Independent bookshops are special places, especially when they are home for the stories of communities and people who have been intentionally ignored. We started Back To Books in May 2019 when Alexia couldn't find an independent bookshop listed in her new home city, a stark contrast from London. We are now part of a small but growing community of indie bookshops in England's second largest city.
Back To Books sells a range of books, zines, colouring books, puzzles, Pride flags and badges with a focus on queer, feminist, Black, Brown, liberatory and disabled writing as intersectionally as possible. We support independent publishers, presses and zine makers and Birmingham writing.
Our work is rooted in care, community and collectivism. Alexia is our founder and Chief Bookmonger who runs our digital and physical spaces, organises events & pop ups and curates the 3-monthly book subscription. Cass is our collaborator and Chief Creator who designs & draws our spaces and brings our Zine Fests to life.
We work intersectionally and intentionally with a model that centres our disabilities, caring responsibilities, health and practice of anti-oppressive, anti-capitalist living.
What do we we offer alongside our Digbeth bookspace?
- recycling preloved books in return for £1 voucher with us
- monthly queer book club
- books gifted in solidarity eg to community organisers, trans people in prison, people with little access to £ resources for books
- digital information, awareness and organising on rights and justice issues, a form of community noticeboard
- free menstrual care and condoms
- community organising eg Reclaim The Night, Birmingham Trans Pride
- bookshop pop up at community events
- a physical platform for local zine makers and poets
Why are we asking for financial support?
Three years on we have grown from a single box of books ordered monthly for Stirchley Community Market to a thriving bookspace at Red Brick Market in Digbeth. This location is brilliant for its centrality and connection with organisations across Birmingham and the West Midlands, and we want to maintain our presence here. However, since March 2022, income has dropped due to the economic crisis we are living through. This has directly impacted our ability to make a small income from this work (£100 per month each) and we want to ensure we are paid for our work, and can increase the capacity of Back To Books. We have big ideas!
We have considered applying for funding but it is energetically costly, involves selling a product to a funder (no matter how liberatory funders position themselves as being) and being beholden to a third party outside of our community. This doesn't feel right to us, and we also don't want to change our structure to a Community Interest Company or a charity. We are happy being a company that makes no profit and has no accountability other than what we create around ourselves.
In the present economic climate, we can make sufficient income to pay RBM's rent and continue to buy stock, however we cannot make income to pay ourselves which is increasingly unsustainable. We have been donated funds to pay for an office for 12 months, which is a huge help to our future plans and capacity to work.
Why support us?
We know our bookspace is loved and appreciated, and that how we work makes people feel seen and supported. With 6 months of secure salary and funds to grow our work, Alexia and Cass can invest in making our bookspace a longer-term part of Birmingham's landscape. Without additional funding, we will need to find other ways to make our monthly wage and may have to close our bookshop.
We are rich in ideas and really want to expand our team and pay other people to co-host events and develop projects with us, building from where our own resources (and two small grants) have taken us so far. A Birmingham queer book festival, larger bookspace, more gifted reads, a radical lending library... With enough money to support ourselves and resource our community, who knows?!
What will this money pay for:
- Salary for Alexia and Cass at £100/ day for 20 weeks, part time basis = £8,000
- £20 gifted books/ month for a year = £240
- £300 towards driving lessons so we can be mobile!
- Payment for community facilitators at £50/ session for 15 sessions = £750
- Peer learning at bookshops/ spaces around the UK = £250
- 12 months accounting software = £220
- Basic website presence = £240
"We value Back To Books Brum for their unwavering commitment to making the stories and voices of marginalised groups accessible to all, especially to those who might not otherwise be able to access them.
They are an invaluable resource to Birmingham's communities, and are incredibly generous with their resources and time. So please, if we can, let's be generous back as they deserve wages for their work and more!"
The GAP Arts Project, youth arts organisation and cultural space
“I have nothing but respect for Alexia and co at Back to Books. They have supported my debut children's picture book, Birmingham Boy, from the beginning and I love that they provide community space and engagement. They care about their customers and their suppliers and they encourage and support local writers and creatives. Back to Books is a truly invaluable space for Birmingham residents and I really hope to see it continue to grow organically and in line with the needs of its users.”
Kate Rafiq, author, illustrator and publisher at Dune Books
“Hello! Just wanted to send over a big thank you for all the Brum content you share ❤️ I went along to the anti-raids meeting you shared a bit back and we’re in the midst of setting up local groups now!”
“This is random but you have the best account ever. The most well rounded bookshop I have had the pleasure of coming across (and 1 of my favs, love your selection at Redbrick) I hope to encompass what you do in your work within mine and spread it to others in my day to day :)”