In this third instalment of Repeater’s short guide to radical independent bookshops, we spoke to Jonny (he/him), Bookshop Coordinator at October Books in Southampton.
What is the mission of October Books? Do you have a particular set of values?
The mission of October Books is to provide an example of how things can be done differently. Our history as a radical bookshop goes back over 40 years, and we’re proud to be able to maintain the spirit of radicalism and left-wing politics in the way that we operate our business. We provide a welcoming and egalitarian space for our customers and wider community, where – we hope – anyone who comes in, for whatever reason, can find themselves represented.
Do you specialise in specific genres or titles?
In keeping with both our history as a shop, and our ethos of inclusivity, around 50% of our titles are dedicated to LGBTQIA+ titles, anti-imperialism, racial equality, social justice, and environmentalism. These issues are at the very heart of everything we do, from our Classics to our Children’s and Contemporary Poetry sections.
Do you run events and, if so, what do you have lined up?
We run events on a weekly basis! In the coming weeks we have some exciting things happening, beginning with a launch for a local author’s new novel. We will also be running a Climate Change Emergency discussion group ahead of COP26, and, as it is Black History Month, events focused on the Black History of Southampton, as well as a second discussion group on ‘Interrupting White Supremacy’.
You have a community space that is available to hire. What is this most commonly used for? Do you encourage book-related events?
Our community space is used to host a wide range of groups, events, and activities. It is used by many community groups in Southampton, from the Radical Reading Group, to the Highfield Residents Association. However, it is also where we host many of our events (Covid-19 permitting, of course!), as well as a Vegan café, and local art exhibitions. However, as the space develops we intend to create a more direct link between the content of the shop and what we offer in terms of cultural events – very exciting things happening!
You run as a co-operative. What does this mean, and what are the pros and cons?
Running as a co-operative means our connections with the community around us are absolutely imperative. This means that we have no one owner; decision-making power isn’t concentrated in any one person’s hands. We share responsibility and make decisions collectively. This collective sensibility doesn’t end with our shop workers. We have a large number of members and volunteers who have supported us in many different ways – financially, emotionally, and even physically. Our community helped us buy a building and formed a human chain to move our stock from one location to another. Another major benefit of running our business in this way is that we have access to funding and financial support at various times in the year. This means that we can continue this reciprocal supportive relationship with the community.
The foods and products that you sell are ethical and sustainable. Do you/how do you implement this eco-friendly policy in the ordering and selling of your books?
We tend to order books in small batches of 2-3 at a time, as opposed to the method used by some of the larger chains of ordering sometimes hundreds of the same title. We do this to combat wastage and overproduction, as many unsold books either go to landfill or are pulped. We are currently working with one of the local universities on how to calculate the carbon footprint of our book-buying, with a view to making this as environmentally sustainable as we can. We also have a policy of avoiding ordering from companies whose track-record is not focused on carbon neutrality or reduction, such as Amazon.
How would you summarize October Books and its work in 3 words?
Radical, independent, and local!
You can find out more about October Books by clicking here.
Interview by Immy Higgins.
Featured image credit: October Books