Thursday, May 03, 2007
Exile Infoshop opens on Bank Street to offer alternative media, resources
Garrett Zehr, Ottawa Citizen Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2007
You won’t get any Starbucks coffee at Exile Info-shop, Ottawa’s first anarchist bookstore. And don’t try to pay with your capitalist credit cards, either.
Chapters, this is not.
The new Ottawa bookstore opened this week to “provide access to alternative media and resources.”The opening of the bookstore and community space, at Bank and Cooper streets, was set to mark international May Day, an occasion long celebrated by anarchist and socialist movements.
Exile Infoshop will sell alternative and anarchist independent books and other merchandise that would not be found in a more typical bookstore.
But Jeff Monaghan, a member of the group’s organizing collective, said the project is much more than just another bookstore.
“This is a community space,” he said. “Infoshops are part of a much larger social movement, putting complex theories of social equality into practice and identifying with related movements and struggles demanding freedom and dignity.”
The shop will be kept open by volunteers and the money raised from the sale of merchandise will go toward operating costs. Currently, the shop is selling books, zines, clothing and vegan snacks.
People are also invited to just drop by and read a book or engage in discussion with other members. A key goal of the Infoshop is to create a space for critical thought and dialogue.
“We base ourselves on anarchist principles,” said Pascale Arpin, a member of the collective. These include such things as anti-oppression, equality, community building and worker control, she said.
“Considering that Ottawa is the country’s political capital, it is surprising that there was never been a space so overtly dedicated to fostering dissent,” a statement from the group said. Decisions about the shop are made by the eight-member collective, based on a model of non-hierarchy where every member has an equal say.
Members of the collective contributed their own funds to open the space and also received a grant from a private American citizen to contribute to the lease and the purchase of merchandise.
The collective has been planning and brainstorming over the past seven months in preparation for the opening. The idea came from similar organizations, which can be found in many European and North American cities.
In a statement, the group said that the goal is “to provide community members with access to alternative media and resources, to provide a base and meeting space for anti-poverty and social justice organizations, and to support mutual aid and the growth of grassroots community organizing.”
The collective hopes that this location will provide the much-needed space for Ottawa’s advocate and anarchist groups to meet.
“Before, there was no physical space,” said Ms. Arpin.
The resource and lounge area were quite busy at Tuesday’s opening, as volunteers welcomed people to the lounge and bookstore.
“It’s a comfortable space — very warm and happy,” said Zander MacDonald, a first-year humanities student at Carleton University who had heard about the opening from a friend.
He was quite impressed by the books that were available and said he is considering volunteering with the organization next year.
“I’m always interested in the fringe,” he said.
Exile Infoshop will host regular events to try to attract a broader interest. Examples include a recent meeting of the Ottawa Panhandlers’ Union and an upcoming radical discussion of climate change.
Ms. Arpin said the group hopes to continue building financial and volunteer support from the community and increase awareness about its resources and principles.
Collective member Sarah Armstrong summed up what she hopes to accomplish through the shop: “We shouldn’t just rock the boat — we have to sink the f-----!”
Exile Infoshop will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. It is located on the second floor at 256 Bank St.
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