Friday, March 28, 2014

Discovering Housmans

Walking around King's Cross is quite a treat. As the days are getting warmer, it's nice to wander aimlessly around the neighbourhood, and on one of those occasions we happened to walk into Housmans. It is in fact London's premier radical bookshop. 

I could see why from their unusual collection of books. They have a wide range of radical literature, pamphlets and magazines dealing with political issues. Newsletters and old journals other such curious books which you would never find in regular bookstores.

I went through their website and was quite surprised to read that they had in the past faced direct physical and legal attack. In 1974 an IRA bomb blew up the pillar box directly outside the shop (which was there because the building once housed the local Kings Cross Post Office, from the late 19th Century until some time in the 1930s). The explosion in the pillar box destroyed the first issue of the Campaign Against Arms Trade's newsletter which had just been posted in it, and damaged some of the building's windows, but caused no personal injury. Four years later, a letter bomb - one of a series sent to radical and left-wing addresses - caused burns to a staff member's hands. 

In the 1990s a group of people brought long-drawn-out libel actions against the shop over anti-fascist literature that was stocked. For over sixty years, through successive waves of the peace movement, Housmans has continued to promote peace, human rights, and environmental and other radical causes, providing literature and other material over the counter, as well as at stalls and by mail-order. Despite some years of planning blight in its immediate environs, Housmans remains one of the few "alternative" bookshops in Britain, and recently, with the refurbishment of the local area, Housmans itself has had a "facelift" and looks forward to many more years of radical campaigning.

And you will not want to miss the basement, where they have an entire room of books for just a pound. From fiction novels, books on business and strategy to coffee table books and even LPs, if you spend some time browsing through the collection, you never know what you might find. They also have cool knick knacks like t shirts and campaign badges. Curios and coffee!