Thanks to an extremely busy spring at Freedom, which has included the launch of our new book, the latest Freedom Journal and being core organisers of an entire festival, the summer update is a bit behind schedule but worry not! Below is all the Alley anarcho-news that’s fit to print.
In the Bookshop
Thanks to the efforts of our wonderful team of volunteers and our two co-ordinators the shop continues to slowly expand and improve its offerings. Because we are often testing new fare and buying in stock from all over the physical shop generally has a much larger and more diverse selection than shows up on our web store, so a visit to see what’s what is always worthwhile.
This is particularly true today as there’s new T-shirts in, Zapatista coffee is back on the menu, and almost every subject we specialise in has been expanded. Particularly gratifying has been the shop’s best sellers list, which is topped by our recent book Invisible: Diary of a Rough Sleeper. Andrew Fraser’s writing on the struggles he has faced on the street, interspersed with analysis and contemporary reportage on homeless self-organising, is one of our best books of recent times and it’s an important contribution to the conversation around Britain’s escalating housing crisis. Also featuring on the list is our other title from the turn of the year A Beautiful Idea, Kropotkin classic Anarchism & The State, and perennial favourite Class Struggle and Mental Health.
The shop is always needing folk to keep those doors open, especially in the summer when we often have people away on their jolly hollies, so if you’re interested in helping person our (blessedly cool) space please get in touch on the blower, via shop [at] freedompress.org.uk or via walk-in and leave your contact details.
Festivals and talks
The remarkable thing about this year’s Anarchist Festival was how far it got with next to no resources being thrown at it — despite a zeroish promotional budget almost every meeting was packed out through the weekend. It’s a very encouraging sign that people are looking for different solutions as capitalist representative democracy continues to prove itself utterly unable to deal with the economic, environmental and social crises which are wracking humanity.
Between May 31st and June 2nd multiple sites across the country ran events ranging from theory introductions and film screenings to booklaunches and the event which Freedom News helped put together, a day-long gathering to rebuild anarchist media.
Rather than, as has previously been the case for major anarchist events, hiring out a big space and pulling everyone towards it, our own venues were put to use and especially in London, provided just enough room for hundreds of interested people to show up and participate.
This is the second year for the festival, which took place a couple of weeks prior to the larger (impressively so) Antiuniversity, and was an exhausting, if rewarding, few days. At Freedom itself we had the formal launch of new Corporate Watch title Worlds End, talks on anarchism, police surveillance, and radical bird watching as well as the launch of Our Masters Are Helpless, Freedom’s new title on the essays of influential British anarchist George Barrett.
We are always happy to host events in the Freedom building, which remains one of only a very few physical anarchist-run spaces in the heart of London, and our upstairs space Decentre (seated capacity approx 15-20) is already used for a variety of talks and meetings through the week. For slightly larger events, particularly book talks, we can open the bookshop after hours and booking can be done via the bookshop (25ish).
Beyond our own fair shores, while we weren’t able to be at this year’s excellent Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Bookfair (which apparently went extremely well, please do consider bunging them a few quid so they can do it again next year) we’re hoping to get down to at least one of the two due in September. Dorset Radical Bookfair is run by some wonderful and very committed folks who we had the pleasure of meeting last month when they travelled up London way for the festival, while Bradford’s venerable 1 in 12 Club will be hosting theirs on the same day, September 7th.
Freedom’s Big Rebuild
Freedom Press celebrated 50 years in its building at 84b Angel Alley in Whitechapel last year with the launch of A Beautiful Idea covering our history since we were founded by Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin in 1886, alongside an announcement that long-awaited initial repairs to our building had finally been completed.
It was a surprising return to form given that just five years prior the Press was in bad shape. Out of cash, the collective had been forced to close our newspaper as a regular monthly production, shut down publication of new books and cut all other outgoings to the bone.
Cashflow would remain an issue in the next couple of years and in 2016, we were hit with a seeming mountain to climb when a building survey undertaken by the Friends of Freedom suggested we needed to raise £40,000 for a repairs bill. Today we are happy to say that the most important parts of those works are now complete — namely making the place watertight — and we’re on to the next stage of refitting and fixing up the inside of the building.
