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Reverberations: Evocative Sound Installation Marks the Radical History of King’s Cross landmark

Updated: Jan 26

To celebrate the history of Housmans bookshop and 5 Caledonian Road - one of London’s epicentres of social change activism for over 6 decades – oral history NGO “On The Record” launches “Reverberations.” The exhibition is an immersive, thought-provoking sound installation produced by Manchester-born, London-based sound artist Wajid Yaseen, and composed by Keir Chauhan, Naoise Murphy, Christina Radukic, Tania Aubeelack, Laura Toms, Connie Hatt, and Will Hecker.

Photograph take in 2020 inside Housmans bookshop. Copyright Anoushka Chakrapani
Photograph take in 2020 inside the Housmans bookshop. Copyright: Anoushka Chakrapani (source: 5callyroad.org)

One of London’s oldest radical bookshops will be sonically inundated by goosebumps-inducing atmospheric sounds and the music of anarcho-punk band Crass as transducer speakers will echo oral history interviews through the bookshelves. Visitors are invited to browse books accompanied by voices that share memories of seeking sanctuary in the building, marching against nuclear bombs, and militating for gay liberation.


The Importance of 5 Cally Road


Located at 5 Caledonian Road, the Housmans Bookshop is marked by an extraordinary if-only-these-walls-could-talk history, as Ramsey Kanaan, anarchist publisher beautifully points it out: “Housmans just looks like any other bookstore… What made it vibrant was being part of something bigger. Now it remains a gateway to a whole world of histories, radical ideas, radical potentialities.”


Although it originally opened its doors in 1945, its roots, go back to the 1930s’ great upsurge of the British pacifist movement, when the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) was founded. In the early 1960s, the building was part of the growing nuclear disarmament movement who desperately used civil disobedience to demand the immediate abolition of nuclear weapons.

Photograph of 5 Cally Road taken ahortly after it opened to the public, with the iconic Peace News sign on thefrontage. Copyright unknown.
Photo of 5 Cally Road shortly after it opened, with the iconic Peace News sign on the frontage. Copyright unknown.

In 1970s, 5 Cally Road became the office of the Gay Liberation Front, proud organisers of the UK’s first Pride marches. And in the 1990s, when Greenpeace was sued by McDonald's for libel, guess where the ‘McLibel’ defence campaign was based? Yes, right in this building!

After this heritage location’s trustees managed to save it from being demolished by never-rich-enough developers and after surviving several attacks (including a 1974 IRA bomb that blew up the pillar box outside), "Reverberations" is the powerful, moving, long overdue tribute 5 Cally Road deserves for sheltering our capital’s boldest activist initiatives.


Experience Reverberations at the Housmans Bookshop


Tucked a few steps away from the King’s Cross station, the Housmans bookshop has now become even a more captivating space thanks to Reverberations. Until October, the long-standing bookshop specialised in books on anti-racism, feminism, peace, LGBTQIA+ politics, leftism, and anarchism will literally speak for itself through the oral history, music, and sounds diffused into its shelves.


Discover the reverberations of its rich history. 60 years of testimonies and stories told by the people who found in this space the shelter they needed to organize, disagree, seek refuge, and take action. A welcoming home for campaigns for gay liberation, anarcho-punk and nuclear disarmament.


Explore over 200 Historical Pieces online


To pique your interest in the building’s history, visit the exhibition’s immersive website at www.5callyroad.org for a virtual exploration of the site itself (and an extensive digital archive), imaginatively envisioned by young people aged 18-25.


Under the extraordinary guidance of professional sound artists, animators, musicians, and theatre-makers, their immensely creative responses speak volumes and give them their own well-deserved place in our city’s history. Enjoy rummaging through the works, led by chance and curiosity, as if you’d be browsing in your favourite bookshop. Feel the joy of having over 200 documents, sound recordings, and photographs at your fingertips.

"Reverberations" was envisioned by On the Record, an organisation that uses oral history to inspire social change and turn memories of places and people into artworks, podcasts, websites, books, and audio walks. Since summer 2020, a group of 25 young volunteers, remotely dedicated their time to research and record the history of 5 Cally Road by conducting oral history interviews.


📅 Visit Reverberations from Monday 26 July 2021 until Friday 1 October 2021.

⏰ 11 am – 6:30 pm, Monday – Saturday

📍 Where: Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX


And since you’re in the area, why not pop to the Coal Drops Yard for some tasty bites? Or even browse more books at one of London’s quirkiest bookstores – Word on the Water (the 100-year old Dutch barge is now moored by Granary Square).

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