UK’s first black bookshop weighs move to new site after £50k raised to save it

The UK’s first specialist black bookshop is weighing up a move to new premises after a crowdfunding campaign to save it from closure raised £50,000 in just a few days.

New Beacon Books was founded in 1966 and has been based in Stroud Green Road, 北 伦敦, for all but one year of its existence.

It announced in December that it would be forced to close its physical store in Finsbury Park due to competition from online retailers and the effects of the Covid pandemic, prompting dismay at the potential loss of a “crucial cultural space”.

Campaigners launched a crowdfunder in a bid to raise the cash to keep the shop open. Its £35,000 target was smashed within 48 小时. By Friday, more than £50,000 had been raised in support of the shop.

New Beacon Books’ director, Michael La Rose, said this week that the shop may have to find new premises so that it can scale up its publishing arm to avoid going online only.

“In order to meet its financial commitments, New Beacon Books must continue to do much more than just sell books,” he said in a statement. “The publishing arm … has been scaled down considerably, but there are increasing calls for New Beacon Publications to commission and publish work by young creatives and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas.

“For New Beacon Books to do this, it must be able to make full use of its existing space and, 如果有必要, relocate to premises that will allow for the expansion of its publishing and public affairs programmes as well as for bookselling.”

He added that an alternative premises may be needed “to accommodate publishing, bookselling, writers in residence [和] public programmes.”

Francesca Gilbert, a campaigner who helped to organise the campaign, 说: “The New Beacon bookshop exists as far more than just a bookshop. It is an invaluable institution of black history that is needed now more than ever.

“It is a crucial cultural space rich with the affirmation, validation and celebration of black literature, culture and art that must be preserved.”

她补充说: “As a young mixed-race Caribbean woman of colour, I never feel more affirmed and held than I do when I spend an afternoon at the New Beacon bookshop surrounded by the work of writers who uplift black voices and stories. It is a second home, a heartbeat and a legacy that we must protect now and in the years to come.”