After taking a hit during the global pandemic and the emergence of online competitors like Amazon and Alibris offering cheaper prices and faster shipping services, the oldest Black bookstore in London almost closed its doors due to financial hardships. However, thanks to the generous donations from the community, New Beacon Books will stay in business.
The bookshop was in jeopardy of closing down after the coronavirus shutdown challenged its financial stability.
In efforts to save the 56-year-old brick and mortar, academic and actor Francesca Gilbert and local entrepreneur Nyasha Fraser Yerro launched a fundraiser hoping to raise $47,738 by Feb. 24 to keep the historic Finsbury Park establishment open. But concerned community members help the two exceed their goal.
Supporters poured in and within one day they achieved their goal. By day two, the pot raised to $103,656. In eight days, the campaign that started on Dec. 30 and ended on Jan. 7, raised a whopping $115,168 from the contributions from 2571 supporters.
The Bookseller stated that hefty contributions were made by novelist David Nicholls and award-winning playwright Patricia Cumper.
The book store posted on social media their appreciation, captioning, “Thank you all so much for the outpouring of love, support, and generous contributions in all forms. It has been truly overwhelming and appreciated. We will have more information soon.”
According to the fundraiser, the store was hit severely during the pandemic and experienced “a marked decrease in footfall and consequent income and overheads have increased.”
“Throughout its 55 years, it has been pivotal to the growth of the Black Education Movement, the Black Supplementary School Movement, and current calls for the decolonization of the curriculum,” it continued. “Unlike Amazon, Alibris, and other online suppliers, New Beacon has been at the heart of communities, building social movements and giving expression to young voices.”
This is not a new story. The Milford News reported how big businesses like Amazon are hurting indie book stores, especially in the “the pandemic-riddled Age of Online Shopping.”
The noted, “[Small book stores] cannot compete with a cutting-edge website and app funded by a billion-dollar corporation. Amazon maximizes this advantage by using books as a loss leader — losing money on their sales so that customers will be drawn into buying higher-margin items. That’s why many books on Amazon are cheaper than the same books at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.”
New Beacon Books was founded in 1966 in north London’s Finsbury Park by activists John La Rose and Sarah White. The Trinidad native La Rose’s son Michael La Rose now runs the store.
The store’s owners believe that the crowdfunding effort will help them strategize to secure a profitable future while still offering the community the programming that will celebrate the next generation of creatives.
They said, “New Beacon Books must continue to do much more than just sell books… [It] has a proud history of running public education programs, including book launches, readings, public lectures, spoken word events, etc.”
“The publishing arm of New Beacon Books has been scaled down considerably, but there are increasing calls for New Beacon Publications to commission and publish work by young creatives and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and for introducing new and old work to new audiences,” a statement from them read.
“For New Beacon Books to do this, it must be able to make full use of its existing space, and if necessary, relocate to premises that will allow for the expansion of its publishing and public affairs programs as well as for bookselling,” it concluded.
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