A Tacoma Anarchist Bookfair Reportback

submitted anonymously –

Tacoma’s first Anarchist Book Fair in more than a decade was a big success. A month of postering around Tacoma and boosting to social media and signal groups filled Tacoma’s new radical social space with an eager crowd on the evening of Friday, September 22. New friendships were forged and old relationships rekindled while slinging stacks of anarchist literature and slurping a variety of free soups.

Book Fair attendees perused a dozen tables from as far as Bellingham and Eugene. There were familiar faces from regional zine fests and book fairs like Detritus Books and Crimethinc as well as Tacoma-local artists, zinemakers, and radical groups. The event lasted three hours and while the vibe was a certainly lower-key than last-month’s Seattle fair, there was solid attendance right until the last minutes. Several tablers expressed that they appreciated the balance of a consistent flow of people while still remaining chill enough to facilitate meaningful conversations and relationship-building with those who stopped by their tables.

The Book Fair took place at the brand-new Hilltop Solidarity Center. This space opened in August on the initiative of a few local radicals, hoping to offer a home for cool local projects. The center’s relatively small indoor space features a kitchen and is complemented by a large outdoor section featuring both an open yard and a play area for kids. Folks from the Center graciously hosted the Book Fair free of charge, only asking for a little fundraising support day-of to help cover ongoing costs for the space. The Solidarity Center could absolutely use some love in making their project sustainable for the long-term; if you’re a Tacoma local looking to host events or just an anarchist privileged enough to have a bit of cash to burn, get in touch! The Center is hoping to build-up a Patreon to cover recurring costs and also takes one time donations through Paypal and Ko-Fi.

A small number of kids thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor play area that is a highlight of the Solidarity Center, accompanied by folks who graciously helped with childcare. Attendees and volunteers held several conversations about how things like childcare for events big and small enables broader accessibility and participation. Some parents in attendance had made arrangements to leave their kids elsewhere but now know they can bring them to future events at the space.

One feature common at Anarchist Book Fairs that was absent were workshops and presentations. Space limitations were certainly a factor, but it would be nice to figure out logistics enabling workshops at future Tacoma Book Fairs. There were nevertheless some neat impromptu skillshares, like the lovely lockpicking lessons.

We heard numerous comments by folks thrilled to have anarchist events in Tacoma and “not just Seattle” at tables, on socials, and hanging and conversing around the space. Seattle’s larger book fair was only a month ago and a 30-60 minute drive depending on traffic. But while the Tacoma fair may have been smaller, it still brought out many new faces who wouldn’t or couldn’t have made that trip. It also offered space for people from the Gritty City to find each other more easily than the crowded chaos of Seattle’s event.

We would like to put out a call for anarchist zine distros and book publishers in bigger cities to work proactively to facilitate these kinds of events in smaller cities and towns. Cultivate friendships outside the metropolitan cores of your region and offer to travel and help spread the word to other projects. Go a bit out of your way and make the trip to meet face-to-face when you hear about cool shows, mutual aid projects, or new spaces in other towns. This Tacoma fair came about when a Seattle-based distro heard about the new Solidarity Center and offered to do some logistics work and invite distros with a little help from some local Tacoma friends. After the event’s success local Tacoma anarchists were discussing how they could come together to put on more Book Fairs and other events in the future.

For organizers in smaller cities and towns, don’t be afraid to reach out and invite zine and book-makers to visit. The types of folks who distro anarchist art and literature are usually thrilled to receive an invite to travel; the worst response you’re likely to get to an email, signal message, or insta DM is that they already have a commitment that day. Take your local punk house show to the next level by featuring a mini-zine fair, or let the insurrectionary queer distro from the nearest big-city know you’d love to support them rogue-tabling near your small-town Pride festival. The possibilities are endless, and many folks are often extremely psyched to stumble on zines and anarchist books in towns where an infoshop or anarchist book store isn’t readily accessible.

For the continuing regional proliferation of anarchy!