UK’s first black bookshop fundraising to save Finsbury Park premises

Amy Ashenden

The UK’s first black bookshop is appealing for help to secure its premises and save decades of black British history in London.

New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park is fighting to fundraise repairs to its roof and build a website as it competes with digital books and major outlets to save ‘a huge amount’ of black history.

The bookshop on Stroud Green Road hopes to crowdfund £10,000 after it has become ‘very difficult to sustain’ and fears it will not be able to pass on its heritage to young black people.

It is also appealing for “physical help for painting” and “people to help produce a website” to allow them to sell books online.

The bookshop was founded in 1966 by Trinidanian John La Rose and his partner Sarah White and soon became a hub for activism, education about black history and its very own independent publishing house.

The bookshop in Finsbury Park was founded over 50 years ago (New Beacon Books)

New Beacon Books now faces threats to closure as it must secure funding to carry out plumbing and roof repairs, as well as a new shop front and interior refurbishment to create space for talks and book signings.

“If the bookshop were to close, a huge amount of history would be lost,” Vanessa La Rose, wife of the grandson of bookshop owner John, told the Standard.

Under threat: New Beacon Books (Paul McKenzie)

“The bookshop's presence was a catalyst for many group formations, like the Caribbean Artist Movement & Black Parents Movement back then. We were instrumental in protesting about the New Cross Fire in 1981 which generated support of over 20,000 people protesting peacefully.

“Our existence is more than purely that of a bookshop. We were a community hub. It’s a space for people to come and speak unapologetically.”

A hub for activism: New Beacon Books store (Paul McKenzie)

“For this to survive, we need to your help. We need physical help for painting, we need to people to help us produce a website so books can be sold online, we’re looking to have meetings with people about books we perhaps don’t know about.

Bookshop director Janice Durham, seen in the video above, added: “Let’s make black books beautiful again. We have to pass down our heritage.”

New Beacon Books is crowdfunding to save the store (Paul McKenzie)

New Beacon Books is open Wednesdays to Saturdays 1.30pm-6pm at 76 Stroud Green Rd, N4 3EN.