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THE BIBLIO FILE is one of the world's leading podcasts about "the book" and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by NIGEL BEALE it features wide ranging conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and other best practitioners on Robert Darnton's "communications circuit."

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Dec 21, 2020

Virago is a London-based British publishing company committed to publishing women's writing and books on "feminist" topics.  Established by women in the 1970s in tandem with the Women's Liberation Movement (WLM), Virago has done much to address inequitable gender dynamics in the publishing world, and, unlike anti-capitalist publishing ventures, has branded itself a commercial alternative in a male dominated publishing industry, seeking to compete with mainstream international presses.
 
Initially known as Spare Rib Books, Virago was founded by  Carmen Callil in 1973 primarily to publish books by women writers. From the get-go the company sought two sorts of books: original works, and out-of-print books by neglected female writers. The latter were reissued under the "Modern Classics" label, which launched in 1978
 
In 1982, Virago became a wholly owned subsidiary Random House, USA, but in 1987 Callil, Lennie Goodings and others put together a management buy-out. After a downturn in the market, the board decided to sell Virago to Little, Brown, of which Virago became an imprint in 1996 (with Lennie as Publisher).  In 2006, Virago became part of the Hachette publishing group with Lennie acting as editor and publisher. She is now Chair of Virago.
 
Today the company's stated mission is to "champion women’s voices and bring them to the widest possible readership around the world. From fiction and politics to history and classic children’s stories, its writers continue to win acclaim, break new ground and enrich the lives of readers."
 
I met Lennie via Zoom to talk about her life with Virago, as described in her new memoir A Bite of the Apple, published by OUP around the world, and by mighty Biblioasis in Canada.