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London’s First Cartonera Book Festival

Low-cost books out of cardboard collected from the street through community-based workshops


London’s First Cartonera Book Festival Celebrates Cultural Activists from Latin America who Turn Waste into Books

The first-ever London Cartonera Book Festival will be held from 17-20 September 2019, as part of a UK-wide festival to celebrate the grassroots ‘Cartonera’ publishers movement from Latin America. For this event, Senate House Library, the University of Surrey and the University of Durham join forces with five key cartonera publishing collectives from Mexico and Brazil.

Next month, the UK public will have a unique opportunity to join workshops to learn more about the cartonera publishing movement, a phenomenon that was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a collaboration between writers, publishers, and waste-pickers, in the wake of the 2001 economic crisis. Led by the principles of democracy, inclusivity and equality, ‘cardboard publishers’ make low-cost books out of cardboard collected from the street through community-based workshops. The movement has spread across Latin America and beyond over the last two decades, with cartoneras emerging in over 20 countries and across 4 continents.

Workshops will be led by cultural activists on the front line of the Cartonera scene in Mexico and Brazil, including Dulcinéia Catadora, a publisher based in the Cooperglicerio recycling cooperative in São Paulo, and La Rueda Cartonera and Viento Cartonero whose work has recently been taken to the women’s prison of Puente Grande, Mexico.

Each workshop will give people the opportunity to walk away with their own hand-made cartonera book and to discuss new ideas for arts-based activism in their own local communities, to address problems from environmental degradation to homelessness.

Cartonera Workshop by La Rueda Cartonera and Viento Cartonero in Women’s Prison in Mexico. © Puente Grande Prison Press Team

The London Cartonera Book Festival is the culmination of two projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF): the ‘Cartonera Publishing’ project (led by Dr Lucy Bell, University of Surrey) and ‘Activating the Arts in Latin America’ (led by Dr Alex Flynn, University of Durham).

Festival Workshop Listings:

Cartoneras for Peace & Justice

Tuesday 17 September 2019, 2-5pm

Garden Halls (Room 3A & 3B), 1 Cartwright Gardens, London WC1H 9EN

‘Cartoneras for Peace and Justice’ led by cartonera publishers Sergio Fong and Israel Soberanes, whose community-based work in Guadalajara – centred around La Rueda’s bustling Bookshop & Café – has just celebrated its 10th birthday. Workshop participants will get to walk away with their own copy of Wind and Mirrors, a translated literary collection by the local women’s prison.

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Cartoneras for Sustainable Communities

Wednesday 18 September 2019, 2-5pm

Garden Halls (Room 3A & 3B), 1 Cartwright Gardens, London WC1H 9EN

The second workshop takes us back in time to Mexico’s first cartonera – La Cartonera in Cuernavaca – and to Xoxocotla, an indigenous town with a long history of resistance, which in January this year managed to be recognised as its own municipality. Over the last six years, La Cartonera have developed close collaborations with this community through a yearly bilingual volume published in celebration of the International Day of Mother Languages. Nayeli Sánchez and Dany Hurpin will deliver the workshop ‘Cartoneras for Sustainable Communities’, based on their most recent commemorative building project in Xoxocotla.

Cartoneras for Housing & Social Justice

Thursday 19 September 2019, 2-5pm.

Garden Halls (Room 3A & 3B), 1 Cartwright Gardens, London WC1H 9EN

We turn to Brazil’s first cardboard publisher, Dulcinéia Catadora, which retains the connection that first inspired Eloísa between waste-pickers, artists and writers. Lucia Rosa, Andréia Emboava & Maria Dias da Costa will introduce participants to their publishing initiative which has worked tirelessly in tandem with other struggles from Brazil’s Waste-Pickers’ Movement (MNCR) to its Fight for Just Housing (FLM). ‘Cartoneras for Housing & Social Justice’ will introduce workshop participants to their most recent project, Moradia (Home).

Cartoneras for Education & Environment

Friday 20 September 2019, 2-6pm

The Story Garden @ The British Library – entrance at 60 Ossulston Street, NW1 1EX

The Festival closes in the British Library’s new ‘Story Garden’, an apt venue to celebrate Catapoesia, a cartonera collective based in Minas Gerais, that ‘collects stories’ from some of Brazil’s most marginalized rural communities through their Conto que conta (Tale that Tells) methodology. Solange Barreto and Júlio Brabo will introduce participants to their Conto que conta (Tale that Tells) methodology through another hands-on book-making session. Participants will get to bind the book ‘Buriti-Dão’, a text written collectively by the Riacho dos Ventos community that addresses themes of their landscape – the ‘sertão’ – extractivism and environmental degradation.