Freedom News

Interview: Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Bookfair

This Saturday, the first ever Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Bookfair is taking place at the Augustine United Church. Freedom are unable to have a stall there this year, but we are still really excited about it happening. We sent over some questions for the collective who have organised what is shaping up to be a great day of stalls, rad politics, raffles and afterparties. Check out their twitter and facebook for more information and if you’re in the area try and get down!

How did the bookfair come about? Why did you think it was important to organise an anarchist feminist bookfair in Edinburgh?

The idea for an anarchist bookfair in Edinburgh has been simmering for years, but when the Glasgow Radical Independent Bookfair wrapped up in 2016, and our local radical bookshop, Word Power, sold its premises to a new owner the same year, it felt like a space had opened up and it felt important to fill it. We decided to make it an anarchist feminist bookfair mostly because the point at which we decided to actually finally do it was when we were at a feminist discussion group – the thought process was basically, like, why the hell not? All anarchism should be feminist.

How have you found the process of organising the bookfair?

It’s pretty time-intensive, of course, but overall it’s gone pretty smoothly. We’ve done most of our talking online on a platform called Slack, with regular in-person meetings as well. It took us ages to get ourselves together enough to start doing the actual organising, because what we had was a few people with lots of knowledge and experience but very little time or energy, and a few people with time and energy but little experience or little confidence – with those powers combined, we’re great! It just took a while to realise that we could get together and actually make it work.

What tips would you give to a collective looking to organise a rad bookfair in their city?

START EARLY. We tried to give ourselves a deadline to send out invitations to potential speakers, workshoppers and stallholders 6 months in advance. We didn’t always manage to stick to it, but if we hadn’t had that as a goal, we almost certainly wouldn’t have filled our space or schedule. Finding a good venue takes time – we struggled to find somewhere big enough, accessible and affordable, that wasn’t already in use for the Edinburgh Fringe.

Also, be prepared to pay for publicity! We used promoted posts on social media, and printed our first run of flyers as soon as we had our date and venue confirmed. (Pro tip: Give your fliers to AK Press as early as possible, and they’ll send them out with geographically relevant mail orders!) Having physical objects to hand to people with the info, and to stick out in friendly cafes &c. is invaluable. We also paid a local company a small fee to put up 300 posters for us around the city. It’s great if you’re able to do poster runs with volunteers, but if you’re short on volunteer labour, you still do need to get those posters up.

We used this post as a template for organising, and it’s a pretty great one: Advice on how to organise an Anarchist Bookfair.

If you could recommend a couple of books or texts that are helpful introductions to anarchist feminism, what would they be?

Just last month, Edinburgh Anarchist Federation launched a new reading group, and the first text was Selma James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community. It’s not anarchist per se, and it’s quite old now, but if you’re new to materialist feminism generally, there’s a lot in quite a short pair of essays which have been hugely influential on modern social reproduction theory.

Silvia Federici’s Revolution at Point Zero is also a great collection of very readable essays, which comes from a similar autonomist feminist tradition as James and Dalla Costa. Quiet Rumours, from AK Press, covers a lot of the classic texts from Voltairine de Cleyre and Emma Goldman, as well as more modern pieces, and is explicitly anarchist feminist.

On the subject of classic anarchist feminists, Carolyn Ashbaugh’s biography Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary is a fantastic account of the life of the woman the Chicago police called “more dangerous than a thousand rioters”.

We’d recommend LIES journal and Cindy Milstein’s blog archive on We’d also recommend fiction such as Ursula K Le Guin and Marge Piercy, as well as just getting involved with local groups and events and meeting other anarchists.

What are some of the talks/workshops you’re most excited about?

We couldn’t possibly choose favourites! We love all our contributors.

We’ve been announcing each of the talks and workshops on our facebook page over the last couple of weeks and it’s fair to say there are a few talks which are gathering a lot of interest: sex work rights; gender; decolonising history and understanding autism from an autistic perspective. We’re also really excited that we have a comrade from the Workers’ Solidarity Movement coming over to talk about the fantastic success of the Repeal the 8th campaign. It’ll be great to hear about a big, mass campaign – which anarchists were highly involved with – that won!

It seems to have been a while since Scottish anarchism has had a really big gathering, are you pleased with the uptake/support shown since you started putting the bookfair together?

We’ve had way more attention and support than we could possibly have hoped, and it’s been incredibly heartening! We’d intended to start small and try to grow the event over a number of years, but it looks like we’ve tapped into something that was wanted, so we’re pretty excited.

Edinburgh Anarchist Feminist Bookfair is taking place this Saturday 21st of July at the Augustine United Church.

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