This month we’ve ventured to Haggerston to visit Burley Fisher Books, an independent bookshop on Kingsland Road, focusing on small press books. Relatively new – it opened in February 2016, Burley Fisher has gained an increasingly popular following. More recently, it launched a successful kickstarter campaign to renovate the downstairs space into a basement, where we hear, very exciting book-ish things happen. Spread the Word’s Aliya Gulamani spoke to Sam Fisher to find out more…
Aliya Gulamani: It’s quite interesting reading how Burley Fisher came about – the people behind Camden Lock Books decided to open the shop just over a year ago. Was this a risky decision to take given how difficult it can be for independent bookshops these days?
Sam Fisher: I was very fortunate to have the benefit of Jason’s experience – he has been bookselling in London for almost 40 years, so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. It does also feel like, after a difficult few years, things are on the up for independent bookshops. Two other shops opened in London within 6 months of us!
Aliya: What was the initial reaction to the opening of the shop and how is Burley Fisher a part of the local community?
Sam: The local community have been incredibly supportive. There is no way we would have been able to make a success of the shop without regular custom from the local residents.
Aliya: You led a very successful Kickstarter campaign last year – congratulations! What inspired the campaign and what seems to be the impact of this so far?
Sam: Our events programme plays a far larger role than we initially imagined, so we needed to expand into the basement to make full use of the space. Having a bar in the basement (and screen and projector) has allowed us to expand our events programme and bring a even more diverse crowd to the shop, so it has had a massive impact!
Aliya: Looking at your (very snazzy) instragram, you’ve had some quite exciting events in the basement – can you give us a teaser of what’s coming up over the next few months?
Sam: We’ve just started a monthly poetry event with the literary journal The White Review, which we are very excited about – on the first Friday of each month. I’m also particularly looking forward to the launch of Go Home!, an anthology of stories, essays, and poems, all of which are explorations of the idea of home, edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. That event is on the 12th of April. But we have loads of interesting things coming up, all listed on our website.
Aliya: Speaking of which – March is Women’s History Month (hurrah!), are you celebrating it in any way?
Sam: We don’t have any events programmed specifically for Women’s History Month, but we will be taking part in Feminist Book Fortnight in June, when we’ll be holding a night in celebration of feminist writer Audre Lorde, alongside feminist publisher Silver Press.
Aliya: Burley Fisher explicitly states that it focuses on small press books, what are your current bestsellers and which books do you recommend the most?
Sam: The Stone Tide by Gareth E. Rees, published by Influx Press: a bonkers novel about Hastings and Infinite Gradation by Anne Michaels, published by House Sparrow Press, an incredibly moving essay on loss and the consolations of art.
Aliya: And finally, can you share an interesting feature or lesser known fact about the shop?
Sam: Three of us who work together here, also just started a publisher! We’re publishing 5 books this year, four pocket essays and a collection of short stories by David Wojnarowicz. Follow us on twitter for updates…
Published 22 March 2018