Foo Fest 2013: Anarchist Book Fair

| An Interview with Kristina Brown of the Anarchist Book Fair |

What is an Anarchist Book Fair?

Anarchist Book Fairs are organized to bring together different groups and individuals working autonomously to spread information about anarchism or anti-authoritarian action and organizing.  This can refer to infoshops, booksellers, book publishers, and independent publishers like zine makers, anarchist and anti-authoritarian magazines. Anarchist Book Fairs also include local and global organizations working on social issues, towards social justice, in collective or cooperative, grassroots ways.  As anarchists, or anti-authoritarians, the main objective of organizing book fairs is to promote and support individual voices, the voices and struggles that are largely unheard, and the voices of the oppressed and marginal, as well as to bring together many different groups and showcase many different approaches of working on our own terms to change the condition of our daily lives.  Book Fairs celebrate an atmosphere of spreading information, of sharing experiences, and making connections with individuals and groups who are working on similar struggles or in similar ways.

What characterizes Providence’s Anarchist Book Fair, setting it apart from the ones in nearby cities like New York and Boston?

A distinguishing feature of Providence’s Anarchist Book Fair is that it is part of Foo Fest. Most Anarchist Book Fairs are held in colleges or convention halls where those attending are there specifically for the Book Fair, meaning attendees already either identify as anarchists/anti-authoritarians or are curious about those politics. I would argue that a larger cross section of the community attends Foo Fest, so at the Providence Fair we get to talk to people who may have never talked to anyone about anarchism or anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist politics; about books and projects and ideas that may inspire them to start their own collective or write their own zine, get involved with a local organization working towards social change, connect what they are working on to a larger movement, etc.

This is the Fair’s eighth year in Providence. What is its history here, including its relationship with AS220 and Foo Fest?

Bert Crenca and AS220 have always supported marginal voices and freedom of expression, valuing the stories and art of individuals regardless of their larger institutional affiliations. So hosting the Anarchist Book Fair was a natural fit. Various individuals have organized the Book Fair in the past, some of whom were a part of the local anarchist collective Love & Resistance, and some who did it on their own. The last two years Libertalia Autonomous Space, an anarchist collective of which I was a founding member, had taken on the organizing of it.  Two of our original members had organized the Book Fair the two years prior to the formation of Libertalia, and they passed on their contact lists, which had been passed to them in a similar fashion. Libertalia was closed last February, and the collective has dissolved, although several of the members are still organizing various projects and community actions, and still hoping to find a new space to continue sharing information and building a stronger anti-authoritarian community in Providence.

What kinds of people, publications, and activities can Foo Fest goers expect to find at the Book Fair?

This year we are excited to welcome back AK Press and PM Press, two staple publishers and booksellers of anarchist and radical left material, as well as our own, local, independent booksellers Symposium Books and Ada Books.  The Beehive Collective, a collective of artists who work on collaborative illustrations to support grassroots campaigns, will be here again with their amazing artwork and posters. We will also have our Worcester neighbors present with Collective a GoGo and the Starship X Collective, bringing books, zines, art and information about sustainable projects they’ve been working on.  PrYSM, the Providence Youth Student Movement, will be tabling with information on the very important work they are doing to fight for equality and social justice, including their campaign to end racial profiling. The local chapter of the Libertarian Communist Federation, Common Struggle, will be on hand as usual, with information on revolutionary movements from different struggles around the world.  And we will have a bunch of local zine and comic makers, poster makers and self-published poets.

How does the Fair’s vision complement (or not) the spirit of Foo Fest and AS220 in general?

AS220 started out as a community arts space, with a stubborn insistence on the validity of the creative expression of individuals. It was a space created by local artists and visionaries to fulfill the need to share work made by the unknown, the outsider, as an alternative to the exclusion of institutionalized art spaces. The anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement is of the same spirit: it is a movement of individual voices, of the people, building common ground to aid each other in various social struggles and autonomous initiatives.  The Book Fair is a way of making stories and struggles accessible through print media, as well as a designated arena for dialogue and networking.  The atmosphere of Foo Fest can be both complementary and disruptive in that it offers a greater level of exposure to a crowd that is not necessarily there to discuss radical ideas but the party atmosphere, as the day goes on, can make it difficult to have the longer discussions and workshops that are usually a big part of anarchist book fairs.

What do you hope people will learn or experience if they visit this year’s Fair?

I guess the thing that I love the most about Anarchist Book Fairs in general is discovering something that I hadn’t heard about before. So my hope is that people take the time to look around, take some information and buy some books or zines or posters, and find inspiration in the efforts of people, locally and globally, working towards change.

RSVP on Facebook here, and be sure to check out  all the awesome independent booksellers, poets, and zine makers sharing their wares and their vision at FOO 2013!