by Robert Laurie
LAST FRIDAY saw Housmans, the radical bookshop based near London’s King’s Cross station, celebrate 60 years of business. Pacifists founded it in 1945 and named it after Laurence Housman, the author and illustrator who was the brother of the poet A E Housman.
The shop has seen many ups and downs over the years, but with the King’s Cross area being redeveloped the future is bright once the London terminus for the Channel Tunnel brings more customers.
While the shop is still run by pacifists the stock is by no means exclusively pacifist. It gives shelf space to many left-wing publications from home and abroad including The New Worker, Sinn Fein’s Republican News and Revolutionary Democracy from India to name but three not devoted to the cause of non-violent struggle. The latest Harry Potter can also be picked up.
The shop has a strong stationery business, which in the past has enabled it to survive some difficult times. Special Branch officers anxious to keep up with the doings of left are rumoured to be among its customers.
Speakers at the anniversary party included Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP, who recalled that her interest in politics was awakened by the journals sold in Housmans. Brian Mister who was active in the Peace Pledge Union before the Second World War recalled the early days of the shop. The main speaker was however Walter Wolfgang, whose ejection from the Labour Party Conference hit the headlines.
He condemned the Government’s plans for a new generation of Trident missiles and looked forward to future successes for the peace movement.
The occasion also saw the launch of the Housmans Peace Diary for 2006, a publication which has been coming out for over 50 years. This year’s edition can be obtained from The New Worker office for £7.95 plus 50p P&P. Apart from being a diary it is an essential tool for all peace activists as it contains contact details of over two thousand organisations across the globe active in the cause of peace.