It’s not the end of the story as New Beacon Books is saved by social media
Hopes of reviving community hub as ‘amazing’ web campaign smashes its £10k target
31 March, 2017 — By Koos Couvée
Renaldo La Rose with Lelieth James-Dunkley, who works at the Finsbury Park bookshop
NEW Beacon Books, the iconic black bookshop in Finsbury Park threatened with closure, has been saved following a social media campaign which has raised more than £11,000.
In December, co-founder Sarah White announced that the Stroud Green Road shop would cease its retail operation after years of dwindling sales. She insisted that it merely represented a new era in the history of New Beacon, which owns the building and would not have to move, though the news somewhat overshadowed celebrations marking its 50th anniversary that month.
But now, thanks to a social media effort led by founder John La Rose’s grandson Renaldo and his wife Vanessa, the shop is set for a facelift and a bright future after hundreds donated online when news of its impending closure spread.
Speaking to the Tribune this week, Renaldo, 37, said: “It’s been amazing to see the response. We really didn’t expect that. It seems like the shop is needed more than ever.
“We decided to set up a Facebook page just to get it on social media, because the initial plan was to sell off the stock. But then the news that the shop was going to close just spread like wildfire.
“People were asking if the shop was still open, so I said: ‘OK, let’s try to make a push for it. If there’s a demand we’ll try to keep the shop open’.”
Renaldo, a train driver from Wembley, added: “We were on holiday in Trinidad and my mum called and said how busy it started getting at weekends, with people buying books and even offering their services, offering to paint and plaster and saying: ‘This place can’t close.’
John La Rose
“That was the seal of approval. There’s a demand and people want us to be here.”
The couple set up an online fundraising page and donations started flowing in. The fundraising drive closes today (Friday). It has smashed the £10,000 target, raising £11,468 from more than 400 donors.
New Beacon was founded in 1966 by the late poet, essayist, political activist and publisher Mr La Rose and his partner Ms White. For decades it was a publishing arm specialising in black British, Caribbean, African, African-American and Asian literature.
With roots in the anti-colonial movement, it helped power the civil rights struggle in Britain, thanks to its pioneering publishing arm and historic initiatives such as the Caribbean Artists Movement.
In 1991, George Padmore Institute, an Afro-Caribbean archive chronicling the political, literary and cultural history of black Britain, was founded above the shop.
It was also a community hub, something Renaldo wants to revive. “This place has always been a hub for the community,” he said. “A lot of organisations started from here and we’d like to take it back to where it was. But we need to modernise the place. The computers are old, and there’s no website to buy books. We need to diversify the stock a bit more, sell arts and crafts and DVDs, to get more trade.”
The shop is open from Wednesday to Saturday. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/newbeaconbooks or call 020 7272 4889.