Reportback: Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair

at the People’s History Museum, Saturday December 7th 2019

The 9th Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair was dedicated to Donald Rooum (1928-2019), illustrator and long term anarcho. His image of anarchism's three personas (the punk, the bomber and the academic) was used on the bookfair's flier, and a very nice flier it was too. While it’s true that Rooum's work is often associated with the red and black Freedom, it's less well-known that Rooum himself identified as ‘a Stirnerite anarchist, provided "Stirnerite" means one who agrees with Stirner's general drift, not one who agrees with Stirner's every word.’ I’ll come back to that later.

After following my friend’s directions from the tram stop, I was surprised to find the venue this year was not the backroom of a pub or the basement of a ‘social centre’, but was a museum in the centre of town. Maybe this says something about anarchists' desire to move from the fringes; maybe it's about the public opinion of anarchists in 2019. Either way, the People’s History Museum couldn’t be further from the underground Euro squat aesthetic of last year’s venue. I'd heard rumours that it was going to be hosted at the university this year, so it sounds to me like the organisers were trying their best to move from the Partisan into a more accessible, more mainstream location, and were somehow able to come up with the large deposit needed to book a space like the PHM. As I met my friend in the museum's hall, they admitted they missed the dinge of previous venues, but I for one was glad to be able to see the books and faces in the sunlight, and to be able to breathe as I moved from stall to stall.

There were around thirty stalls in total, including Freedom up from London, Active Distro from Bristol, AK Press from Edinburgh, and PM Press from the North East. The other stallholders ranged from definitely anarchist (Elephant Editions), through questionable (Anarchist-Communist Group), to definitely not anarchist (New Internationalist). Also present were MARC and Footprint, two local printers who have long provided anarchists with affordable zine and booklet printing; Advisory Service for Squatters keeping it real in the back corner; Hunt Sabs with their latest Saboteur magazine plus fox teddies(!), and many more. Looking at the lineup, one can't help but wonder whether it is really a ‘book’ fair or is, in fact, an ‘organisation’ fair under a different name. One curious friend who came along for the morning noted that ‘lots of people here are determined to make more anarchists’ - I told them to be glad they’ve never been to the London ‘book’ fair, where the organisations wanting to sign you up outnumber the book publishers/distributors two to one. Next year I’d like to see fewer membership forms and more zines, magazines, booklets and books.

Alongside the stalls were a series of talks and workshops that I didn’t attend. The ‘Education Space’ included book launches by PM Press (‘Journey Through Utopia’) and Ruth Kinna (‘Government of No One’ on Pelican), and a Q&A from The Anarchist Party (sadly not a rave but an actual political party). I heard The Anarchist Party were given hell by the audience for ‘working with the enemy’, which seems kind of hypocritical considering how many of the organisations present directly engage with the state and capital as their modus operandi. Speaking of which, a talk by the IWW’s local branch was apparently planned but didn’t go ahead. The final talk of the day, and the busiest, was by D. Hunter about Lumpen Magazine. I regret missing this one - Hunter's work articulates the horror of the daily grind like no other I’ve read this year.

Bookfairs in the UK are mostly the same rotation of stallholders travelling from city to city with mostly the same stock and having mostly the same conversations. I’m always on the lookout for people who are doing something different. If, like the late great Donald Rooum, they are more into Stirner than they are into Bakunin and Bookchin, all the better. This year I found three: Elephant Editions, Gay Plants, and Forged Books. Elephant Editions you know. The other two I’ll let you discover yourself. Enjoy, you rebels, and let’s hope the organisers can tempt out Return Fire next year.

As the day came to an end, I sat in the PHM’s cafe and wondered why so few bookfairs have a space like this, where you can retreat from the fray and read your new books. Am I meant to wait until I’m home? I spent the last hour sat sulking over a coffee, a slice of toast and At Daggers Drawn. There was no official afterparty, but Radical Routes had an evening film showing nearby, someone called ‘MCR Punks 4 West Papua’ had a gig in town, and Partisan had a queer karaoke a bus ride away. Tempting as all three were, come closing time I said my goodbyes and, with a pile of books under my arm, disappeared into the frozen northern night.

