The ARB and the Little Rebel Book Award

20 May

Continuing the spotlight on radical and inclusive books, we have a visit from Nik Gorecki, restorer of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers and creator of The Little Rebel Book Award? He is passionate, inspiring, and radical. He sees a gap and works to fill it. Read on and be inspired.

1. Firstly, could you tell me a little about you and Housmans bookshop/ARB?
My name is Nik Gorecki and I’m a co-manager at Housmans Bookshop. Housmans was established in 1945 and born of a vibrant peace movement, which had wide support in the aftermath of World War Two. Housmans is still committed to promoting peace movement ideas, but today also stocks titles from other radical political traditions.

The ARB was brought back to life after I found out about it’s previous incarnation, the Federation of Radical Booksellers, which fizzled out at some point in the 80s. It struck me that it would be a good time to start up a similar organisation.

Ambitions for the ARB were modest, but it was hoped that a natural momentum would take a hold, and before long activities under the ARB banner would start to take place. The most prominent of those so far had been the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing, and in addition to the prize this year we have held our first ARB organised radical bookfair. The bookfair gave us a platform from which to announce the winner of this years Bread and Roses award, and also this year the inaugural winner of the Little Rebel Children’s Book Award.

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Packed hall at the first ARB Radical Book Fair.

2. How was the Little Rebel Children’s Book Award born?
Working in a bookshop I’m aware of the new titles that are out there, but a big blind spot for me was what good progressive children’s books were being published. It was primarily of this frustration that the idea for the prize came about. Luckily within the ARB we have the Letterbox Library whose expertise has been invaluable in getting the award off the ground.

3. 69 books submitted by 20 publishers is a hugely positive and uplifting response. Where do you see the award going in the future?
The book prize exists solely to try and promote progressive children’s literature and radical publishing in general. As such the test will be how well we can get the message out about the shortlisted books. We’re off to a good start but there will always be more to do.

It would also be good to have a category for teen readers, who are currently missed out on by the two ARB prizes, but it’s important to take things a step at a time and grow at a capacity that we can manage. The ARB has no funding and all activities are organised by booksellers giving their time for free, so we mustn’t overstretch ourselves or burn out. Naturally, if anyone has any resources that might help us to do our work then please do get in touch.

4. What has been the best thing about the Little Rebel Award process?
It’s been genuinely inspiring to see the positive response the award has had from publishers and readers alike. I think there is a genuine need for the prize – it’s not just being done for the sake of it.

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Sarah Garland talking about her book Azzi, the winner of the first Little Rebel Book Award.

5. What is your great passion?
Music is probably my greatest passion. My reading is almost exclusively political non-fiction so books for me are tied up with politics and harsh realities, and so it’s important to have a place to go to keep inspired and positive. Music does that for me more than anything else. Desire for political/social change is less a passion than a necessity – being thirsty isn’t being passionate about water!

6. What book are you in love with right now?
I think the last book that really had a big impact on me was Mark Fisher’s ‘Capitalist Realism’. In particular it made me question how much I personally have come to assimilate the logic of capitalism, and how insidious that process is amongst us all.

7. What is your hope for the future of children’s books?
My impression is that parents are often very cautious about what kind of books they encourage their children to read, and the desire to give children idyllic happy childhoods might mean that parents err away from books that challenge their children’s assumptions. My hope is that we can play our part in supporting and encouraging the reading of those books that help get our children questioning the way the world is.

Hurrah to that, Nik! Thank you for sharing your passion with us.

Photos by Adam from http://www.ivereadthat.com/

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