Category: Blog

Feminist Book Fortnight – watch this space!

 

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to showcase writers and voices which chime with our mission, as well as the chance to make new converts and challenge outdated or exclusive forms of feminism.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:
Website: https://feministbookfortnight.wordpress.com/
Facebook: @feministbookfortnight
Twitter: @FeministBkFt18

In the meantime, do join us in our solidarity fundraiser for the #Repealthe8th campaign, Thursday 19th April, 8pm: details HERE.

In solidarity with the UCU strikers: Their fight is your fight

by Jim Taylor

If one were to follow only certain outlets of the mainstream media, one would be led to believe that the university staff currently striking over proposed reforms to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) are petulantly overreacting to a perfectly sensible restructuring of their pension scheme. The USS is unsustainable in its current form, they say, parroting the claims of Universities UK (UUK), the advocacy group for university employers who voted for the reforms several months ago. Current projections, these outlets cry, show that there’s not enough funding to sustain the scheme into the next generation of university staff, and depriving students of the classes for which they’ve paid exorbitant fees isn’t going to solve anything.

As is usually the nature of these things, there’s another side to the story.

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Fighting intolerance this LGBT history month

If the last two years in politics have taught us anything, it’s that intolerance not only endures in our society but does so as a powerful force which must be resisted at every turn. We can no longer assume that the moral development of states and nations will proceed in an untroubled fashion, and the evidence bears this out. One in five LGBT people in Britain experienced a hate crime or incident in 2017, and the same space of time also saw an unprecedented rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes in the USA, exacerbated (according to new research by GLAAD) by the policies of the Trump administration. In these troubling times, with the promise of tolerance still unfulfilled, we must be active in combating intolerance through both words and deeds. And the first step towards doing so, arguably, is raising awareness.

February is LGBT history month in the UK, and this year the theme is “Geography: Mapping the World”, which expresses solidarity with LGBT people and allies across the globe. While 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of Section 28, and the 40th anniversary of Harvey Milk’s assassination, it’s also exactly 40 years since Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag was first unveiled, and the centenary of the Representation of People Act in the UK gives us cause to celebrate the contributions of LGBT suffragettes like Ethel Smythe and Emmeline Pankhurst. Throughout February and March there’s a whole host of events taking place up and down the country, with many happening in Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland (full list available at http://www.lgbthistory.org.uk/events/). These events celebrate LGBT life and culture, but are also a powerful tool for raising awareness, and thus combating intolerance.

We’re proud to be an LGBT Bookshop and community space, so naturally February was an extra excuse to feature the work of LGBT writers and performers. Contributors to the upcoming Knight Errant Press anthology F, M or Other: Quarrels with the Gender Binary already came to read from their work and kick off the book’s crowdfunding campaign, and they are still trying to raise the money to make this much needed book a reality so do give HERE!

We also hosted the inaugural meeting of Other Fruit, our LGBT book club, where we discussed Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy, and next month we take on  Olumide Popoola’s When We Speak of Nothing – a stunning debut that captures what it means to be young, black and queer in London (March 12th).

Last night saw us host the launch of Rachel Plummer’s new poetry collection and tonight (!!!) Michael Amherst will be in the shop speaking about his book Go The Way Your Blood Beats: On Truth, Bisexuality and Desire (some tickets are still available via our events page). We’re carrying on queer festivities into the rest of 2018, with the launches of the Bi-ble: Exploring Bi-erasure in March, and Lola Keeley’s tremendous lesbian novel The Music and the Mirror in April.

This LGBT history month, we urge you to go and check out some of the great events happening in Edinburgh and throughout the country. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and many will do both, but all are a great source of inspiration to those of us who want to raise awareness, organise, and take aim at the widespread intolerance which still persists in 2018. It’s a fight in which we all must play a part.

Trump & the blurring of reality

Fire & Fury has landed in the bookshop and we have mixed feelings about stocking yet another book about the west’s most embarrassing, dangerous man. What more does it add/ offer/ bring to the table? Well, here are Masha Gessen’s thoughts, she puts it better than we ever could:

“The President of the United States is a deranged liar who surrounds himself with sycophants. He is also functionally illiterate and intellectually unsound. He is manifestly unfit for the job. Who knew? Everybody did.

So why has Fire And Fury, a book containing this information, padded with much tedious detail, become an overnight sensation, a runaway best-seller, and the topic of every other political column, podcast, and dinner conversation? It seems we are in bigger trouble with reality perception than we might have realized.

A year in, the Trump Presidency remains unimaginable. To think that a madman could be running the world’s most powerful country, to think that the Commander-in-Chief would use Twitter to mouth off about whose nuclear button is bigger or to call himself a “very stable genius,” verges on the impossible. If the word “unthinkable” had a literal meaning, this would be it. It also brings to mind the psychiatrist Judith Herman’s definition of a related word: “Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud,” she once wrote. “This is the meaning of the word unspeakable.”

The Trump era is unimaginable, unthinkable, unspeakable. Yet it is waging a daily assault on the public’s sense of sanity, decency, and cohesion. It makes us crazy.”

We are a bookshop packed with antidotes to Trump and the Trump phenomenon, not least amongst them a little truth, a little hope, many great women and some good laughs. And if you want a copy of Fire & Fury, you can buy that here too.

Time for a strong covfefe, and then revolution?

(Observations canibalised from a conversation with the ever thoughtful William O & Gessen’s New Yorker Article)

Women in Translation

Figures show that we are nearing an equilibrium in novel sales between the genders. Almost as many books sell by female authors as books by male authors. The difference according to many book sales charts is as little as one or two percent in both many areas of genre writing and literary fiction. That said, it is hard to shake the feeling when you enter any bookshop that the fiction shelves are populated by fewer female names than male. Could this be a hangover from history? As the shelves aren’t purely populated by modern books, could the sexist history of publishing be maintaining a sexist present in bookselling? I don’t claim to have answers, but it is an interesting issue to query. There is one area of fiction which still inarguably suffers from a very modern gender imbalance, and this is fiction in translation.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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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