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Date Mon, 12 Nov 2007 18:17:14 +0200

Sean Boomer sounds a bit like a proud father when he talks about how much the Edmonton Anarchist Bookfair has grown over the years. ---- “It’s actually becoming something that is more than just a small affair for local anarchists,” he says. “I think it’s becoming a landmark on the Edmonton cultural map and also, in terms of anarchism across North America, ours is one of the major bookfairs that takes place each year.” --- As strange as that might seem in conservative, booming Alberta, the weekend-long festival dedicated to exploring and building alternatives to capitalism and the state has found a niche in the city, and is not just surviving, but expanding.

Now in its fifth year, the bookfair, which is organized and run on a shoe-string budget completely by volunteers like Boomer, is attracting more than 1000 people over the course of the weekend, a surge in popularity which has necessitated a change in venue from its traditional home on the south side to the larger Alberta Avenue Community Centre.

The move, says Boomer, is not simply to make more room for the numerous booksellers coming from across North America, it’s also an attempt to continue to extend the reach of the event.

“I think one of the things we’ve been trying to do for a number of years is kind of branch out from the area around campus and engage the broader population of Edmonton,” Boomer explains.

That desire to reach out and engage people beyond the traditional core of committed anarchists and like-minded activists has also meant an expansion of the bookfair’s programme to include a greater focus on the cultural and artistic aspects of anarchism.
Norman Nawrocki, an anarchist musician, actor, author and sex advocate from Montréal who is making his first appearance at the Edmonton bookfair, says this connection between art and anarchist politics is a continuation of a long history.

You go back to the 19th Century when anarchists would work together closely with artists, cabaret artists, musicians, painters, playwrights, there was always an ongoing nurturing relationship,” Nawrocki explains. “Anarchism is all about freedom, and for any artist, any writer, any painter, any creative person, freedom is the bottom line for what people need in order to create and to do works of art.”

Nawrocki is kicking off the 2007 bookfair on Oct 25 at 8 pm at the Jekyll & Hyde Pub (10610 - 100 Ave) with a comedy cabaret presentation of Lessons from a 7 Foot Penis, based on his 14 years of touring North America giving workshops on positive attitudes and approaches to sex.

While a show about healthy sexual relationships may seem like a departure from common conceptions of anarchism, Nawrocki thinks there’s a natural connection between the two.

“It’s because we as anarchists value the important, wonderful, beautiful things in life and on the planet, that’s what we cherish. And sex is just one of the beautiful aspects of that,” he says.

Nawrocki is also launching his latest book of poetry and spoken word pieces, Breakfast for Anarchists, at the bookfair, which he laughingly calls the “most important literary event in Edmonton,” pausing before adding the qualifier, “that I can attend.”

Nawrocki argues that events such as this are a critical way for lesser-known writers like him, who are unlikely to be carried by chain bookstores, to introduce their work to people who are likely to be receptive.

“The bookfair attracts the curious,” he says. “It attracts people looking for new ideas, people who are looking for new perspectives on culture and society. My book is the kind of reading that those people would appreciate. They go to the bookfair looking for work like mine, which is hard to find elsewhere, is new and speaks to current issues.”
The goal of connecting curious readers with books and writers they may not be able to find anywhere else remains at the heart of the Edmonton Anarchist Bookfair.
As the largest and longest-running bookfair in western Canada, the event now attracts independent and underground publishers and booksellers from across the prairies and as far away as California, Halifax and Victoria.

Peter Garden, who owns and runs Turning the Tide, an independent bookstore in Saskatoon, has made it to every installment of the Edmonton bookfair, which he says has become an important event to which people from across Canada come to connect and share ideas.

“You always meet interesting people who are bringing something different from different communities.” he says. “It’s kind of a once-a-year chance to meet up with those folks and check in and see what people have been up to in the past year, what have been some of the victories they’ve won and some of the things they’ve learned.”As in previous years, the bookfair proper and accompanying daytime workshops are free of charge and organizers are once again offering free vegan meals and free childcare.

A full schedule of events and more information on venues is available at edmontonanarchistbookfair.blogspot.com. V
Events: Thu, Oct 25 - Sun, Oct 28
Bookfair: Sat, Oct 27 (11 am - 7 pm),
Sun, Oct 28 (Noon - 5 pm)
Edmonton Anarchist Bookfair
Alberta Avenue Community Centre
(9210 - 118 Ave) and various locations
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