Sunday, 28 October 2012

Salad (cream) days

For Five Leaves, this year's London Anarchist Bookfair was a great success. Aside from meeting many old friends, and sketching out a possible publishing project with Martyn Everett, this was was economically our best outing there yet. It helped having two new and relevant books, Colin Ward's Talking Green and this year's new journal, Utopia, hot off the presses. Thanks to Housmans Bookshop for helping us get the books there. The Bookfair seemed busier than ever and busier for longer and the average age seemed lower. I rather felt that the generation brought up on Colin Ward, Nicolas Walter and Albert Meltzer had passed. The stall was too busy to leave for long and, flying solo, I was unable to attend any meetings this year. Congratulations to the organisers for another great Bookfair.
But there was an unpleasant incident. Five Leaves stall was next to that of Northern Voices. Early in the day a small group from Manchester asked the one person at NV to leave. It was not clear to me at that moment why. It turned out that the magazine had some time ago written a rather unfavourable and, indeed, rather unpleasant obituary of the Manchester anarchist Bob Miller. Some time later in the morning a large group of people, from Manchester and elsewhere, returned to the stall, and when the stall holder refused to leave, wrecked it, stealing most of the material on display and covering the stall-holder and the stall (and one unrelated stall-holder behind NV) with salad cream. Though the stall-holder was uninjured, save for a bruised face when he fell and some irritation from the cream getting into his eyes, he was pretty shocked, as was anyone seeing the incident. I have no doubt that his original article was unwise and should not have been published - the best critique of it appears on NV's own rather good blog, October 4th at - but a dozen or so people attacking one person and his stall (with little heed for collateral damage) was bullying.
I've mentioned in a previous posting (about David Hoffman vs. Freedom magazine) that when negotiations between injured parties break down that people must find a way of resolving their difficulties without going to law or, in this case, force of numbers and salad cream - ideally by arbitration. Fortunately this incident took place at a quiet time, in a quiet corner of the Bookfair. The Bookfair is one of the outstanding successes of the wider racial and alternative publishing movement. I would not discourage anyone from attending. The three or four thousand people there over the day happily debate, argue, buy books and socialise with a wide range of opinions on offer. I hope it stays that way.

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