Freedom Books, Britain's biggest Anarchist bookshop, was the victim of an arson attack at the end of January, causing damage to stock and fittings in the shop, in Whitechapel.
Fundraising events in solidarity with Freedom immediately began springing up around the country, including a mass clear-up of the damage. So when some like-minded individuals gathered at the Now or Never! Drinking Club, we decided it was time to do some fund raising of our own to help out. Some bright spark suggested a sponsored bike ride and, opposition being too disorganised to resist, the decision was taken.
Despite a poster campaign in the shady shops and back-street opium dens frequented by the ne'erdowells of Norwich, it was a very small, but highly motivated band who assembled on the edge of the City at dawn on 16th March. Are there any reading this who had thought to join us, but took one look at the weather & thought, 'You must be joking'? Well, the thought crossed our minds too as we set off on the 40 mile route in the teeth of a gale force easterly, straight off the North Sea. However, to quote from Winstanley again, “... action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing”. So think on...
The route took us along the back lanes that edge the Yare marshes, through the expanses of flat mud which constitute the Norfolk pastoral scene in winter. Pretty villages flashed by and the miles were eaten up as we kept up a happy stream of banter and took turns sheltering in each other's slipstream. At Reedham, we crossed the famous chain ferry and reached the half-way point, The Lord Nelson. Always publicity hungry, I prevailed upon a local rustic to take a group photo, but in all the excitement he either failed to operate the new-fangled device or I had an extra-strong 'Luddite moment' when setting it up, but either way, no visual record has survived. There followed a 4-hour break in the pub, involving heavy theoretical analysis of the future direction of the Movement, and resulting in food poisoning from the pub coleslaw.
The return journey, the wind being in our favour, was effortless apart from a visit from the puncture goblin and, our work concluded, we were back in time for tea.
If turn out for the ride was, er, limited, the generosity of sponsors was remarkable. Thanks to all. Between us we raised £660 through direct and online sponsorship, and have now presented Freedom Press with the time-honoured mattress-sized cheque so beloved of local newspapers.
The week after the ride I visited Freedom, and reconstruction was going well, with the bookshop functioning on the 2nd floor, and work in the offices unaffected. Without doubt, when work in finished it will be much improved. To hear about the fire must've been a bit of a shock to many, but hateful and misguided attacks such as this should not come as a surprise to us. And even in the 'liberal' environment of this bourgeois 'democracy', it remind us that, though we be few, we and our ideas still represent... a threat.
- Whisky Sour