The first International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books took place forty years ago in 1982. Founded by New Beacon Books, Race Today Publications and Bogle L'Ouverture Publications; all three organisations were the forerunners in the UK of radical black publishing and international bookselling. Twelve book fairs took place in London between 1982 and 1995, with additional fairs in Manchester, Bradford, Leeds and Glasgow. John La Rose (New Beacon Books) and Jessica Huntley (Bogle L'Ouverture Publications) became joint directors.
The letter of invitation to the first book fair in 1982 described the event as ‘a meeting of the continents for writers, publishers, distributors, booksellers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and the people who inspire and consume their creative productions’. Participants from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Central America, the USA, Germany, France and Belgium took part in the book fairs and came not only to exhibit, order and distribute books but also to take part in an accompanying festival, which included forums, literary events, theatre, music and film showings.
Both the book fair and the festival were designed to complement each other with recurring cultural, social and political themes such as publishing, women's writing, education and approaches to collective action. Exhibitions of photographs, documents or artwork served as a backcloth. Workshops were also held for school children. Background music was provided by the Peoples War Sound System (it became the Peoples War Carnival Band in 1983), formed in 1975 by Michael La Rose.
In 1997, John La Rose decided that the book fair in London could no longer continue in its existing form. In some respects, it had become a victim of its own success. It had advanced the cultural and political needs of participants and exhibitors to the point where the book fairs were no longer seen as indispensable.
A Meeting of the Continents: The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books – Revisited: History, Memories, Organisation and Programmes 1982-1995 Edited by Sarah White, Roxy Harris and Sharmilla Beezmohun
This book is the definitive guide to the book fairs and details how they came into being and were organised; the role of the founder John La Rose; how and why they ended. With memoirs by participants from around the world. Includes the 12 brochures accompanying the book fairs and an index.
Available to purchase from our website. Visit our Shop on the Discover page.
For more detailed information about the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books and for a link to the archive catalogue visit the archive page here
View our film on the International Book Fairs on YouTube with Margaret Busby and Janice Durham.
Margaret Busby became the first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison & Busby in the late 1960s and Janice Durham is a trustee of the GPI and has been working with New Beacon Books since 1979.
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