Independent Bookshop Week : Remember the MillionsMissing #ME

 

 

 

What if you couldn’t visit your local bookshop? What if it took you a day’s bed rest to recover from making a pot of a tea? What if you had to choose between washing your hair and reading a chapter?  When you are severely disabled even the tiniest task can be a herculean feat.

I’d like to use Independent Bookshop Week as an opportunity for a shout out to all those readers who cannot physically visit our bookshop, or any bookshop, because their disease has robbed them of the opportunity. In particular, this is a shout out to all those living with M.E.

M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – also sometimes referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME/CFS) is a disease which affects three times as many people as HIV and twice as many as MS- 75% of sufferers are women. The symptoms range from severe exhaustion after minor physical effort to a complete inability to move or speak necessitating feeding by tube.

The causes are not fully understood and there is currently no cure. Most patients do not recover.

Last  week two middle-aged women spent six days walking the length Hadrian’s wall. A young couple trekked up Mount Ngun Ngun in Australia. An actress danced in the jungle in Kuala Lumpur. In Edinburgh my fingers stumble over the keyboard – Together we, and many others, moved a little, or a lot, all over the world, to raise funds and awareness for M.E

Progress in understanding the causes of M.E are accelerating around the world. Yet here in UK, since an influential biospychosocial study (Pace trials) advocating graded exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy was published, most funds have been diverted from Biomedical research and patients are denied adequate support and investigations. The press, for some obscure reason, reports almost exclusively from the angle of ME being an illness that is psychological and ignores International conferences in London/Norway/USA presenting undeniable results pointing to biological factors. 250 000 people are estimated to have M.E in UK, most receiving substandard care and support. The Pace trials have been debunked and used as an example of the worst kind of research, 100 international scientists wrote a letter to the Lancet requesting the papers be retracted.

Given the large number of sufferers and the severity of the effects of ME it’s surprising that more is not being done. Especially since there is real hope of a cure. As far as I can tell there are several reasons for this –  rear guard action by the psychiatric lobby involved in ME to protect their damaged reputations; the fact that ME does not fit easily into any one clinical department; and perhaps most importantly, because most of the sufferers are women who because of their condition have to sit invisibly at home imprisoned in their non-functioning bodies  – they do not die, but neither do they have the energy to fight.

My sister Manon is 27 years old and M.E. has robbed her of her life. The woman who worked for a major Animal Rights organisation in Hong Kong can no longer complete an email longer than a couple of sentences. The woman who climbed Machu Picchu is housebound, and in a wheelchair. She is in constant pain, a shadow of her old self on most days. When she can get through the brain fog, books are her escape. Novels, children’s stories, picture books, windows into other worlds.

Ali Smith, Laura Hillenbrand, and Florence Nightingale had ME/CFS.  Flaubert and Tennyson and Dostoevsky were all epileptic. Helen Keller was deaf and blind, and Stephen Hawking has ALS. Words in all their forms can provide the most powerful salves to suffering.

All that to say, when you’re on your next bookshop crawl spare a thought for those who can’t be with us, spare a pound for some long overdue research, spare a moment to learn a little more, to pierce a hole in society’s collective ignorance.

Perhaps you could dedicate your #IBW2017 Bookshop Crawl to the #MillionsMissing.

If you would like to learn more about M.E. I would strongly recommend the following websites.

http://www.investinme.org
https://www.omf.ngo/
http://www.virology.ws/2017/06/24/trial-by-error-continued-is-pace-a-case-of-research-misconduct/

And if you’d like to read the world that is life with M.E. the Edinburgh-based novelist Nasim Marie Jafry authored the astonishingly good State of Me. We always have copies and our profits from those booksales go toward ME research.

 

‘What did you do today?’
‘I made cheese scones and put a dead bee in the bin’
Nasim Marie Jafry The State of Me

 

 

Edinburgh’s Book Fringe 2017

Started in 2009 by Word Power, Edinburgh’s Book Fringe hosts an array of writers to perform, read from and discuss their work, as well as sign books. This year’s Book Fringe will be delivered by three independent bookshops – the Lighthouse, Golden Hare and Edinburgh Bookshop.

This is a unique collaboration that celebrates Edinburgh’s vibrant literary scene and the bookshops that serve the readers all across the city, all year round. Expect free, friendly, intimate events with a fantastic selection of writers, poets and novelists. Previous guests have included Mark Thomas, James Robertson, Amy Liptrot, Helen Fitzgerald, Janice Galloway, Rajah Shehadeh and Marion McCreedy.

Lighthouse events are free and do not need to be booked, just rock up to the bookshop for half an hour at 13.00 throughout August. The Golden Hare’s events will take place in the evenings and the Edinburgh Bookshop’s signings will be a little ad-hoc.

This year’s full program is still to be announced, but here’s a snapshot from the line-up: Rosie Wilby, Tom Devine, Lesley GlaisterHenrietta Rose-Innes,  Brian Elliott,  Don Paterson and Dan Richards.

 

Full List of Dates & Bios to come!

Wednesday 3rd August, 1pm, Lighthouse
Rosie Wilby
, award-winning writer, comedian and broadcaster, presents her latest work Is Monogamy Dead? It is a hilarious, thought-provoking mix of memoir, heartache and science that puts 21st century relationships under the microscope. 

“Hilarious… Jo Brand meets Eddie Izzard” – DIVA magazine

Tuesday 8th August, 1pm, Lighthouse
Geoff Allan
makes an appearance to talk about his work, The Scottish Bothy Bible. This is the first ever comprehensive guide to Scotland’s bothies. Allan takes on hikes and walks across burns and bogs to find Viking Longhouses, island hideaways and highland homesteads.

Thursday 10th August, 1pm, Lighthouse
Brian Elliott
joins the lineup for this year’s Edinburgh Book Fringe to talk about his latest book, Natural Catastrophe: Climate Change and Neoliberal Governance. This work persuasively argues that climate change is, in fact, a symptom of neoliberal governance and that environmental politics in the west needs to renew the Marxist challenge to the global market’s benign production of social utility and construct a new non-apocalyptic politics of nature.

Tuesday 22nd August, 1pm Lighthouse
Dan Richards
, artist, writer and climber, comes to the Lighthouse to talk about his current project and his last book, Climbing Days. It is a memoir to his great, great-aunt, Dorothy Pilley, a trail-blazing climber of the early twentieth century. Blending his own personal accounts of climbing with Pilley’s, this work is a beautiful portrait of a woman who, until now, had been lost to history.

“A delightful portrait of an extraordinary woman. Dan Richards’ prose is a joy to read, and despite my lifelong aversion to heights, swept me happily along in the pioneering footsteps of the fascinating Dorothy Pilley.” – Nigel Slater

Wednesday 23rd August, 1pm Lighthouse
Henrietta Rose-Innes
, award winning writer, whose previous works include; Nineveh, The Rock Alphabet, and Shark’s Egg. Rose-Innes will be presenting her latest work, Green Lion, a novel that captures our identity as animals within nature and tells the story of a park-keeper’s relationship with a lion in captivity.

“I love Henrietta Rose-Innes’ work. With plotlines that are wittily subversive and language that is whippet-lean, [she] is long overdue for discovery by a wider readership.” – Patrick Gale

 

 

Don Paterson is one of Scotland’s foremost poets, and poetry editor at Picador. His critically acclaimed work has won him the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry and The Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, among others. 

“Dynamic, interrogative and unsettling; crafted yet open-ended; fiercely smart, savage and stirring- from the get-go Paterson’s poetry has been essential reading.” – The Guardian

 

 

 

 

Encouraging debate vs promoting hate speech : Cancelling Gilad Atzmon

As some of you will be aware, the bookshop was recently asked to be a venue for Gilad Atzmon.

Naively I agreed, not knowing much about him and not having much time to decide. Then I cancelled. Then I backtracked and reinstated the event, but I have decided, finally, to formally cancel this event. This decision was surprisingly hard to make, and I would like to explain how we came to it, and why it was important to do so.

First off, who is Gilad Atzmon?

Gilad is a world-renown, Israeli born saxophonist. He is also a would-be philosopher and political writer who has been published by the radical press Zero and by Skyscraper Publications. His writings have been endorsed by Professor John J. Mearsheimer and  Professor Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine, two highly credible public intellectuals. Credible enough to make me agree to an event, despite reservations about some of Gilad’s controversial opinions – we are not in the business of censorship, quite the opposite.

