Finsbury Park’s New Beacon Books set to begin new chapter this weekend

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

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

The UK’s first black bookshop will reopen on Saturday after undergoing a major makeover on the back of a crowdfunding campaign.

Volunteers have been helping get the shop ready.

Volunteers have been helping get the shop ready. - Credit: Archant

New Beacon Books in Stroud Green Road was set to close earlier this year, half a century after single-handedly creating a platform for African-Caribbean literature.

Sarah White, who founded the shop with her late husband John La Rose, had decided it was time to call it a day after it had fallen victim to the digital age. It hadn’t been touched since the 1980s, didn’t have a website, the systems were old and anyone wanting to access specialist literature was able to find whatever they wanted at the click of a button.

But John’s grandson Renaldo La Rose, and his wife Vanessa, decided to give it one last shot. And they were proved right when customers and strangers from around the world donated £11,248 to help pay for repairs.

The shop was closed for the whole of July while the inside was gutted and the outside redecorated, but will open its doors again this weekend.

“It’s a completely different shop,” Renaldo told the Gazette. “It’s much more modern, everything has changed inside and outside. We’ve had a lot of volunteers down here helping us too, which is really cool.”

The shop has also spent some of the money on creating a website for the firsts time, complete with online shop so it can compete with internet retailers.

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An official launch is penned in for Black History Month, in October, to allow teething problems to be ironed out.

Back in the early ’60s John, an activist who had come over from Trinidad, was running his own publishing house in the home he shared with Sarah in Finsbury Park.

They would sell books out of bin liners in the streets, but as demand grew they decided to take on the empty shop unit nearby.

As the only outlet for black literature, and one of the only places young black writers could get their work published, New Beacon soon became a catalyst for groups including the Caribbean Artist Movement and Black Parents Movement. Well-known Caribbean writers Mervyn Morris, Sir Wilson Harris, John Jacob Thomas and CLR James all had work published through New Beacon Books.

Check out the shop’s stock at

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