This was held in Durham City on Saturday 3rd November 2007. Billed as being “In the spirit of the Big Meeting” (i.e. the Durham Miner’s Gala), this event was sponsored by Tyne and Wear IWW and North East Area NUM.
The fair was conceived to cater for those with an interest in radical politics and North East labour history, as the region has no bookshops dedicated to these subjects.
The event had suffered a setback when the venue, which had been a church next to the Market Place, cancelled. Despite having been booked since early this year, the final notice of the cancellation was quite near the day, and was apparently due to concerns about fire regulations. An alternative had to be found at short notice, and a meeting room was booked in Durham Central Library. Although still being very central (about a hundred yards away from the original venue ) this did however mean that the event had to become much smaller, a couple of stalls regrettably had to be cancelled, there were no kitchen facilities and the starting time of the fair moved from 10am to 12.30.
Helpers having been posted at the original venue to redirect people, the library provided a notice inside the main entrance announcing the event, with a label along the bottom – “This is not a Library event.” However when the IWW stallholders arrived the staff told us that there had been so much interest in the Bookfair that they were thinking of moving it in to the main library space! This turned out to be the case, and the stalls were set up in the middle of the main library. People coming to exchange their library books on a busy Saturday afternoon were able to have a browse through a wide range of books, pamphlets and leaflets provided by Tyne and Wear IWW, Autonomous Class War, Tommy Wrecka, the RCG and Tyneside Socialist Forum.
The IWW stall had books and pamphlets from AK press that were relevant to Industrial Unionism, as well as general IWW propaganda, a lot of national Blood service campaign leaflets were distributed and we signed up one new member, who had come up from Yorkshire for the event.
The stalls were busy throughout the afternoon, and a lot of reading material changed hands. The event had been well advertised, with local press releases, and a lot of people came, showing that there is a big demand for events such as these. It also provided a much needed networking opportunity for activists from all over the north east region. The event was really well received, without exception, by the library users who had come across the stalls by accident, and a lot of them had a good look and stopped to talk.
The local press did an interview with organiser FW Bark, and took pictures of the IWW stall. An illustrated article appeared in the Monday edition of the local daily Northern Echo, under the headline “Working Class Bookfair ‘success’”.
The event was definitely a success: it was a good start to building the Working Class Bookfair in Durham into a big annual event in the labour diary. In the meantime we have discussed holding similar small events at different centres around the region. It would definitely be good to have another visit to Durham Central library…
Interested in participating in next year’s Working Class Bookfair (November in Durham City, date and venue TBC)? Know any radical or independent book shops, organisations, publishers, or individual activists or academics who need to clear some shelf space? Contact tyneandwear [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk