The Book Appeal for Eastern Cape.

Hillhead Library (where we normally have a work and storage space for this project) is scheduled to be closed for a year for refurbishment from Spring 2016. The Book Appeal is therefore suspended for the time being and will recommence when the library reopens. Any offers or suggestions for an alternative workspace or even simply a storage facility for this period would be very welcome. Meantime, we are unable to accept offers of books. Community HEART in Manchester may be a suitable alternative for some potential donors - contact details below.

Since 1995 ACTSA Scotland has appealed for donated books, to be sorted, packed and sent to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa for distribution there to school and other libraries. Ten 9-tonne container-loads of books have been sent so far, the tenth having been dispatched on 18th July, 2015 to mark Nelson Mandela International Day. This is a very practical expression of the twinning link between Scotland and Eastern Cape. We estimate a container holds about 50,000 books, so the total sent in 20 years has now reached half a million.

Normally, the project's base is at Hillhead Library in Byres Road, Glasgow, courtesy of Glasgow Libraries. This is where books are gathered, checked for condition and suitability, sorted by age group and subject-matter, and then packed, all by volunteers. They then need to be stored until another container-load is ready to go.

Except during the current temporary closure, help is always welcome, whether in the form of donated books in good condition (fiction or non-fiction, for all ages), of help with collecting, sorting and packing, or of funds to cover shipping to South Africa. The cost of shipping a container is some £3500, which is excellent value for the quantity of books involved but is real money that has to be found from donations. Vans also need to be hired from time to time to fetch donations of books within Scotland, and new books by, for example, African writers could be bought if funds allowed.

To help in any of these ways, please contact us at - This is the best way to reach us. The ACTSA Scotland office is at 52, St. Enoch Square, Glasgow G1 4AA. Tel: 0141 221 1276 (usually an answering machine, checked from time to time). Please do not contact Hillhead Library directly, or try to deliver books to St. Enoch Square (a small office that is not staffed).

Cash donations can be sent to the ACTSA Scotland office - Cheques to "ACTSA Scotland", please.


The Appeal arose from a conversation in 1995 between Mrs. Nosimo Balindlela, the then Eastern Cape MEC (Provincial Minister) for Education, Arts and Culture, and a small delegation from ACTSA Scotland about what practical steps could be taken to strengthen the twinning link established between Scotland and Eastern Cape. Mrs. Balindlela explained that only a tiny proportion of Eastern Cape's 6000 schools had libraries, that most children could not afford their own books, and that regular reading for pleasure was crucial to acquiring the fluency in English reading that was essential for children to take full advantage of the rest of their education.

The Book Appeal was therefore launched by ACTSA Scotland that year in conjunction with Material Aid Scotland, a project of the Balmore Trust whose premises in Airds Lane in Glasgow were used as the storage and sorting base. Initially confined to children's fiction and non-fiction, the Appeal was quickly extended to include books for adults since the need to stock adult libraries was also identified, and then to limited numbers of school text-books as resource material for teachers. Books for children to read for fun and for information are still the primary purpose of the project.

The first container was dispatched in 1997 by June Moshoeshoe, then Director of Libraries for Eastern Cape Province, and Glasgow Lord Provost Pat Lally. The second was sent in May 1999. At this point the project had to move from Airds Lane due to the Balmore Trust giving up its lease of the premises, and after a few months without a home was offered the use of a large room at the Mitchell Library by Glasgow City Council.

The third container was sent off from the Mitchell in November 2002, by H.E. Lindiwe Mabuza, South African High Commissioner, and the project then moved again to its present base at Hillhead Library, since the room at the Mitchell was to be lost in the modernisation of the building. The fourth was seen off in April 2007 by STUC President Katrina Purcell from the annual Congress meeting in Glasgow, the fifth was sent in May 2008, and the sixth was dispatched on 18th July 2008, billed as a present for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday on that day, by Glasgow's Lord Provost Bob Winter in a brief birthday ceremony in George Square. The seventh was sent off from our then storage space at Barrachnie Co-op. in April 2010, and the eighth from the same place in November 2011. The ninth and tenth were loaded directly from Hillhead Library and officially dispatched from George Square on Mandela Day 2012 and 2015 respectively.

The first two containers were sent to the Provincial Libraries service in King William's Town, and the next four to Amathole District Municipality, the upper-tier local authority based in East London and covering a very large rural area surrounding the city. The then Amathole Executive Mayor Sakkie Somyo undertook to distribute the books to school and other libraries throughout the District. The most recent four were sent to Buffalo City Municipality (an all-purpose Metropolitan authority covering East London and nearby towns since May 2011), to be distributed in co-operation with Amathole DM.

Three days after that initial discussion with ACTSA Scotland in 1995, Nosimo Balindlela had a similar conversation with Denis Goldberg, a Rivonia trialist who had spent 22 years in prison for opposing apartheid and who was now running a small South Africa-oriented charity based in London and called Community HEART. As a result, Community HEART also established an appeal for books for South Africa, the 'Book and 10 Pence Appeal', which became a major project in its own right. This gathers books from all over the United Kingdom and distributes them all over South Africa.

The two projects have co-operated through the years, especially over the paper-work and customs waivers relating to the shipping process, where Denis had particular expertise (passed on to his successor, Isobel McVicar). In April 2002 it was agreed that the Scottish end of the "Book and 10 Pence Appeal" and ACTSA Scotland's Book Appeal would run as one project, though the two organisations retain their own separate identities and their other activities.

Denis Goldberg "retired" to South Africa in the summer of 2002, leaving Community HEART in the care of Isobel McVicar as Director. The Community HEART office is now at Unit 33, Longsight Business Park, Hamilton Road, Manchester, M13 0PD E-mail: