What should replace the London bookfair?

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Jim
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Nov 10 2017 14:43
What should replace the London bookfair?

The London anarchist bookfair was probably the first large anarchist event I went to, but over the years I've probably missed more than I've attended. If it's not going to happen again, what (if anything) should take it's place?

Spikymike
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Nov 10 2017 14:56

deleted.

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Fozzie
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Nov 10 2017 15:37

I think this is the wrong way to frame the question.

The Bookfair did not prevent anything else from happening. Its absence will not magically free up extra resources to do other things.

Spikymike
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Nov 10 2017 15:51

Well it's worth mentioning the various other regional bookfairs in Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin etc which might benefit by an addition of more stalls, meetings and attendances, though the current organisers might be wondering what's in stall for them given what the London organisers have had to put up with over the years!
Apart from that a less ambitious seminar/bookstall style event aimed more specifically at including genuine class struggle communist organisations across the Marxian/anarchist spectrum (and excluding the more liberal/reformist elements) might be worth a go?? I'm getting a bit old to initiate that on my own but not to help out.

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jondwhite
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Nov 10 2017 16:05

A virtual bookfair?

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Khawaga
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Nov 10 2017 16:32
Spikey wrote:
Apart from that a less ambitious seminar/bookstall style event aimed more specifically at including genuine class struggle communist organisations across the Marxian/anarchist spectrum (and excluding the more liberal/reformist elements) might be worth a go??

I'd say a class struggle book fair is a better than the usual big-tent anarchist ones. I used to help put on book fairs where I am living, though we've not had one for years. I also question their purpose and, that by limiting it to just "anarchist" you miss a lot of people that may otherwise be receptive to the ideas put forward, but also that you get all kinds of anarcho-liberal/punk/primmos.

We also didn't shy away from telling vendors to not sell certain things (like primmo crap).

wojtek
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Nov 10 2017 16:51

What is the stated purpose/goals of these bookfairs?

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Khawaga
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Nov 10 2017 19:48

That's a good question. After having organized a few, I started to question why we were doing them. Very little comes out of them but for being anarchist x-mas.

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Craftwork
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Nov 10 2017 20:10

How is the bookfair funded?

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Khawaga
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Nov 10 2017 23:03

First time we did it, I was in an organization and out local donated part of our dues. Then we asked for donations at the bookfair and about 10% of the take from vendors (though what they chose to give was up to them). That would actually be more than enough to cover putting on the next book fair. Our problem was that we kept putting on socials afterwards, which tended to require more funds than the actual fair (e.g. if we got someone to put on a concert, we paid them) and would then be a problem for the following year.

But a model we wanted to pursue was that the purpose of the book fair was to raise funds for various organizing projects in town. IIRC there are a few book fairs in North America that are put on for this purpose.

wimpled off
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Nov 11 2017 10:01
Spikymike wrote:
Apart from that a less ambitious seminar/bookstall style event aimed more specifically at including genuine class struggle communist organisations across the Marxian/anarchist spectrum (and excluding the more liberal/reformist elements) might be worth a go??

This is similar to a suggestion already made by Craftwork. However, there are people who describe themselves as communists or class struggle on both sides of the divide in the "Bookfair" thread, so I don't think rebranding would solve or avoid the more serious problems.

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Steven.
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Nov 11 2017 11:29
wojtek wrote:
What is the stated purpose/goals of these bookfairs?

Yeah I think that is the key question.

TBH I don't think it's worth asking "what should replace the Bookfair". I think the key issue is a more general one of what sort of political activity is useful, and let's do that.

Also I think given that the collective statement only came out a day or two ago it's probably too early to talk about this in a productive way.

That said, anarchist/radical publishing is a useful political activity, and if some publishers who organise stalls rely on the income they make at the London book fair, then I would hope that another comparable event fills the gap.

Craftwork wrote:
How is the bookfair funded?

yeah I would imagine from donations, stall costs, meeting room booking costs, plus I wouldn't be surprised subsidy (or at least money up front) from the organising collective

Spikymike
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Nov 12 2017 12:30

Just to be clear anarchist bookfairs, are (despite the intentions of some meeting organisers) in some ways a reflection of capitalist life rather than a challenge to it - that is to say a market place of ideas involving a presumption of 'equal exchange' in which everything is a matter of individual consumer choice, rather than a commitment by those attending to collectively analyse, argue out and come to any conclusions either theoretical or practical. They have a useful function as an introduction to new ideas but we ideally need other forums that enable a confrontation of ideas and practice between groups and individuals that have an agreed common starting point and at least a desire to try and reach conclusions (and rather than groups only being concerned to win an argument and recruit to their particular gang).
Edit: posted that before thinking it all through. Might be a bit optimistic but it will do for now.

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Craftwork
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Nov 12 2017 19:57

Alternatives? There's always Marxism 2018! grin

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Craftwork
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Nov 12 2017 21:19

Hot take from Corbynist Bastani:

https://www.facebook.com/aaronjbastani/posts/287869415055559

PeterTCA
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Nov 13 2017 11:25

My 21st London Book Fair as a stall holder.

Always found it to be a varied and often creative annual event.

Just about every Book Fair and Anarchist public meeting will contain characters,
or a character, who choose to "act-out" their idea of Freedom.

Anarchism not should be shy of periodically re-inventing itself. There is
always a need for a Plan B.

I've long advocated that Small Group Anarchism is that way to approach
problems, development and a way of living.

gamerunknown
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Nov 14 2017 01:36
Craftwork wrote:
Hot take from Corbynist Bastani:

Yup, wild that socialism was killed off when it was banned in the Reichstag.

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Red Marriott
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Nov 14 2017 21:35

MH
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Nov 15 2017 00:37

Quick response to some queries above re Bookfairs.

1. Costs/Income - London (info via sources in London - it attracts circa 3000 people?)
Approx costs for London Bookfair in its location for last 2 years are roughly £10k in total.
Around £5k is for venue hire. The remaining costs are table/chair hire; qualified creche workers; contributions to travel costs of speakers (overseas ones i believe); resources for the access team; materials for creche & older kids space; printing posters/flyers/programme; other admin; and no doubt some others bits and pieces. None of the Bookfair collective are paid in any way at all.
Previous venues such as St Marys did i understand cost £2-3k more for venue hire.

Income comes from stall fees; bookings for meeting rooms; bucket donations at gate (£2.5-3k); proceeds from benefits (after-parties usually); separate individual donations. Generally the event more or less breaks even, although some years this hasnt been the case - in those instances i understand some individual supporters have helped balance the books, with i think Active Distro being a key donor. In the past the Bookfair collective has printed an outline of costs/income in the programme.

Various groups at the Bookfair also use the event to raise funds for their various campaigns etc usually via their stalls. Something a little different this year was the G20 fundraiser via a tea/coffee stall that raised in excess of £700 and will be delivered by the Swiss anarchists who ran the stall.

2. Costs/Income - Bristol (a regional bookfair which i was involved in 2008-16, and was out of the UK for 2017's - generally regarded as the 2nd largest bookfair in the UK attracting 800 to 1000 visitors)
For the last few years upto 2016 Bristol was held at Trinity Centre, with total costs in the region of £1700 to £2k. Venue hire was £7-800; tables & chairs £300+; printing posters/flyers/programmes upto £500; other admin costs, some travel expenses & hire of equipment upto £300

Income came from stall fees circa £6-700; bucket donations at gate circa £8-900; donation from cafe £1-200; and sometimes bookfair t-shirts/bags upto £100. In addition Bristol usually had some good fundraising gigs, sometimes beforehand & always on the night, and every year the Bookfair made a surplus, sometimes a significant one. This surplus would be passed out to various local groups such as Bristol Defendant Solidarity, often the after-party would be a split benefit anyway from which the bookfair would often waive its cut. By the end of 2016 we'd also banked enough over the years to ensure their was enough money in hand to cover the costs of the next bookfair upfront.

I dont know the figures for Bristol 2017, but i do understand they made a 'loss' of circa £300, although this would have been covered by the balance they inherited. The 2017 Bristol collective was entirely new from previous years, unsurprisingly they went for a smaller event at a different venue, and attendance i hear was maybe 350 people. From what i've been told some of their costs may have been higher (ie printing), and they wern't so forthright in asking for donations on the door. People learn from these experiences.

