January 17, 2022

UK’s first specialist Black book shop saved by crowdfunder

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New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park, London, as it looked for many years before a 2017 refurb. (via Kake on Flickr, [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0])

The directors of the UK’s first book shop and publisher dedicated to Black writing, New Beacon Books, have thanked supporters for a “lifeline” after a crowdfunding campaign saved their premises from closure.

Following successive pandemic-enforced lockdowns in the UK, the situation looked bleak for New Beacon, which has been based in Finsbury Park, London, since 1966. It was founded by the political and cultural activist John La Rose and Sarah White, and is now run by La Rose’s son, Michael.

As reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, the shop announced its closure as recently as December 28th, citing “financial pressures exacerbated by coronavirus adding to the competition from online retailers”.

The news sparked a wave of both affection for the shop, and outrage at its perilous situation, prompting academic and actress Francesca Gilbert to begin a crowdfunding campaign on December 30th. The Bookseller subsequently reported this had smashed through its £35,000 target in just one day: “The project had aimed to raise £35,000 by 24th February 2022 but, by the morning of 31st December, it had already surpassed that total, hitting the £40,000 mark.” As of early January, the total raised stands at over £79,000—more than double its original target.

As stated on the crowdfunding page, New Beacon’s directors have already set out the ways they will use the fresh funding, including to meet the “immediate needs of the shop, and to set up a planning and public programmes committee. There is also the possibility of acquiring new premises that will potentially incorporate “publishing, bookselling, writers in residence, public programmes and community events.”

With renewed financial input, and a fresh profile boost from their highly visible campaign, things suddenly look brighter for New Beacon—news which can only be good Black British writing.

 

Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.

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