Friday, November 08, 2013

Five Leaves Opens Shop

January 15, 2014, will be the twentieth anniversary of the attack by a gang of fascists on the Mushroom Bookshop in Nottingham. They knocked down shelves, scattered books and assaulted staff members. Among the shop's staff who stood up to the thugs was Scots-born Ross Bradshaw.  More than two dozen Nazis from several towns took part in the attack, and many were soon arrested. Among them was a police inspector's son.

About 1,000 people marched through Nottingham in solidarity with the Mushroom Books workers. Mushroom survived the attack by fascists, and stayed in business, a centre both for readers and left-wing activists, though cynics complained that more visitors accepted buckshee tea and coffee than spent money on books. Like many bookshops around the country, Mushroom did not survive changing times and a decline in the trade, which together with a director's illness and disputes over ownership led to it entering liquidation in 2000.

By then Ross Bradshaw had already taken a job with the council, and taken up publishing, which he'd first tried at Mushroom with a book on allotments which still sells. Five Leaves still boasts that it's the world's biggest publisher of books about allotments, but that's along with crime fiction, poetry, books by regional authors, social and Jewish interest.

Another venture while still publishing as Mushroom Books was "You Are, Aren't You?", a book of poems by Michael Rosen published jointly with the Jewish Socialists' Group(JSG). More recent books under the Five Leaves imprint included Battle for the East End, by JSG member David Rosenberg, which was launched with others on related themes as part of the event commemorating the Battle of Cable Street.

There were also well-attended launch events in London for Mike Gerber's labour of love Jazz Jews (2010),  and last year for From Revolution to Repression, an anthology of Soviet Yiddish writing in translation.

But notwithstanding its expansion and bold forays into the capital, Five Leaves remains Nottingham based and focused on the region. Besides publishing, the company jointly organises Lowdham Book Festival in Nottinghamshire and sponsors an annual fiction prize for MA students at Nottingham Trent University. But tomorrow publisher Ross Bradshaw, who started his career and political perspectives like Sir Alex Ferguson, as an engineering apprentice, though with slightly different results, return to his love of selling books direct to the customer.

  Five Leaves is opening a new bookshop in Nottingham.  
   It is at 14a Long Row, in the city centre.

Ross says “When I came to Nottingham in the late 70s there were several independent bookshops and in subsequent years various chains were represented, but for many years there has only been Waterstones in the city centre. It's a great shop but there's plenty room for an independent as well.”

The new bookshop will specialise in history, politics and landscape; fiction and poetry; lesbian and gay books; and international writing, with an emphasis on independent publishers. Initial events will include a memorial evening for the Nobel Literature Prize winner Seamus Heaney and a speaker from the peace movement in Israel.

By sheer coincidence, tomorrow happens to be the 75th anniversary of the Nazi pogrom and state-organised orgy of destruction and violence which became known as Kristallnacht. Of that I will have more to say shortly. Meanwhile, what better way to mark it than by the creative act of opening a bookshop! And just in time for folk to buy their Chanukah and Christmas presents!

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