Freedom’s been up to a fair bit this year, so ahead of the London Anarchist Bookfair on October 29th this is an update on how the Press is doing, what we’re publishing, and how on Earth we’re going to raise £40,000-odd for repairs.
For readers who don’t know much about Freedom, the collective, at that time and up until the turn of the millennium overseen by Vernon Richards, bought our current premises in 1962 following a major fundraising campaign — whatever else you might say about old Vero, he had a knack for getting comrades to pay in. It was subsequently done up pretty nicely, although the Alley itself was a bit of a mess. This photo from The Streets of East London, by W J Fishman sort of shows it in 1978.
However by the time I first arrived in 2003, the building was a bit of a wreck having been gently deteriorating for what looked like a good decade or more. Partly-peeled paint on the walls, rotting carpets on the stairs, torn lino, a wrecked ground floor full of boxes — and this was just the decorating side. Over the following 15 years various things have been fixed, such as electrics, the broken windows, repainting various walls, fire safety improvements, replacing doors and fixing the fire damage downstairs, but structural works weren’t on the agenda. So when a survey was carried out at the end of last year, it turned out there was quite a lot to get done.
The building’s maintenance and payments schedule is currently run by the Building User Group, which we set up in 2015 as the Collective preferred to run things by consensus after various groups had moved in to underused rooms, and earlier this year we decided to address the survey results by setting up a fundraising group, drawing up a schedule of works and looking at how to sustainably raise cash over the next few years.
Our first and most pressing task is to raise an initial £13,000 for works on the roof and the exterior walls – if we don’t get those done in good order then the whole process becomes a bit of a nightmare. We’ve picked up a little over £3,000 so far from donations, and are applying for funding grants as well as appealing to individuals to put in a few quid — you can find out more at the group’s new blog: https://freedomsbigrebuild.wordpress.com, which has things like details for donating, what’s being spent where and further information on what’s happened over the last few years at the Press.
What else has been happening?
Where 2014 would best be characterised as “setting our house in order,” seeing the paper fold, new groups brought in to help with rates and (unfortunately) a shift over to more volunter work in our publishing ventures, 2015 and 2016 have been, for the most part, a tale of slow improvement.
The shop is back to full working order and is sustainably making enough money to cover its share, the publishing group is putting out new books on short runs — making them more sustainable and taking up less room — and for this year’s Bookfair we’re putting out a couple of projects we’re quite pleased with, a book called Why Work? and a magazine which we’ll be handing out for free to attendees.
If you want to find out more, and get your hands on the new book and magazine, then come visit our stall on the 29th! At the bookshop itself, Donald Rooum will talk about his new book, a compilation of Wildcat Comics greatest hits on October 18th — 6pm start.
~ Rob Ray