After a two-year hiatus, the Mid-Atlantic Radical Book Fair returns this weekend, thanks to the efforts of the Red Emma's collective and activists from around the region.
The four-day festivities start tonight with a spoken-word performance by Jello Biafra (formerly of the Dead Kennedys) at Sonar and continue tomorrow with three days of free workshops and discussions at Center Stage and the Contemporary Museum. This year's fair will have a wider range of radical and independent publishers, booksellers and small-budget presses, said Kate Khatib, a member of the organizational committee.
"It's kind of a huge undertaking," Khatib said. "This year's book fair is a little bit more ambitious than the book fairs in the past have been."
Originally called the Mid-Atlantic Anarchist Book Fair, it started in 2001 and ran for three years, most recently at the Johns Hopkins University in 2003. Organizers decided the fair's former name was slightly limiting, and wanted the new name to appeal to a broader audience.
"It's limiting to give it a very specific name," said John Duda, also a member of the organizational committee. "We also think the public perception of it is often somewhat disaligned with the reality. When people hear anarchist ... it's a name that will scare people away."
Though it is dubbed a book fair, the event includes presenters who use communication outside the written word to share information. You can expect to see graphic designers, oral historians and others.
"We really wanted to make sure that while we were calling it a book fair and focusing on printed material, there's a space to talk about distribution of information in all of its forms and to think about alternative ways of distributing information," Khatib said.
In past years, the fair has been organized by various groups in the region. People who helped run Black Planet Books in Fells Point helped pull together the one in 2003, Khatib said. The store closed in 2004, but some of those involved helped open Red Emma's, a cafe and bookstore on St. Paul Street. During 2004 and 2005, they were too focused on Red Emma's to put the fair together, Khatib said.
"Finally we felt like we had everything together enough to do this," Khatib said.
Organizers think the new locations will help attract a larger crowd than in previous years. The 2003 fair drew about 1,500 patrons in two days, and Duda wants to double the crowd size this year.
"We're hoping that we'll get a lot of people who are just sort of out in Mount Vernon on Saturday and Sunday and see that this is going on and think, 'Hey, this is great, let me go in and check it out,'" Khatib said.
The 2006 Mid-Atlantic Radical Book Fair begins with a spoken-word performance by Jello Biafra at Sonar tonight. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets are $12. The ticket price includes live performances by regional acts, including Son of Nun and Head-Roc. Sonar is at 407 E. Saratoga St. Call 410-327-8333 or visit sonarbaltimore.com. The fair continues tomorrow through Sunday with discussions and workshops at the Contemporary Museum (100 W. Centre St., 410-783-5720 or contemporary.org) and Center Stage (700 N. Calvert St., 410-332-0033 or centerstage.org). For more information about the fair, call 410-230-0450 or visit redemmas.org/bookfair.