5 Big Questions: CAROLYNN BAIN


Why will intentionality change the world?

How do we challenge word of mouth book recommendations? 

And what is the difference between not-racism and anti-racism?

In this week’s 5 Big Questions interview we talk to book shop owner, festival organiser and professional bubble-burster CAROLYNN BAIN.



  • Twitter: @carolynnbain | @brightbookfest

5 Big Questions - Carolynn Bain on books, bursting bubbles and opening a shop that shouldn't existKnown for:

  • Founder – Afrori Books
  • Founder – Brighton Book Festival

The 5 Big Questions:

Measuring change How do you measure the impact of what you do?

Ready for anything - future proofingHow should people/businesses be preparing for the future?

Skills, talent & opportunityHow do we build the workforce we need for that future?

Embedded innovationHow do you use creativity to solve problems?

Bold connections, collaborationHow do you collaborate?

Key quotes:

“I get bored of whinging and not doing anything about it. I usually whinge for a bit and then think stuff it, I’ll do it myself.” 

“When people ask me what I do, I say I’m a professional bubble burster. Most people’s book shelf sits in a bubble.”

“The publishing industry is so far behind almost every other industry. The publishing industry decides what they think people want to read and then looks for authors who tick their boxes. They very rarely even talk to booksellers.”

“When I opened the bookshop I said to my children ‘this isn’t an inheritance, I don’t want you to inherit the bookshop, because I want it to die with me — I don’t want it to need to exist.’ Maybe I’m being over-optimistic.”

“When we first started we wrote to the five major publishing houses and asked them to send us a list of their black authors. Just really simply, it’ll help us stock the shop. I wasn’t even think of anything political. Four out of five said ‘no’ and the fifth said ‘er, we wouldn’t know how to,’ and the four that said ‘no’ said: ‘we don’t keep a record of the race, or culture, of our authors.’ Now I’ll be a skeptic here and say that the reason you don’t is cos if you did we’d all see that it’s less than one percent of your roster. And that’s shameful.”

“It’d be great if we could address it from the top down and get more people in big positions in publishing. But do I sit around and wait for that to happen? No, I’m an activist so I’ll push it from the ground up, as much as I can. I’ll look for traction wherever I can get it.”

“We’ve got a panel looking at masculinity and it’s three black guys. Now there’s not a book festival in the country that has that. We actually got to a couple of weeks ago and realised there were no white men on any of the panels. We had to go — we’re not being diverse, we have to find a white man! Create new norms!”

Useful links

This episode was recorded in May 2022

Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible

Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts


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