3. Aims of a Bookfair
Well in Bristol we tended towards 2 main aims. Firstly to act as an outreach event for anarchism, with the bookfair acting as a shop window into the local anarchists groups, movement, distros, publishers etc (along with some national distros like AK, Active, PM etc). The propaganda for the event (and some pre-events) was also seen as outreach & the circulation of ideas. Secondly the bookfair was seen as a gathering point for activists & groups across the southwest, to meet, discuss, network & socialise. In Bristol at least I generally felt we achieved these aims.

4. Organising
We had a roughly 6 month lead in to the Bristol event, although the venue may have been booked earlier, sometimes immediately after the previous one. The core collective was 3-6 people, meeting on average bi-weekly, with other individuals/groups taking on specific roles (cafe, after-party, Radical History Zone, door rota, help on the day, sometimes social media etc).

I understand the London collective met more or less all year round, with often the venue being a major problem - as in finding it & booking it way in advance. Much thought also went into encouraging speakers (especially from overseas), and individuals/groups to cover some topics (with varying degrees of success). Admin also takes forever as many groups are incredibly slack at booking up (& paying)! I was told a funny story from this year regarding Strike magazine, who apparently a week before the bookfair were advertising their presence at the bookfair/next issue on social media. This was noticed by the collective who reminded them they had not actually booked a stall nor meeting, so were they intending to just walk about & distro the next issue?. A begging email from Strike was soon received and they were found some space at the last minute (possibly a table share?). They subsequently went on to sign the 'Open Letter' by way of thanks! Comrades eh?

It seems to me that the work of the Bookfair collctives/organisers is an incredibly thankless one, it's all work, very little play, lots of bitchy criticisms & sniping, and not a great deal of thanks after - and that was just Bristol. But you do these things because you think they are worth the effort, and when they aren't, you stop.

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AndrewF
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Nov 15 2017 11:27

With the Dublin book fair the spend on it is 4000-5000 euro although the last couple have more or less broken even between collections on the day, stall fees and a post book fair fundraiser. The difficulty though is that much of the 5000 spend has to happen long before the day may or may not raise it back again.

Dublin is organised by WSM which advances the money which also means there is a coherent formal collective at the heart of it with a transparent politics and political activity. It's smaller c800 rather than c3000 which has the advantage that stall holders and meeting organisers are largely known to each other and so have more at stake in finding solutions to problems. We'd also have the expectation that if there were significant issues the organisers would lead on sorting them out. From reading about LABF this year I think the organisers got caught in the contradiction of wanting people to self-police each other and the reality of that in a practise which included very deliberate trolling/provocation by outsiders with zero stake in the book fair itself.

I've not been to a LABF in 3 years but from experience of the many I have attended the TERF intervention reads to me as one where the people doing so had some knowledge of previous conflicts (e.g. the Assange leafletting) and used that awareness of the weaknesses of the model to wreck havoc way beyond their numbers. And subsequently create a polarisation that was useful to themselves as older comrades- in my opinion foolishly - took sides based on old loyalties and perceptions of the morality of the conflict rather than the issue.

I think there are lessons there too in thinking escalation is a useful tactic, particularly when you are being trolled to provoke it but of course avoiding it means having another useful feeling tactic instead to frustrate the trolls. In terms of the pro-choice struggle here we see a fair bit of anti-choice activity these days around our protests where the purpose is to provoke a reaction for the cameras including twitter accounts that just retweet images or video to every relevant hashtag for months after, for examples see #rallyforchoice and #RepealHeroes on Twitter.

Overall I suspect the old LABF model has become a victim of its own success. The self policing idea can sort of work when its small and most stall holders know each other and see themselves as part of the same movement and part of the book fair. It collapses once this isn't true and the bookfair is viewed as a 'them' rather than 'us' as evident from the open letter and almost all of the other commentary.

Spikymike
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Nov 15 2017 17:07

Yes Andrew is probably right that the LABF has become a victim of it's own success, though many of the recent critics seem unable to acknowledge that on balance it has been genuinely successful over a number of years despite some mostly unavoidable problems.

