Five Leaves Bookshop - in full bloom!
For Independent Bookshop Week we've teamed up with 5 of our favourite independent radical booksellers, which we will be profiling on our blog all week. We've also given them Verso Books filled tote bags for you to pick up in their shops on the Independent Bookshop Crawl on Saturday 27th June. See here for more details on how you can get your hands on one!
Today’s radical independent bookshop is… Five Leaves Bookshop
14a Long Row West, Nottingham NG1 2DH
If there was any doubt that Five Leaves is a radical bookshop it was dispelled the day after the General Election when a stream of Labour voters, Greens and assorted lefties drifted into the shop seeking comfort after the storm. Five Leaves found themselves providing an open therapy group for the forlorn (as they were themselves). They printed up some badges – Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Labour/Green/I’m an Anarchist, as well as a set carrying the Joe Hill slogan, Don’t Mourn, Organise…
Five Leaves Publications was set up in 1996 and since then has published around 200 literary, political, social history and other titles. In October 2013 they secured a lease on Nottinham’s 14a Long Row, and in November they opened a bookshop with a stock much wider than that which they publish, but with a strong emphasis on independent publishing.
Five Leaves make sure that there is enough choice for anyone coming into the shop, regardless of their views. They have one very regular customer, for example, who only buys books on Buddhism. Others head straight for their cityscape and landscape sections and quite a few other regulars never get further than poetry. From beat writers to Travellers/Roma, Anarchism to Jewish interest (their best selling magazine is Jewish Socialist!) and Transgender to Black History, customers are guaranteed to find something that will interest them. They also have some terrific greetings cards and postcards and, leading up to Christmas, a range of diaries, calendars and tea-towels! Some of their Christmas cards are exclusively designed for Five Leaves by Posy Simmonds. The bookshop also stocks a small amount of fairtrade goods including oil and olives from Palestine and Zapatista coffee from Mexico.
Five Leaves Bookshop works with dozens of local community groups including trade unions, the Quakers, Nottingham Irish Studies Group, Nottingham Women’s History and various departments at our two local universities. They run an events programme with at least one meeting in the shop every week. Their own mini-Festival, Bread and Roses, attracted 850 people in its first outing, with packed events for Owen Jones, Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) and cult-writer Iain Sinclair. Bread and Roses is probably the only book festival funded by trade unions.
If there was ever a time when independent bookshops simply waited for customers to show up Five Leaves feel that is long gone. They work hard to involve and be involved with as many groups in the city as we can. And not just in the city – from its previous publishing base and now from the bookshop they work with the Leicester Centre for Creative Writing to run the annual States of Independence celebration of independent publishing. Five Leaves also set up the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing and, with Housmans Bookshop in London, initiated the London Radical Bookfair.
City centre rents make it difficult for any small businesses to survive. Fortunately Nottingham has many alleyways and cut-throughs which provide spaces for “destination” shops, and Five Leaves could not be more central. They are one minute from the city’s main square and City Council offices and happily occupy an alleyway next to a bookie! Go and visit them if you haven’t already!
You can visit them online here, and if you pop into Five Leaves on Saturday 27th you can pick up your own VERSO TOTE BAG filled with VERSO GOODIES! (whilst stocks last. More info here)