Celebrating a decade of radicalism: the 10th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair (WEB EDITION)

The Independent Radical Book Fair is an opportunity for small publishers to display their work and for authors to meet new readers, but, above all, it's for people to discuss ideas.

Feature by Anna Battista | 13 Oct 2006
The word 'radical' means different things to different people, but is most often employed in association with politics. The word 'radical' also often scares people with its connotations. The media especially seem to have lost the power to be 'radical' in the last few years, instead conforming to an increasingly politically correct approach. Fear not, though, as this October there is an event in Edinburgh that will not only help our understanding of what being radical can mean nowadays, but will also make us think more - the Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair. Organised by the Edinburgh-based independent bookshop Word Power, the Fair, now in its tenth year, is more than just an ordinary book event. "The Independent Radical Book Fair is an alternative to more mainstream book events such as the Edinburgh Book Festival," Elaine Henry from the Word Power Bookshop says, "it is an opportunity for small publishers to display their work, for authors to meet new readers, but, above all, it's for people to discuss ideas."

This year the Radical Book Fair promises to be unmissable thanks to the diversity of its programme. Physicist, ecologist, activist and winner of the 1993 Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel Prize) Vandana Shiva will open the event. It then features lectures by the independent scholar and journalist Achin Vanaik, the founder of Z Magazine Michael Albert, the thinker and activist George Monbiot and Scottish favourite James Kelman, to mention just a few. There will be a photographic exhibition entitled When the World Said No to War, to be opened by Rose Gentle, mother of the 19 year-old soldier Gordon Gentle who was killed in Iraq in 2004, plus screenings of films and documentaries such as Horace Ove's 'Dream To Change The World', about activist, trade unionist, writer, publisher and filmmaker John La Rose.

Reading through the event programme, you'd think that there is a huge team behind it, connecting writers, thinkers and activists all over the world, but in actual fact only two people organise it. "It's a huge labour of love," Elaine explains, "and we work really hard making sure all the events are accessible. We first started the Radical Book Fair at the McDonald Library with just a few events, but we kept on growing every year and, as time passed, we became more established. Now there are people who travel to come and see our Book Fair while we also invite internationally known speakers. The things that really help us are that we have a lot of experience - the Word Power Bookshop is going to turn twelve in November - and that a lot of writers give us their support."

Gaining more status as an annual event also means that throughout the years the attendance has grown: one of the main reasons for the increase is not only the quality of the events, but also the fact that this Book Fair is a free festival. "We usually attract a broad section of the community with different reading tastes," Elaine explains, adding that "we believe in free access to information for everyone and, if you're not working, it is difficult to afford such events if they are ticketed. Our main aim is to make sure that the people who come are able to participate, exchange ideas with the speakers, make new contacts and - why not - start writing themselves." This is one of the reasons why this year there will be a café offering homemade food: the space is designed to be a safe haven for people to meet and rest while letting their dialogues continue.
The 10th Edinburgh Independent Book Fair, 11-15 October, Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 30-38 Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh. For a full programme or to have further information on the Word Power Bookshop, please check the site www.word-power.co.uk http://www.word-power.co.uk