though it was very successfully misdirected. And just as publishers like Influx have a responsibility to protect the marginalized and to create a cultural space and voice for those most vulnerable to a revitalized nationalism, so too do more mainstream publishers have a responsibility to bring more level heads to the table, to reintegrate the alienated and fearful white middle class, and to rapidly de-escalate the culture war presently looming on the British horizon.
Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.