In 2010, the first anarchist bookfair in the bilingual city of Biel/Bienne took place. With over 500 visitors, more than two dozen exhibitors, and a small, but excellent selection of lectures on the theory and practice of anarchism, the event was a resounding success. Therefore, another bookfair was held in the city in 2011. This summer, an anarchist gathering is taking place near Biel/Bienne in St. Imier, Switzerland, so it was obvious for the organizers of the bookfair that the bookfair should take place a few kilometers away, in order to spare the exhibitors and visitors another trip.
Anarchist Bookfairs 30 years ago, there were a few anarchists in London that attended some so-called socialist bookfairs, but these events were agonizingly boring, expensive, and also frequented by huge publishing companies. Consequently, the desire to create an independent anarchist bookfair was born. With reference to the labels "anarchist“ or "libertarian,” on one hand new publications were proposed, and on the other hand, a specific conception of how the events should be organized was introduced. The bookfair was not only about selling a lot of books and to introduce people to anarchism, but also to create a platform for activists and a wide range of cultural events. The specific notion of anarchism, which attaches great importance to individual freedom, was also intended to be experienced at the bookfair. Therefore, racism, sexism, homophobia etc. had no place there. However, the do-it-yourself-attitude, the solidarity of the visitors and exhibitors, and the direct democratic way of making decisions was very important.
The first “Anarchist Bookfair” was not a resounding success, as only half a dozen exhibitors participated, and, as almost no visitors showed up, the few people that were left in attendance switched the bookfair into a billiards tournament. But, even after this sobering experience, the enthusiasm remained and the event became more well-known year after year, able to attract more anarchist publishers and to organize larger events. The bookfair has become so popular over the years that it is being held for the 30th time this year. Modestly, the organizers and promoters deem it to be the largest and most important regularly occurring anarchist event in the world. The numbers are actually quite impressive: 100 bookstands, 40 events, and about 3,000 visitors– and that is for each convention day.
By now the “London Anarchist Bookfair” isn’t the only one of its kind. This is why the organizers began putting an emphasis on “London.” Over the course of the last few years, half a dozen bookfairs have been organized in the UK alone. In Canada and the U.S., anarchists that are interested in literature are spoiled with choice, because between Spring and Autumn there is a bookfair nearly every weekend. Also, in Latin America, where anarchist bookstores and libraries have a long tradition, there have been some attempts to organize bookfairs in the recent years, for example in Monterrey, Mexico and São Paulo, Brazil.
Finally, there have been quite a few events taking place in mainland Europe: Since 2003, a “Balkan Anarchist Bookfair” has taken place every few years (2003 in Ljubljana, 2005 in Zagreb, 2008 in Sofia and 2009 in Thessaloniki). Since 2006, there has been a yearly "Anarhistički sajam knjiga" in Zagreb, Croatia and more anarchist bookfairs in Poznan, Poland. In Western Europe, Spanish comrades have attracted attention with the "ferias del libro anarquista." There are bookfairs in Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, and Valencia. In Paris, Gent, Florence, Lisbon, Dublin and Oberhausen, even more bookfairs have been organized. Over the years, the concept hasn’t changed much, but the programs have been massively expanded. Today, most of these events are called bookfairs, but they are also cultural events, minor art-galleries, cabarets, lectures, movie series, and meeting places all in one.
What will be offered
The book fair will be held in St. Imier this year. St. Imier is a place that holds immense significance for anarchist history and a place in which the spirits of old ladies and old men with shaggy beards are still not completely expelled from the attics and back rooms of the old houses. That is why we are motivated this year to offer the broadest possible overview of anarchist books and publications, publishers, magazines, languages, and authors. There will be publishers, distributors, authors, and organizations traveling from all around the world to enliven the bookfair. We are also committed to the authors having their say, so we have reserved the Hockey Hall of St. Imier to convert it into exhibition hall for readings and book presentations. Events, which are directly related to the books on display, will be enjoyed for all five days of the anarchist gathering, but the bookfair itself will be open for four days to the visitors, so that the exhibitors have enough time to arrange their tables.
Around St. Imier
The watchmaking city of St. Imier is located in the central region of the green hills of the Jura. Although it belongs to the predominately German-speaking canton of Bern, it is a Francophone community. The 4700-strong community has an urban influence, which is partly due to its long history as an industrial center and also to the fact that St. Imier is a regional center. The city has a great importance for the anarchist movement, as it was the epicenter of the famous "Jura Federation," the most important anarchist section of the First International. The inaugural meeting that took place between the anarchists that split-off from the First International was held in 1872 at the Hôtel de la maison de Ville in St.Imier. This meeting is commemorated today on plaques that have been displayed on various houses by the municipality. Located in the center of the town since 1986, the "Espace Noir" is a cultural center with an anarchist infoshop, bookstore, gallery, restaurant, and a theater/concert hall with a lively program.
At a glance
Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th August 2012
Thu 9th - Sat 11th: 10:00 - 19:00h
Sun 12th: 10:00 - 14:00h
The bookfair will offer an overview of the publications of many publishers and anti-authoritarian organizations from around the world. Additionally, public lectures and presentations will take place.
Patinoire d'Erguel (ice rink), Beauregard 4, CH-2606 Saint-Imier (Switzerland).
The visit is free. Tables are available in exchange for a small participation to fees.
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