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News :: DNC
Canada's oldest Radical Bookstore Decides to Rebuild After Arson Attack
by Pete Stidman
Email: petestid (nospam) yahoo.com
28 May 2004
Spartacus Books, Canada’s Oldest Collectively-Run
Radical Bookstore, Burns Down
[Editors note: This bookstore is not in any way associated with the Spartacus league!]
(Vancouver, B.C.) Spartacus Books, Vancouver’s only non-profit, volunteer-run, radical bookstore
burned to the ground Sunday April 25th when a fire tore through 311 W. Hastings St. The fire
started at approximately 6:30am and by 10am the entire inventory was destroyed from smoke
and water damage. The hundred-year-old heritage building was demolished by Sunday evening
and now only a gaping hole remains where North America’s oldest collectively-run, non-profit
bookstore once stood.
“This is a terrible loss for the community. Spartacus Books was such a unique place.” comments
Graham Sheard, bookstore coordinator. “It was organized entirely by volunteers and full of hard
to find alternative resources. We were able to put information in the hands of thousands of people
who would otherwise not have had access.”
Spartacus Books was started in the early 1970s as a book-buying club of Simon Fraser
University. It opened a storefront in 1973 on Hastings St and moved into 311 W. Hastings in
1974 where it has remained until the 3 alarm fire destroyed the building last Sunday. Run by a
collective of approximately 30 volunteers, Spartacus Books was open 365 days a year and
catered to a wide variety of patrons.
“The diversity of people who came into the store was amazing,” says Alexander Daughtry, a
longstanding volunteer who has been involved with Spartacus for the last 28 years. “You’d see
university professors ordering books for their courses, anarchists putting on workshops, street
kids using the free computers, students, parents and children, tourists who had heard of the store
and had to come see it - there was something for everyone.”
Officials have declared the cause of the fire to be arson after finding an accelerant in the building.
The bookstore did not have insurance and lost approximately $125,000 in inventory. Insurance
premiums had risen to a level the store could not afford after 9/11.
“It wasn’t just the fact that we lost all the books,” comments Krisztina Kun, a Spartacus collective
member, “we lost a safe space that was fundamentally community based. Groups would hold
their meetings here if they didn’t have office space, workshops and film fests were organized in
the space, people could just hang out. It wasn’t just a bookstore: it was public space in a city with
such little space for community use.
At an emergency meeting on April 28th, the Spartacus collective decided to start from scratch and
work to rebuild the bookstore.
“We’re a community institution, a little fire can’t stop us,” said Alexander Daughtry. “But we need
the support of the community in order to start over again.”
Donations can be made to the Spartacus Books Fund at the CECC Credit Union, 2250
Commercial Drive, Vancouver B.C.
This work is in the public domain