Till next year.

Upcoming: Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair; Newcastle Anarchist Bookfair; Earth First Winter Moot in Lancaster

There are 31 Comments

> hypocritical considering how many of the organisations present directly engage with the state and capital as their modus operandi. Speaking of which, a talk by the IWW


assuming you didn't have any good conversations there or you would've said? those are the part of book fairs that i miss, the oddly revealing, flash-by, sometimes startlingly interesting conversations that start out with (for example), "do you have anything on climate change?"

That actually looks like a pretty good venue. It may not be dinge, but it's definitely not the impoverished flickering, nervous spectrum that the London bookfair had in Somers Town a few years back.

Despite the red (and yellowing) hue to some of the tablers, it's always a massive relief to see Elephant Editions at bookfairs. It warms the belly to know Gay Plants' are out there tickling the core. Also, to know a new distro like Forged Books is also highlighting within the UK a much neglected current in anarchist thought and ontology is something special.

On a purely material note, I like that local printers turned out; an abundance of greedy-ass, suss print shops in my neck of the woods is a much felt exclusion to my own distro endeavours.

Finally, To bait the hook, I look forward to seeing if London, or maybe even Cambridge, can also bring some much needed bite to the tables next year. The bookfairs in the South have a sacred vibe of trendy ball-ache that needs some subversion, or indeed demolition. I admit to harbouring a personal desire for it.

Like throwing rocks through the windows of trendy lattè cafès and slashing the tyres on mercedes. Admit it, deep down inside your tortured soul lurks a street brawling beserker who hates capitalist elites. :)

a bit random...but now that you mention it, tell me more about your dreams

Deliberately random and vague, don't answer this enquiry, COS YOU'RE A COP IN THE ANTI- CAPITALIST AND TERRORIST SQUAD WHO THINKS ANARCHISTS ARE CRAZY BOMB THROWING MORONS AND YOU'RE DIGGING FOR LEADS, especially when the dreaded words bezerker and slashing are used, cos that's what terrorists do!!

thnx 4 replying

why not both?


No u.

attend a gun show, a shooting range, and a book fair I guess. pew pew.

no u 2

no u infinity

are about fire. I heard this is an international phenomenon - recurring dreams about everything burning. I think the data was from those 'dream interpretation' sites, so not exactly a reliable source, but big if true.

> hates capitalist elites

my hate reaches far beyond an imaginary cadre of bankers, comrade

Yes, because your hate is manufactured in the fabric of culture and parent social institutions, you can hate basically anyone who's different to you, for any reason whasoever, but often (while not limited to) our well-known racist, classist or sexist stereotypes.

Now tell me something I didn't know.

Social institutions manufactured me to hate social institutions? My hate reaches far beyond 'anyone who's different to you'.

Shitty lefty analysis. Try harder.

It was three days before the election so most of what I heard was dominated by that sadly. I did manage to have a couple of chats about Desert, which seems to have finally made it (back) to the UK after Active did a new edition. Not the most interesting conversations I've ever had - why do people always have to start with 'the author doesn't even care so many people are going to die'? - but better than talking to David Graeber about David Graeber.

...and i was still disappointed.

jk, superficial as they were, i enjoyed having the conversations about Desert IRL instead of online, and i swapped a few email addresses of local anarchists and anarcho curious types, so we'll see where that takes me.

is because it does what i wish we would all do more of, a. pulling information from wide-ranging sources (which are themselves controversial yet rigorous), and b. being imaginative (ie brave, putting out an option or two for what we might expect).
so many anarchists and other people are either going over the past (again!) or presenting plans as if the world will abide by them.
glad you found people to talka bout it with.

this text does not get to the point of what to do and it’s just a recap of leftist metanarratives

> it does the above as well and is more current

it's not a bad text, but let's not get carried away...

being more recently published does not make it 'more current'. there is nothing about Desert that isn't current.

Just too bad Desert cannot be exported to other linguistic realms, not even French, as this stuff is all sourced in the Anglo world along with its broad mountain of references. I guess it is a product of its own despised culture.

I want to see Earth First make a return to the UK bookfair circuit. If the organisers of this bookfair are reading this, please make it happen!

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