As visitors will know, there has been a major overhaul of the shop downstairs over the last year or so, transforming it into a bright and much more welcoming space with a wider variety of stock and not infrequently, hosting informal events such as film nights, open group meets and talks.
Thanks to some very comradely work by our builders, we’ve also been able to get many small fixes done on the rest of the building, from doors and plastering to electrics and plumbing, but there will be some more major works down the line particularly on the windows. Fundraising for our old pile is thus still ongoing, and you can donate here or send a cheque (payable to “Freedom Press”) by mail to 84b Whitechapel High st, London E1 QX.
The view from Freedom News
Our small but hardworking media team is as ever overworked on the news-gathering front, but on the whole we’ve been happy with our continued progress revitalising Freedom as a hub for anarchist news and views. We’ve picked up four excellent new columns over the last few months:
- Squatters Digest: A monthly roundup of the most important news in political squatting which is taking place across Britain and Europe
- The Social Centre Bulletin: Picking up on the comings and goings of radical social centres nationwide
- Activism and the Law: Our columnist from the (currently on ice) Green and Black Cross goes through some of the things you should know as a campaigner.
- Pioneers of British Anarchism: Highlighting figures from British history who have had a big impact on the movement.
And online our reach has been steadily growing with a monthly average of around 21,000 unique users. A number of people have been writing in with excellent texts, and for the first time in a long while we are in talks with other groups about future collaborative work, so the future seems exciting.
We have covered activist happenings in Britain and worldwide, broken news stories before anyone else, published some good analyses, and have had some articles going (mildly) viral. We also managed to distribute the entire print runs of the last couple of issues of this journal: partly from our own efforts and partly with help from the homeless folk of Whitechapel (following on from Dog Section Press’s Dope initiative). We are reasonably hopeful that we’ll clear 2,500-odd copies of the latest issue, which is a factor of ten higher than we managed for individual issues when it closed as a paid-for monthly, so things are looking good!
Seeing how both the Freedom News website and Freedom Journal are growing, we have some ambitious plans for the near future.
Firstly, we will be seeking to expand the news collective. Currently, the website is run by two — occasionally three — volunteers. We manage pretty well we daresay, but if we are to keep growing we will need more people on board. We need more people willing to commit to the running of the website on a long-term, and daily, basis. We need more reporters delivering news from actions and such. We need more reviews, more culture, and sports news: you name it.
Secondly, we will be seeking to get some funds. Currently we are exploring the idea to set up some sort of monthly contribution option going. Sadly, we still don’t live in a post-revolutionary anarchist utopia and the prospects of this happening soon are small. So if we are to grow, we will need some cash; not too much, but we could still do with some. Some of this will be spent on the anticipated rise in website hosting costs due to our increased readership. We are also thinking about starting to commission texts and offering a monetary donation of some sort in exchange: going either to the author, or to the group of their choice.
We think that this could make it easier for some folk to write a text for us, and especially people from demographics who otherwise may not be able to afford taking an afternoon off work to do so.
This plan is only in its budding stages, and one of the issues to consider is how to avoid creating a hierarchical structure occurring when money is at stake. Hopefully we will confirm our system for this soon. People who would like to contribute to either the website or the journal, or wants to get involved in the more permanent upkeep of both, are more than welcome to drop us an email via editor [at] freedompress.org.uk. We would also really like to hear from you, whether you have an idea for a story, a suggestion for what we should cover, tell us off for something, or generally want to get involved.
What’s up at publishing
Freedom’s publishing efforts have gone from strength to strength since we tentatively restarted them on a micro scale in 2015, and we’ve been averaging three new books a year since 2017.
This year, alongside Our Masters Are Helpless we will be bringing out a new work, The Trouble With National Action, in which Mark Hayes investigates the fascist group along with its subsequent banning by the State. And we are delighted to be able to confirm a translated piece, Anarchism is Movement by the veteran Spanish anarchist Tomás Ibáñez, discussing the evolution of modern libertarianism. Ibáñez is a longstanding militant who played a major role in the 1960s-70s CNT as it pushed at the boundaries of Franco’s repressive regime.
We also already have a number of texts potentially in mind for next year, but all in good time…