Year One.

There are many buildings we would like to see topple and fall over, but we would also like to think you share our view that Freedom is one worth keeping. To make sure that this happens, and the building at 84b Angel Alley remains a resource for all of the great anarchist groups to come, we’re afraid to say that it’s in need of some pretty serious repairs.

A survey carried out at the end of 2015 highlighted that emergency repairs are needed to the roof and walls that will total around £13,000 — more details can be found of this work on page 12. Our aim is to raise this figure by August 2017 so that the building works can take place next summer.

As of the beginning of October 2016, we’ve raised over £3,000 to get us started. And the fun doesn’t stop there — over the coming three years we will need a lot more money to treat dampness in the walls, insulate the building, install a boiler and look into making the whole place more accessible.

In the long term, costs could be between £40,000-50,000 to bring the building back to its best, including things like fixing up the lovely (but old-style) sash windows.
We would really like to take this opportunity to not only do the emergency repairs to keep it from falling apart, but to also push to make the space the best resource it can be for the wider London anarchist scene.

How can you help?

  • You can donate via cheque, made payable to “Freedom Press,” online via PayPal at http://www.paypal.me/fbuildingcollective (though they take a 3% slice of donations) or via direct bank transfer (call the shop for details).
  • Or if you have skills/time you would like to donate, drop us an email.
  • Come along to one of our monthly socials held in the bookshop on the second Friday of every month, 7-9pm.
  • If you are organising benefit gigs you could consider adding us to your list of beneficiaries.
  • And you can help advertise the building and the fact we need money via social media — or even in real life.
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2015: The Bug

In 2015 the Freedom Collective was treading water financially, dependent on book donations and in the longer run publishing new books of its own at low cost. This however marked an improving trend over previous years, as even before the death of former editor, proprietor and leading Collective figure Vernon Richards in 2001 a dependence on legacies from friends and fans of the press had made for an unsustainable long-term position.

In an effort to find its feet and move beyond mere subsistence, the Collective undertook a major re-organisation, splitting the finances so different parts of the operation were semi-independent, and aiming to be self-sufficient, while reporting back to the collective at the monthly meetings. It also, working with other groups within the building, set up the Building Users Group (Bug) to bring about a consensus-led approach to running things, as it was felt an “anarchist landlord” scenario would be against libertarian principles.

The Bug set its own rates at the April AGM, with groups coming to a consensus on reasonable payments bringing in all cash needed for utilities and business rates, plus some extra for contingencies and small works to be done. All groups at Freedom are non-profit, and all work on a shoestring budget, so each group gives what it can afford — essentially practicing a “from each according to their means” approach.

Late in the year, a survey commissioned by members of the Friends of Freedom, a “dormant company” which holds the building in trust for the Collective, found a number of works that needed to be done to secure the building in the long term, which has since provided the focus for the founding of the fundraising group which runs this website.

2013: Firebombs and new starts

On Friday February 1 2013, someone tried to burn Freedom down. Lifting up a shutter, they broke a window and poured a flammable liquid through before setting it on fire.

Although there were no injuries, hundreds of books were destroyed. Electrics were melted, the ceiling wrecked, the windows all but destroyed, shelving went up in smoke and firefighters arrived only minutes before the offices above would have caught fire, all but guaranteeing the destruction of the rest of the building. The Press archive, kept so historians could have an easily accessible resource, was singed and soaked and barely survived.

Freedom, which had run out of insurance only a week before, has been left with a bill running into the tens of thousands of pounds.

Theories abound as to who did it, with many blaming the far-right – the Press was attacked twice in the 1990s by grumpy skinheads – but with police taking away CCTV recordings and saying little since then supporters can do little more than speculate.

The real story isn’t the fire or the culprits, however, it’s the response.

The news broke on social networks at around midday. Within hours hundreds of people had pushed the news on and the phones of Freedom collective members began to ring off the hook. A callout for help was quickly prepared which also went viral and mainstream press sources began to pick up on the story, ensuring it would go well beyond anarchist circles.

The next day, Angel Alley filled with more people than it had ever seen before from across the left of the political spectrum. So many we could barely fit, hauling the books out, cleaning them, cleaning shelves, washing walls, sorting what could be saved, painting and getting in each others’ way. Then, each day afterwards, more people came to keep the work going. Collective members who knew what needed doing gave volunteers a steer and left everyone to organise themselves.

On Monday the bookshop reopened in a limited sort of way. By the following Friday it was repainted and the books had all been cleaned and sorted. And now a collection of skilled volunteers are going over what needs to be done to make the bookshop better than it was before.

Online, hundreds of solidarity messages came through from all over the world, alongside promises of donations, fundraising events and other gestures of support, including a book of poetry which has had over 350 submissions at the time of writing and two separate music albums from Scribbo and Iron Column Records.

In the end something like £13,000 was raised, allowing the Press not only to rebuild and re-open the bookshop on the ground floor but to fix up the windows, redo the electrics, and even keep the Freedom Press magazine in print throughout, though it sadly later closed as a regular paid-for publication in October 2014.