Published: 4 October, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
THEY played a vital role in the American Revolution and the fall of the Bastille, helped usher in the Age of Enlightenment and the development of modern science – and now the famous coffee shop culture of the 1700s where modern political radicalism was forged is set to make a comeback.
Firebox, a new not-for-profit café and discussion space, is opening this week in Cromer Street, King’s Cross. It will be run by socialist organisation Counterfire and is based on the places that fired radical thought in London 300 years ago.
While chainstore cafés are ubiquitous on London streets today, Firebox organiser Clare Solomon says the idea of having a place for free-thinkers to meet and discuss all manner of political philosophy, entertainment, cultural events and the like is needed.
Coffee shops are not places for discussions, she says, but are merely somewhere to grab a coffee sold by a worker on a minimum wage.
She said: “There is no progressive politics without public conversation and that’s a process that is threatened by a combination of soundbite politicians and corporate advertising.
“The original 18th- century coffee houses were viewed as centres of sedition just because they were a place where radical politics could be discussed – and that’s exactly what we want to recreate at Firebox.”
• This Saturday, October 6 former MP Tony Benn will be hosting the café’s opening party from 4.30pm.