I am going to call this out with a bit of vehemence, as I am not sure it currently has the attention it deserves.
I would love to have known the New Beacon probably back a decade ago, when I happened to be in a London short-stay, conducting researches for my dissertation in Caribbean literature. Unfortunately, back in the days I didn’t have internet at my fingertips, I had yet not discovered the world of blogging and didn’t know much about using social media for researching and targeted networking.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can find everything in London… but where? Especially if you are not a keen “London lover” like me and hate spending much of your time on the tube, it might take a while to get you exactly where you want.
So, how to get to the New Beacon: the map tells me that Finsbury Park is the closest station serviced by railways, Piccadilly and Victoria line. However, I was hanging around in the City and jumped on one of those buses that stops somewhere in Candem Street and heads towards Finsbury Park.
The New Beacon is a must-go bookshop for people that are fervid readers of postcolonial history and literature or genuinely interested in the subject.
There’s a great selection of books from and about Africa, Caribbean, Asia, African America, Europe, South America and Britain, ranging from history, social studies, references, fiction and poetry .
You can find excellent gift ideas for the young ones by browsing through the children books which are sorted by ages, which I appreciated. In my experience of growing in southern Italy (of course, I can only speak for myself here), there wasn’t much variety of books for children which adequately exposed young readers to diversity (at all levels). Although I became a book worm at a quite early age, all the characters of my stories had all white skin and settings tended to be quite standardize: there were always snowy white winters, sunny summer school terms and an overall political stability. That resulted in an educational gap and created some sort of incongruity with reality.
The New Beacon roots are plunged in an important chapter of the World history: it all started back in 1966 when Trinidadian John La Rose and his partner Sarah White founded UK’s first black publisher. La Rose came from a colonial Caribbean background and the creation of the NB gathered many intellectuals and writers with some common background; also it set up a place for political and social campaigns. For further references and deep-diving, the New Beacon website contains a lot of interesting information about its genesis and evolution as a publishing company and a bookshop, its social projects, its difficult transitioning through the changes of modern book industry and the downturn which led to the temporary closure of the shop in 2017.
The New Beacon is still there in spite of the adversities and maintaining a high profile selling books and crafts, hosting events, and I think it’s a great place for readers that are constantly out there looking for new voices and different perspectives.
I left the shop with no more than one book (yes, I am trying to maintain my promise and finish reading all the books I have before buying new ones), plus tons of suggestions and ideas. I was purely lucky to get myself a signed copy of the recent publication by young Ghanaian author Ayesha Harruna Attah, The Hundred Wells of Salaga (Cassava Republic). A copy of a book signed by the author is always a precious stone on your shelf.
The RISC book club in Reading has picked this book for the November reading so I can prepare much ahead of time.
For further reading and information:
The Guardian on The Hundred Wells of Salaga