For the second in our series of profiles of some of our favourite places – bookshops – we head to the port city of Liverpool and bustling Bold Street. As a kid growing up in West Lancashire, our shopping trips were more often than not into Liverpool and if there are two things I remember about those Saturdays to get shirts for school or a new pair of shoes, they are baked potatoes in a cafe near the station and News from Nowhere. Named for the William Morris book, it was then as it is now, representative of everything a radical bookshop should be: driven by passion, committed to society and its community, and filled from floor to ceiling with words on paper; words to inspire, inform and entertain.
News from Nowhere was founded in 1974 and since 1981 has been run by a women’s collective, a workers cooperative that runs the shop as a not-for-profit community business. Their philosophy of bookselling is apparent from the moment you walk in through the door of this friendly, welcoming space, browse the shelves of books and magazines, or read what they say about themselves on their website:
“We hope that the literature we stock empowers & inspires people to make positive changes to the world – from challenging the power of corporate capitalism to breaking down prejudiced attitudes to others & ourselves.”
This is not only about what books you will find but also how the shop works as a collective, about the campaigns the shop actively supports, and the numerous local initiatives they have partnered with over the years. The campaigns have included the Stop the War campaign and support for the Liverpool Dockers, they have been involved with local refugee and asylum-seeker groups as well as hosting events to mark Chinese New Year, Martin Luther King Day, International Women’s Day, Jewish Book Week, Pride Week and World Aids Day among many, many others.
In the past couple of months I have had the pleasure of returning to Liverpool a couple of times for my first visits in over half a decade. The city has changed a lot since those childhood shopping trips but it was a great pleasure to been welcomed into News from Nowhere once more, and I was very proud to spy Elsewhere on their rack of journals, magazines and periodicals.
As I write these words we are trying to comprehend events in Florida and the political response to hate crime, while thugs are fighting on French streets under national flags and refugees across Europe are targeted with words and sometimes fists and firebombs. Now, as much as ever, we need places like News from Nowhere to remind us that there is an alternative and to provide us with the words of inspiration, information and encouragement to help us believe we can get there:
“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.”
If you are ever in Liverpool there are plenty of things you really should see. And News from Nowhere is right at the top of the list.