Mike Don, who died at the age of 77, was the founder and editor of Mole Express, an underground magazine published in Manchester from 1970. He described Mole Express as somewhere between a community newspaper and the underground publications It and Friendz, based in London.
Mole Express dealt with local politics, counterculture as well as music and drug topics. Readership ranged from local activists to supporters of the Manchester music scene.
In 1974 he joined me and others in a collective to run the Grass Roots bookstore in Manchester. For the next three years we had moved the shop downtown from the back room of a dilapidated building on Oxford Road, making it the UK’s largest radical bookstore outside the capital.
Mike had a great memory, which in a time when computer technology was not available, was an important asset to running a bookstore with a diverse and changing inventory. He had diverse contacts both on the left and in countercultural networks.
Radical bookstores attracted unwanted attention from the extreme right. We face threats and occasionally violence. On a celebrated occasion, he succeeded in engaging a well-known right-wing extremist activist in a conversation about their common interest in rockabilly music, thereby defusing any confrontation.
Mole Express merged in 1977 and then launched City Enquirer, which lasted three years and in which it focused on delving into the inner workings of Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Police Department. He was a good investigative journalist with no interest in a mainstream media career. He said his inspiration was Claud Cockburn and his newspaper The Week.
In 1982 he left the Grass Roots bookstore and started a mail order business and later an online used book store, Dreamberry Wine, which initially specialized in science fiction. He ran this from his home in Moss Side, Manchester until he fell ill late last year.
Mike was born in Edinburgh to a single mother. He excelled academically and studied geology, first at Edinburgh University and most recently as a doctoral student at Manchester University, but without a doctorate. In 1968 he met activists in a shared apartment in Manchester, became interested in left-wing politics and joined a local anti-Vietnam war campaign.
His wit and repartee were known to the last.