MH
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Nov 17 2017 00:49

Excellent point here from AndrewF regards the smaller, regional bookfairs:

Quote:
It's smaller c800 rather than c3000 which has the advantage that stall holders and meeting organisers are largely known to each other and so have more at stake in finding solutions to problems. We'd also have the expectation that if there were significant issues the organisers would lead on sorting them out.

It's certainly one i'd reiterate from my experiences in Bristol from 2008-16. Essentially we found that the Bookfair Collective between us would know virtually every stallholder & meeting organiser by name, and if we didn't then other trusted comrades would. Similarly we would collectively recognise many of the visitors to the event, and could anticipate any issues. So for example when a woman in tears approached a collective member during the first hour of our first bookfair, and explained that a man who'd been harassing her (mainly online) was present in the building, we not only knew the woman but had also heard about the harassment. She pointed him out, he was asked to step outside for a chat by a friend of the collective who knew him, whereupon he was told he could not come back in, and why. He left, had a bit of a whinge via email later, but given the evidence against him it was an open & shut case.

We subsequently pre-emptively banned a number of individuals from various bookfairs (all men), both face to face and via email, for various known forms of harassment/abuse. Plus we were able to weed out stall applications, mainly from scenesters hoping to sell stuff for their own benefit, but also from groups such as DGR when we became aware of their politics in more detail.

This local knowledge also meant that we could position certain stalls strategically so that in the event of likely problems (ie from cops, or the far-right, or local idiots), we knew that we'd have 20 or 30 trusted people ready to back us up in the event of one, without having to explain in any detail what the issue might be, because that element of trust existed between us.

Such local knowledge also means you are able to identify many of the new, interested folks as they came in past our Infopoint, and thereby be able to welcome them and explain how the event works, what is where, answer queries, and so on.

Obviously at a much larger event like London, the scenario is much different, both in personal contact with stall & meeting organisers (especially if its their first time), but also with the public coming in & out. They could be anyone, from anywhere, and their views are unknown. Clearly a key point of a bookfair is to attract new people to anarchist ideas, but it does mean there's a high likelihood of attracting people who are yet to be fully conscious anarchists, or even close to that, and may express views that are unpleasant to others. Ideally when that happens someone will be able to take the time to talk through an issue with the person, and i've seen that happen at regional events, but at a huge event that's tricky, and in any case another person's reaction to a particular comment may have already escalated the situation.

Back to the point - if smaller, regional bookfairs appear to be easier to run more harmoniously, could that be transferred to London? Should there be 2, or 4, or one for every borough, in London? How would that pan out for the stalls & meetings organisers? Or do we just need to come up with something completely different?

satawal
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Nov 17 2017 08:15

My thoughts and a small suggestion about this thread…

It may be helpful on this thread if after we give our opinion on what we think should happen, we then overtly state if we are able to commit to put in time to get our desired idea done. This would be useful re judging what might be viable.

For example, me personally…
What I would like to see: I would love a two day ‘big tent’ anarchism event to happen in centralish London next year, which includes a bookfair but with a primary focus on talks, meetings (inc. spaces to plan new projects together, practical skills workshops [i.e. solfed organising at work; blockade techniques; legal briefings; prisoner support), films, and with good outdoor space to socialise. I would suggest in Conway Hall again (https://conwayhall.org.uk/), with a bookfair on the Saturday, and most meetings happening on the Sunday. This arrangement may mean that Conway Hall is big enough (i.e. all the main rooms could be used for stalls on Saturday, the main hall would then also be free for plenary style large meetings/films on Sunday).

How I can participate in getting it done: Unfortunately, I will not put time into organising this (i.e. I will not join an organising collective, fundraise for the event, carry out admin work, or participate in any mediating/coordinating work on the day). I would book and do a stall, participate in the event when/if it happens, publicise it in my local town, and if inspired by the event I may also try and book one or two speakers/workshops.

MH
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Nov 21 2017 00:51

Bit light on the comments, suggestions & organising for 2018 so far then!?
And one person who'll book a stall, maybe a meeting, if other people do all the hard work of organising the event for them (but at least they're honest).
Great. Kind of sounds familiar doesn't it.

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Nov 21 2017 22:59
What should replace the London bookfair?

Anarchist Bake-off, complete with molotov-throwing Mary Berry.