Finsbury Park: First Black bookshop New Beacon Books to close

Renaldo and Vanessa La Rose at New Beacon Books before it was gutted. Picture: Polly Hancock

Happier times: Renaldo and Vanessa La Rose at New Beacon Books - Credit: Archant

New Beacon Books, the UK’s first specialist Black bookshop, is set to close on Stroud Green Road after 55 years due to financial problems. 

The Finsbury Park-based independent retailer, which opened in 1966, has blamed financial pressures and the coronavirus adding to online competition. 

Shop director Michael La Rose, the son of founder John, confirmed this week New Beacon Books will continue as a website. Its publishing arm will also be scaled down.

“Unlike Amazon, Alibris and other online suppliers,” a statement read, “New Beacon has been at the heart of communities, building social movements and giving expression to young voices. 

“It remains a huge part of the history of the adaptation of British society to its historical and post-war Black presence.”

The statement added: “New Beacon Books is the only remaining independent Black publishing and bookselling entity in the UK. 

“Throughout its 55 years, it has been pivotal to the growth of the Black Education Movement, the Black Supplementary School Movement and current calls for the decolonisation of the curriculum.”

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The news of the closure has sparked dismay online.

Hornsey MP Catherine West tweeted: “Such sad news and a real loss to Finsbury Park.  @newbeaconbooks has been such an important bookshop pioneering black authors for over 50 years.”

Actress Adjoa Andoh tweeted: “I am so sad about this wonderful bookshop and the haven of cultural solidarity and information it provided to the black and extended communities for over half a century.”

Throughout lockdown the shop has seen a ‘marked decrease in footfall’.

The statement said that New Beacon must do more than ‘just sell books’ to continue, suggesting public education programmes, book launches and lectures could be held under their brand. 

It added: “The publishing arm of New Beacon Books has been scaled down considerably.

“But there are increasing calls for New Beacon Publications to commission and publish work by young creatives and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and for introducing new and old work to new audiences.

“For New Beacon Books to do this, it must be able to make full use of its existing space, and if necessary, relocate to premises that will allow for the expansion of its publishing and public affairs programmes as well as for bookselling.”