ßA Political Legacy – Global Cultural Impact: The 40th Anniversary of The First International Bookfair of Radical Black and Third World Books

The 16th annual Huntley conference –took place on  23 April 2022 

In partnership with Black Cultural Archives, Darcus Howe Legacy Group and the George Padmore Institute, the Huntley Archives at London Metropolitan Archives took the 40th anniversary of International Bookfair of Radical Black and Third World Books as the key focus for the 16th annual Huntley conference.

This year, our conference, was both an exploration and analysis of one of the most incredible legacies and initiatives by the international Black community By sharing first-person stories, lived experiences, then and now, the conference reviewed the momentous achievements of the Bookfairs against the backdrop of radical Black Movements, then and now, the 2022 conference offered intergenerational audiences time to revisit, explore and affirm Black freedom struggles in historical and contemporary contexts of creativity, publishing, and social community activism. With rare Archival footage and films, participants included, Margaret Busby CBE, Michael La Rose, Professors Abdul Alkalimat Gus John, Kadija George, Michael McMillan hosted by Juliet Alexander and Beverley Mason.

Jointly founded by New Beacon Books, Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications and Race Today Publications, it’s 40 years since the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books took place (March-April 1982). The Bookfair’s ambition reflected an alliance of cultural production and radical political thinking, addressing the racist and fascist oppression of post-war Britain, showcasing the wealth and rise of Black consciousness, power and identity. To quote its original manifesto:

“A meeting of the continents for writers, publishers, distributors, booksellers, artists, musicians, film makers, and the people who inspire and consume their creative productions.”

Through a series of intergenerational conversations and provocations, the Huntley conference pulls into focus the solidarities among pan-African, international and radical politically Black movements of the 1970s and 1980s.

C.L.R. James opened the inaugural Bookfair, with Jessica Huntley (Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications) John La Rose (New Beacon Books) serving as co-directors, collaborating closely with the Race Today Collective and several key community groups. 

The Bookfairs became symbolic of the artistic and cultural responses in defiance of the numerous harsh and notorious events against Black people. In the UK alone mass protests and resistance against institutional racism had erupted in the year prior to 1982 – New Cross Fire, The People’s Day of Action, The Uprisings across the country.

So much than a series of events – the Bookfairs was a vibrant multi-dimensional festival – a global platform for creative production, new writers, books, spoken word, films, theatre and forums that spoke to the desires and ambitions for innovation and political independence, responding to the cultural ideologies of the politically Black communities. With grassroots and ideological political theories at the axes, the Bookfairs were educational platforms for future generations sharing radical ideas about nationhood, deferent cultural perspectives and voice.

The running of the Bookfairs was taken over largely by New Beacon and Race Today Collective from 1986.

The International Bookfairs ran for 12 years from 1982-1995,  and spoke volumes to generations of migrant and Black communities, in the UK and across the Diasporas, who were fuelled by the desire to overcome oppressive and unfair practices, to arise out of a harsh and prevailing wave of police brutality, violence and social injustices.


14:00  Introduction Beverley Mason, Juliet Alexander
14:30  Celebrating political and cultural activists: Jessica Huntley & John La Rose – Reflections and Memories
In conversation: Margaret Busby and Michael La Rose with Juliet Alexander
15:30  Roundtable: “Shaping Radical Stories: Black Creativity – Is the Medium the Message?”  Chaired by Dr Kadija Sesay with Dr Michael McMillan
16:40  Panel: “Radical Black Bookfairs – a Global analysis: Lessons and Legacies “
Chair: Juliet Alexander with Professor Gus John, Professor Abdul Alkalimat, Stella Dadzie
18:00  Cultural close. Storytelling – Music & Celebration