Posted on Mon 20th February 2012 by admin2

After the positive response we received for our interactive map, Daisy Wyatt got in touch with two of Britain’s newest radical booksellers to find out if there is a resurgence in left-wing independents.

Hydra Books, Bristol opened in November 2011 and is the UK’s newest radical bookseller. It evolved from the Bristol Radical History group and is Bristol’s only independent shop.

Manager David Cullum said: “Bristol is a huge city to only have a Waterstone’s and WHSmith’s. We saw there was a gap in the market, there is a thriving alternative scene in Bristol. There hasn’t been a radical bookseller here for most of the 21st century.”

The bookshop has become a place for the exchange of ideas. Alternative societies now regularly hold their meetings on the premises.

Cullum believes there may be a resurgence of radical booksellers. “I think there is an enormous swell of interest in radical ideas and a general dissatisfaction with the answers and solutions out there,” he said.

The People’s Bookshop, Durham opened in June 2011. It is the only independent bookshop in Durham and one of the few in the whole of the North East.

The bookshop sells second hand books and specialises in trade union history, a subject that has deep roots in the North East.

Manager and founder Ben Sellers said: “I stock a broadly left-wing collection but I think it is important not to be dogmatic about the selection, not everyone is going to share my political views. I stock the Blair autobiography, I think there is a potential for radical bookshops to tap into a broader market.”

Customers like to come into the shop and curl up on Sellers’s cosy chair to read and chat. He thinks people have missed this more personal customer experience.

The former TUC employee puts a renewed interest in radical booksellers partly down to the current political situation. “I don’t think some of the bestsellers like Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class would have sold so well two or three years ago.”

He said it was a “shame” that there is no radical bookseller in Manchester which has a strong history of trade unionism.

Being made redundant by the TUC forced Sellers to set up the bookshop, something which he says he has absolutely no regrets about doing now. The Alliance of Radical Booksellers has helped him hugely.

“If I hadn’t been able to talk to Bookmarks and Housmans I might not have got the confidence to do it,” he said.

We say: Come on Mancunians! Your city needs you.

Find where your nearest radical bookseller is here.


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