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More than £10K donated to save New Beacon Books

FUNDRAISING SUCCESS: From left - Renaldo and Vanessa La Rose at New Beacon Books, London N4 (photo credit: Islington Gazette)

THE ICONIC New Beacon Books, the UK’s first black bookshop has seen off the threat of closure following a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The shop’s owners launched the campaign to raise £10,000 after it became fears that it would have to close. They were struggling to find the money to pay for repairs to the shop’s roof and build a website to enable it compete in the growing market for digital books.

Fears were also high that a heritage of black British literature would not be passed down to young black people.

However, over £11,248 has been donated to save New Beacon Books from closure.

Renaldo La Rose, grandson of poet John La Rose who founded the shop in 1966 along with his wife Sarah White, said he was delighted. Speaking to The Voice La Rose said:

“Following our successful crowdfunding exercise it has become apparent that New Beacon has re-engaged with the black community, who willingly supported us.

“The book store wants to revive the community spirit and give young talented individuals practical support by providing advice and helping them to publish their work.”

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

Expressing appreciation for the financial support New Beacon Books received La Rose said:

“This establishment is not only a book shop, but a catalyst for many events in the UK, political movements and groups that came out of them. It would have been a travesty if it had closed.

“Crowdfunding will not sustain Beacon, but will help the store to make the necessary changes required. A business like ours is sustainable only if it receives support from the community.”

The funds raised will help to repair the store’s children section, a new shop front and a website to sell their books as well as providing the opportunity to invest in social media activity, which has increased footfall by tenfold, according to La Rose.

New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park, north London, created a platform for African-Caribbean literature when it opened in 1966.

Renowned Caribbean writers Mervyn Morris, Sir Wilson Harris, John Jacob Thomas and C.L.R. James all had work published through New Beacon Books.

The store was also a focal point for anti-racist demonstrations and its owner along with Darcus Howe played a key role in mobilising 20,000 people to protest over the New Cross house fire in 1981, in which 13 young black people were killed.

Despite New Beacon’s rich black British history its existence was endangered recently as customer numbers dwindled, because of the shop’s failure to invest in digital publishing and a website.

White thought it might be time to call it a day and close the shop as it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. As well as the lack of investment in digital publishing the systems were old and anyone wanting to access specialist literature would find it difficult.

New Beacon Books has an archive and research centre, the George Padmore Institute, which started in 1991 and houses material relating to Caribbean, African and Asian communities in the UK.

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