Tonight, at our Naomi Klein launch, I will be wearing a mask - as I have done at every Lighthouse event I've run since 2020.
Next week I’ll be hanging out with my grandma - she has an incomparable sweet tooth, wicked sense of humour, and chronic bronchitis. She is 89 and frail as fuck (in body, not in spirit). She’s among the demographics most likely to die from a Covid-19 infection.
Yesterday I listened to my best friend’s breathless voicenote about the audio book she’s listening to - she’s a writer and academic and she’s been housebound for over two years suffering from long-covid, which has shrunk her world right off the page.
Covid-19 is shite. It can be ruthless, deadly and debilitating, or it can be just a wee bit worse than a bout of flu.
The science tells us that we can reduce viral load and the risk of infection if we are in spaces with good airflow, and we wear masks to stop our germs spraying all over the shop.
This is how we ‘live with covid’ - by doing what we can to mitigate its existence.
Lighthouse is an indie business, I - Mairi - am the human behind Lighthouse (or the face of it, depending who you ask). I don’t want to catch Covid. I don’t want my booksellers to catch it, because I adore them, and because we can't run our bookshop when we are down a staff member or 3.
I don’t want the readers or writers who come into my bookshop to catch it. Or to worry that this is an environment where they are more likely to catch it. It’s not really something I can totally control for, but within my tiny realm I feel not only that I can but that I must, do whatever I can to lower that risk.
When I make masks a requirement for Lighthouse events, it’s an invitation to be part of collective care. It is me, asking you all, to play a small part in making our shared spaces a little safer for everyone, but especially those for whom Covid poses extra risks. Of course there are also folk who have medical reasons for not being able to wear a mask - it is with their safety in mind too that we try to act collectively. Masks and precautions also aren't free, which is why we choose to absorb the cost of providing masks for those who don't have them. Trust me when I say that with the awful margins of the book trade it has not been a painless cost decision, but it's also completely worth it.
To all slip on a mask means those of us with care responsibilities can still attend events, disabled or chronically ill readers and writers can still attend events. YOU all can still attend events. Because this is my business, and this is my community, and these are my events, I do get to call the shots on this - so if you can’t be bothered to mask for an hour and do your bit to lower our collective risk, then no you are not welcome at our events. Go forth and enjoy books and culture somewhere else.
(And yes, if that's you, I can live without your business. I know this because we never stopped requiring masks, and folk have shown up week after week and put them on for each other. Get over yourself, there are SO many bigger fish to fry.)