Radical city bookshop that's like 'visiting an old friend'

Maria Ng outside News for Nowhere on Bold Street
-Credit: (Image: Colin Lane)

A Liverpool shop wants to "help us create that better world".

News from Nowhere (NfN) opened its doors on May 1, 1974. It was founded by former London School of Economic students Bob Dent and Maggie Wellings and took its name from the William Morris’ utopian novel published in the 1890s.

Due to 'radical' bookshops in other places, when they came back to Liverpool they decided they would start a political bookshop. Thanks to a £1000 loan from Maggie’s family the dream was realised.

READ MORE: 'Austerity is violence' - people appalled at what 14 years of Tory rule has done to Liverpool

READ MORE: Get the latest updates on the General Election to your WhatsApp

Staff member Maria Ng told the ECHO: "Our intent is to provide literature on progressive social change, to change the world for the better. We’ve always got that angle; the environment, feminism, LGBT rights, anti-racism, anti-capitalism, socialism, all different things.

"A wide spectrum of broadly left wing politics. We're a community bookshop so we can get any books people want”.

Maria Ng inside the Bold Street store, which News from Nowhere moved to in 1996
Maria Ng inside the Bold Street store, which News from Nowhere moved to in 1996 -Credit:Colin Lane

The shop moved from its first home in Manchester Street (now Old Haymarket) then to Whitechapel in 1977, before masking its first to Bold Street in 1989. It wasn't until 1996 it settled into its current Bold Street home, purchased with money raised through donations, loans and a mortgage.

By establishing as a workers cooperative in 1984 Maria said: "It means the business is owned and run collectively by the workers. It’s not for profit, we get our wages and any money goes back into the business for the benefit of the community".

For the staff, surviving 50 years is a great achievement. In that time they’ve outlived around nine radical bookshops in Liverpool, 100+ nationwide and survived the widespread decimation of the independent book trade.

Mandy Vere joined the store in 1976. During the tough Margaret Thatcher government years Mandy had said: "As the Toxteth Uprisings were happening in Liverpool 8, a campaign of arson, violence and intimidation was starting against numerous radical bookshops throughout the country. News from Nowhere became one of the worst-hit".

For around a six to eight year period, attacks came in waves, weekly, if not daily by gangs of fascists. They would target the bookshop knocking over shelving, smashing windows, arson and on occasion assaulting members of staff and customers.

Mandy added: "As always the best support was from friends and supporters in progressive movements. Liverpool 8 community leaders were coming down to show support, other radical bookshops locally and nationally did what they could with publicity, and supporters, known as the Conspirators, rallied round to help".

In 1980s and 1990s they built relationships; an enduring one with Liverpool John Moores University and for years sympathetic lecturers recommended NfN to students. They stocked vast student texts and every autumn an influx of students brought them much-needed trade.

Championing local history books drew more passing trade. In a climate of tolerance the politics of the shop "were no longer seen as quite so scary".

Martyn has become a regular at News From Nowhere since moving to the city from London
Martyn has become a regular at News From Nowhere since moving to the city from London -Credit:Colin Lane

Martyn who has been a customer since moving from London 10 years ago said: "Before that I was using Housmans Bookshop, in London, another radical bookshop. There is a book about them available here.

"Periodicals which can’t be got elsewhere, the right variety, the one here is the Ethical Consumer, which contains information about various campaigns and what is good to buy. There are many books here that have been published by people I know. It's like coming back to see old friends".

First-time customer Mel was drawn into the shop after seeing it was an independent business. They said: "Seeing it was community run, sort of a radical, so that was pretty cool too. Just wanted to check it out, just browsing. I like biographies or people talking about their lives, stuff like that and philosophy as well"

NfN supports local authors as much as they can. You can email or call in and tell them about your book, which they will sell on a sale and return basis.

Talking about why they set up the shop, co-founder Bob Dent had said: "To help us create that better world which William Morris envisaged in ‘News from Nowhere’, we need ideas which counter the prevailing ideologies. Access to alternative, creative, radical ideas, which help us challenge the different power structures of society, is not a sufficient condition for changing the world, but it’s a necessary one”.

NfN strives to be there to provide that access and for information visit HERE

The Liverpool Daily Post newsletter delves into the biggest stories on Merseyside

The Liverpool City Region General Election 2024 survey: Tell us how you feel about NHS, immigration, Keir Starmer and more