Housmans is our radical bookshop of the day!
For Independent Bookshop Week we've teamed up with 5 of our favourite independent radical booksellers, which we will be profiling on our blog all week. We've also given them Verso Books filled tote bags for you to pick up in their shops on the Independent Bookshop Crawl on Saturday 27th June. See here for more details on how you can get your hands on one!
Today’s bookshop profile is: Housmans
5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX
Housmans Bookshop is based at Kings Cross in London, and is one of the city’s last remaining radical bookshops, as well as having been one of the first. It originally opened on 26 October 1945, but its roots, go back to the great upsurge of the British pacifist movement in the 1930s, marked particularly by the founding of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) by Dick Sheppard in 1934. The PPU had a temporary bookshop as early as the summer of 1936 (at 36 Ludgate Hill, London), where people sat on the floor to listen to lunch-time talks by Dick Sheppard and others.
In the aftermath of the Second World War the writer and playwright Laurence Housman, a Sponsor of the PPU, suggested that it should establish a permanent bookshop to promote ideas of peace, and also the ideas of human rights and a more equitable economy by which future wars, and all their inherent suffering, might be avoided.
A bomb-damaged, but repaired, shop was leased cheaply for three years from Westminster City Council near the well-established bookshop area of Charing Cross Road. The shop was named in honour of the originator of its concept, Laurence Housman, who celebrated his 80th birthday shortly before he performed the opening ceremony on 26 October 1945.
Whilst acknowledging its roots in the peace movement - and, specifically, in the radical pacifist end of the movement - Housmans aims to be a broad-based, non-sectarian shop, encouraging the dissemination of a wide range of progressive and alternative ideas. As the shop's founders recognised, opposing injustice and oppression and the degradation of our planet are prerequisites of a more peaceful society.
They sell a wide range of radical literature that deals with a full spectrum of campaigning issues. Its variety of political magazines, pamphlets, newsletters and journals - with over 200 titles - is unmatched anywhere in the country. It also has t-shirts, cards, stationary, badges and other campaigning paraphernalia, as well as their famous Peace Diary (established in 1954), and hosts regular in-shop events. The shop also plays an active role within its local community.
You can visit them online here, and if you pop into Housmans on Saturday 27th you can pick up your own VERSO TOTE BAG filled with VERSO GOODIES! (whilst stocks last. More info here)