by Jim Taylor & Mairi Oliver
Back in the summer of 1984, the inaugural International Feminist Book Fair was held in Covent Garden, London. Supported by a growing feminist reading audience, the fair was followed by a ten day-long celebration of feminist ideas and women’s writing held in bookshops and community centres across the UK, dubbed “Feminist Book Week”. Over the next few years, this became an annual fixture for the book trade, stretching to a full two weeks every summer, and thus was the Feminist Book Fortnight born.
This summer, from 16th-30th June, Feminist Book Fortnight (FBF) is being resurrected by a group of radical and independent bookshops across the UK, headed up by Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham. There will be two weeks of events and book displays up and down the country, celebrating both the centenary of some British women getting the vote, and the recent boom in feminist publishing. As the official FBF website states:
“There has been an explosion of new feminist publishing in the last two to three years. Books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Laura Bates, Mary Beard, Laurie Penny, Rebecca Solnit, 404Ink and many others have become bestsellers. Younger feminists are also discovering feminist classics by writers and activists such as Audre Lorde, whose writing was recently republished in the UK by Silver Press.”
Lighthouse Bookshop is proud to be a part of FBF. As a feminist bookshop, we recognise that feminism is hugely important in the fight for progress and equality, both at home and abroad, and yet still massively misunderstood and underused as a way of challenging structures of power. We’re delighted to have an opportunity to shout about our vision of a truly intersectional feminism concerned with social and economic justice, and we hope that the coordinated events will draw publishers’ attention so we can bring some high-profile authors in on the conversation and reach new readers.
It’s also true that feminism faces some major challenges at the moment. As a bookshop we champion a pro-active, inclusive feminism, and the FBF offers us an opportunity to showcase writers and voices which chime with our mission, as well as the chance to make new converts and challenge outdated or exclusive forms of feminism. Feminism should be about striking at the heart of inequality and injustice so naturally we’re concerned about the increasing commercialisation of ‘feminism’, particularly within the publishing industry.
That Penguin, for example, can in the same year publish its feminist women series and bring out books by Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker shows real hypocrisy. It can’t sit well that the industry is making bank with all the suffragette inspired books coming out, whilst also having endemic problem with pay inequality based on gender and class. To us, this is evidence that for many, feminism, equality and diversity are just buzzwords and tick-boxes, rather than vibrant, exciting and necessary ways of working and publishing.
The Lighthouse’ FBF will follow the example of the indie publishers who are leading the way in both spirit and action. Like & Other Stories, 404Ink, Cassava Republic, Oneworld, Tilted Axis, Silver Press and Bloomsbury, we must bring brilliant stories and voices to readers, voices which bridge gender, class, sexuality and race. The Lighthouse will be running a series of events which uses this variety of thought and experience to help us better understand, engage with the world around us with a feminist perspective. We’ll have Feminist story/craft sessions for little ones, talks on economics with the likes of Ann Pettifor and much more.
Specifics will be announced over the next six weeks, but for now it suffices to say that, in an age when the #MeToo movement is necessary, when we have to fight tooth and nail to repeal the 8th amendment, and when the gender pay gap is manifested everywhere we look, feminist voices and ideas are more important than ever, and we hope you’ll join us for a fortnight of debate and discussion which puts them centre-stage. Watch this space!
There is no centralised organisation behind Feminist Book Fortnight 2018, but information can be found here:
In the meantime, do join us in our solidarity fundraiser for the #Repealthe8th campaign, Thursday 19th April, 8pm: details HERE.