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News From Nowhere Bookshop opened its doors on Mayday 1974 in tiny premises on Manchester St and in its 30 years of existence has moved three times before occupying its current site on Liverpool's bohemian Bold St. This 5-storey building is now owned by the Workers Co-operative which runs the bookshop as a not-for-profit community business, thus securing its future as an essential resource for the people of Liverpool.
It has also been a Women’s Collective since 1981, providing many women, as members of the collective or as volunteers, with the experience of running a business, and building up their skills in bookselling, retail and accounts. It’s not very often now that a man will take one look at the woman behind the till and ask to see the boss, but it does still happen!
Its descriptions as an alternative, radical, feminist or community bookshop have varied over the years but its aims have remained constant - to provide access to books and information on the reality of the world and how to change it and ourselves for the better. Thus books on the History of Slavery nestle alongside manuals on Environmental Change, and volumes on Tai Chi or Feminism sit opposite Lesbian, Irish and Black fiction.
Subjects range from Labour History, Black Liberation, Irish Politics, and Struggles for Justice and Peace Worldwide, to Children's Rights, Women's Health, Disability Liberation, and Miscarriages of Justice. In addition there are large sections of socially-conscious Fiction and a vast array of Children's Books reflecting our diverse and multi-racial society. Local schools and the Education Authority use the bookshop as a major resource for equal opportunities and dual-language books.
Over the years, as News From Nowhere has become the main independent bookshop in Liverpool, priding itself on its efficient and helpful customer service and ordering facilities, it has built up strong links with the local universities and colleges and is now used as a stockist for students, from ESOL and Second Chance to degree courses in e.g. social sciences, criminology, media, history, literature and politics.
In a world of corporate chains and multinationals, an independent, grassroots co-operative may struggle to compete, and the Women's Collective which runs the shop has had to overcome difficulties such as dilapidated buildings, economic hardships, ruthless landlords, the rise of chain bookselling and not least a determined campaign of arson attacks from fascist groups in the '80s. But News From Nowhere has shown what can be achieved through the dedication of its workers (who now have over 60 years bookselling experience between them!) and the determination of a community to support & retain what it sees as a vital resource and focal point for campaigns for change.
It has always been much more than just a bookshop. In its day-to-day work, the collective tries to put into practice its ideals. For example, staff all receive equal rates of pay; decisions are made collectively - there is no boss; toys and a comfy chair are provided in the children's area for tired or breastfeeding mums; many lesbians and gay men have found it a welcoming port of call when taking their first steps to "coming out". And on a wider level, many campaigns have been supported practically and with information over the years e.g. Troops Out of Ireland, Reclaim The Night, The Miners' Strike, Greenham Common, The Liverpool Dockers, and anti-war campaigns from Vietnam to Iraq. Strong links have also been made with numerous local initiatives e.g. Sahir House, Black History Month, Africa Oye, Liverpool Friends of Palestine, Hillsborough Justice Campaign, refugee & asylum-seeker groups, women's self-harm groups, and countless conferences and events have benefited from a News From Nowhere bookstall. In addition, where else in the city marks Chinese New Year, Martin Luther King Day, International Women's Day, Jewish Book Week, St Patrick's Day, Pride Week, Hiroshima Day, World Aids Day & Kwanzaa?
The collective has never been afraid to confront controversial issues e.g. stocking information on British repression in Ireland long before the Peace Process, pioneering self-determination for survivors of sexual abuse before it was widely recognised or boycotting cheques from Barclays bank during apartheid. At the same time the bookshop's stock and philosophy reflect the hopefulness that 19th century socialist William Morris espoused in his utopian novel "News From Nowhere", that a better world is possible. In our 21st Century that means publicising that there is a large and growing peace movement in Israel, that there is always an alternative to war, that white people can work alongside black for racial justice, that globalisation can be countered by grassroots movements, that realising our personal power can empower us to change the world……and that books are, as ever, crucial in that path to empowerment and justice.