Write Out Loud regulars in collection supporting fire-hit bookshop
On 1 February this year, Freedom Bookshop, London’s anarchist press and bookshop, was seriously damaged in a suspected firebomb attack. Freedom Press was founded in 1886 by a group including Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin, and describes itself as the “largest anarchist publishing house” in the country. Many books were burned or charred in the attack, and due to a lack of funds, the shop had been unable to renew its insurance so could not make a claim to restore the shop and its contents. The damage can be viewed here.
“Donate a Poem for Freedom” was one of many fund-raising campaigns set up after the attack to help raise money to clean up and repair the shop, and replace stock. Over 700 submissions were received by the editor, Alex Clarke, also an author, playwright and activist who took on the enormous task of reading through them all, and narrowed the list down to 45 poems for the anthology.
I asked Alex how she felt about the anthology. She said: “This feels like a triumph for brains over brawn. There's been this big movement among artists in response to the firebombing, from the release of a fundraising album, to spoken word and music events across the UK and of course our poetry book - all without mainstream media too. We are more connected and solid since the fire - what a lovely paradox. I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the collection, which ranges from the political to the obscure. The mix of poets, from the established to the newbie, makes the whole anthology fresh and exciting - it's been a pure pleasure working with these words and the people who offered them freely. Art really is activism in action.”
The collection includes several Write Out Loud regulars, including Ushiku Indigo Angel Crisafulli, Cathy Bryant, and Laura Taylor. The book is available to buy here. In buying a copy, not only will you be reading some amazing poetry, but you will also be contributing to the right to free speech and a free press, and the restoration of a small but hugely important bookshop. You can burn books, but you cannot burn ideas.