Gilad Atzmon has however chosen to share a stage with holocaust deniers, and has failed to distance himself from far right individuals and groups who have used his own words to justify their antisemitism. His views have been roundly denounced by many, here are just two quotes on the subject:

With this letter, we call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination. We do so as Palestinian organizers and activists, working across continents, campaigns, and ideological positions.”Electronic Intifada

Atzmon’s statements, besides distorting the history of Jews and constituting a brazen justification for centuries of anti-Jewish behavior and beliefs, also downgrade anti-Zionism to a mere front in the broader (anti-Jewish) struggle.” – Three Way Fight activist Matthew Lyons

I believe passionately in open discourse and in the need for ideas to be discussed and challenged in an open, constructive way and that is why it was difficult for me to cancel this event. I believe debate and conversation allows individuals to build robust personal philosophies and thus equip themselves to actively engage with and repel harmful ideologies. Unless they are brought into the open, poisonous ideas fester in dark echo chambers and emerge more confident.

I am not sufficiently qualified – I have not read all that Gilad has written – to say that he is indeed antisemitic, nor given my limited reading, that he is a hate speaker.

I made the misguided decision that the bookshop could remain a venue for this event because here I thought we would be able to challenge Gilad’s views and hold him accountable for his statements and actions. The idea of no-platforming seemed counter productive at the time and I feared (still fear) that cancelling this event will further add to Gilad’s appeal as an ‘outsider’, uncomprising and unbeaten by ‘political correctness’.

It was only brought to my attention today that the event would coincide with the beginning of Shavuot and as a result many Jewish individuals who might have wanted to attend to challenge Gilad, would not be able to do so. To exclude members of the Jewish community from a controversial discussion on Jewish identity and politics instinctively felt wrong. It undermined my whole intention of having an open debate.

This bookshop of ours is a community bookshop, a space where I have come for a decade to feel safe, to feel included, even whilst I was being challenged, whilst being exposed to new ideas.

I have come to the conclusion that to host this debate with Gilad would be counter-productive, and is likely to lend credibility to a platform I in no way wish to promote or associate with either myself or the bookshop. It was never my intention to encourage or passively endorse antisemitism and I hope that all who read this will accept my sincerest apologies if my misguided attempt to publically challenge Gilad made you feel threatened, or made you feel unwelcome.

Gilad has indicated that he will be publically sharing my cancellation email, and so for the sake of transparency I will do so here too, despite the fact that it was written hurriedly and with no intent of publication.

If you would like to discuss this rather convoluted and unfortunate series of events please do email mairi@lighthousebookshop.com.

If you would like to engage with anti-fascist protest in Edinburgh, I would encourage you all to seek out Edinburgh AntiFa.

Mairi

 

 

 

(re)Launch Party : Tuesday 9th May

The official opening of the Lighthouse Radical Bookshop kicks off at 7.30pm on Tuesday the 9th of May, 2017 – We’ve celebrated the end of an era, now it is time to ring in a new age!

Join us to toast new beginnings, have a nosey, ask questions and hear all about plans for the years ahead.  There will be wine, merriment and readings from bookshop favourites – ALL ARE WELCOME.

Our launch night readers are Kirsty Logan, Regi Claire and Daniel Gray, here’s a little more about them.

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Our History: Word Power Books

Word Power Books is steeped in history – a bookshop, publisher, and online store, as well as the host of innumerable events, not least the annual august Book Fringe and the autumn’s Radical Book Fair. Launched in 1994 as a little shop in Edinburgh’s southside by Elaine Henry, the last 23 years have earned Word Power a reputation as a stalwart of the left, staunchly, unapologetically political and socially engaged – a place of hope and engagement.

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Building a Bookshop

It is inevitable that if you’ve been open as long as we have, and all you really want to do is talk about books, some TLC and paint can become a little overdue. So the last few weeks have been spent painting and flooring, drilling, sawing and shelving! On April 24th we re-opened a refreshed version of our old self, a bookshop that is bright and airy, with comfy chairs for browsing stacks of books and a boiler always on the go for the next cuppa.

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