Another successful Dublin anarchist bookfair

Seomra Spraoi workshopIn the region of 1,000 people attended the Dublin 2009 Anarchist bookfair at Liberty Hall on Saturday. From the time doors opened at 10.30 to 6pm a constant stream of people came into the venue to browse the books, listen to the speakers or to take part in workshops and discussions.


Some 60 people had attended the screening of ‘An Anarchists Story’ the previous evening in the Seomra Spraoi social centre. After the bookfair had ended over 150 attended a post bookfair meal and party at Seomra Spraoi.

This Vox Pop audio file was recorded at the Seomra Spraoi social after the bookfair, in it over a dozen people give their impressions of the day. Keynote speakers included former Black Panther Ashanti Alston and noted academic and US feminist Martha Ackelsburg, the author of 'Free Women of Spain.' There were 10 meetings / workshops on during the day, during the coming week we will be making available audio (and later video) recordings of many of these meetings. The largest, the address of Ashanti Alston had in the region of 250 people present in the room for what was a very inspirational speech.

Other meetings and workshops were smaller, from a dozen or so for the early morning slots to in the region of 150 for Martha Ackelsburg.

At lunchtime on Sunday many of the bookfair partipants took part in the feminist walking tour of the north inner city organised by RAG, Choice Ireland and Lashback.  I recorded this although it was a very windy day so I suspect once I check the recording I'll find it unusable.  If not I'll be linking it here at some point.

The bookfair was a huge success, but I did notice one curious thing in relation to it which I've also observed as previous bookfairs and similar events.

While editing the audio recording of the Left Unity meeting I noticed that both speakers, the chair and everyone who spoke from the floor is male. I think this is pretty interesting and something we should pay attention to. I was in the room briefly to get pictures and have the impression that almost everyone who attended was male so this may have been unavoidable even if an effort had been made to get women present to speak. On a more general level, given that the gender balance of the whole bookfair wasn't anything like that bad, it perhaps asks an interesting question as to why so few of the women in the building at the time thought that this meeting in particular was relevant to them?

This is I think part of a general pattern we've observed at libertarian events in the past, there is often a drastic shift in gender balance between the more practical orientated / politically softer meetings and the more theoretical (and dare I say geeky) politically harder ones. I remember for instance at the first bookfair almost everyone who crammed into the debate on republicanism I did with Antony MacIntyre was male and while a simple explanation of that might be a greater attraction to militarism I suspect its more in line with the experience above, the 'geekyness' of the subject matter. While writing this I recalled that meeting was almost funny as the meeting across the hall was a pro-choice one so that the crowd waiting together in the corridor before the meeting more or less perfectly segregated itself into one room or the other according to gender.

I suspect this way be a widely observed phenomen, anyone aware of any online theoretical writings on the subject? If so send me a link at andrewnflood AT gmail DOT com and I'll add them as comments here

WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )


Some furthers comments I made

Some furthers comments I made in relation to gender on my Facebook profile discussion of this

So I have all the available audio up now and with the exception of one meeting the pattern continues. Basically all the contributions from the floor at half the meetings come from what sound like men. There is one contribution each at the Fightback and Martha meetings from women. Interestingly the 'What is anarchism' meeting which could be considered geeky is more towards 50:50 (there are what sounds like 3 female voices, 2 I know are).

Not sure if its relevant but that was the only meeting which was discussion based (with a short intro) and where people were seated in a circle rather than facing the speakers (with many of the other meetings a circle was not possible because of audience size/chairs fixed to the floor). Of the 5 women speaking from the floor 3 are WSM members which is in itself interesting as I'd guess female WSM members made up no more than 5% of the female attendance at the bookfair.

I didn't think to do the same count from the start for the ratio of male WSM to total but a very quick calculation from memory of people speaking from the floor (ie excluding speakers) suggests that this was 5-6 across all the meetings recorded which is both a smaller percentage of male membership and a much smaller percentage of the total number of male speakers (less than 20% as against 60%).

Of the two missing sessions then Seomra Spraoi one would have only a minor effect (if any) on these numbers. I suspect the Sexual Health one might change total female partcipation from the floor drastically. Anyone reading this at that session and able to hazard a guess?


Like what you are reading?  Get a notification whenever we post a new article to

Anarchist Writers via Facebook or Twitter

where you can also like and comment on our articles