Bookspot of the Week: Gay’s the Word!

An LGBTQ+ meeting place entirely centered around books? We love to see it! This week, we’re chatting with bookseller Erica Gillingham from the ever-so-magical Gay’s the Word bookshop in Bloomsbury, London. Spoiler alert: you will want to book a flight immediately after reading this. How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality? The bookshop was opened in January 1979 by a group of gay socialists led by Ernest Hole. Ernest had been inspired by the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in NYC, which he had visited just after the Stonewall Riots. image via gay’s the word What do you feel …

Bookspot / Libraries

An LGBTQ+ meeting place entirely centered around books? We love to see it! This week, we’re chatting with bookseller Erica Gillingham from the ever-so-magical Gay’s the Word bookshop in Bloomsbury, London. Spoiler alert: you will want to book a flight immediately after reading this.

How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?

The bookshop was opened in January 1979 by a group of gay socialists led by Ernest Hole. Ernest had been inspired by the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in NYC, which he had visited just after the Stonewall Riots.

image via gay’s the word

What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?

We are a bookshop, a community space, a meeting place, and a sanctuary for the LGBTQ+ community, locally, nationally, and internationally. It is truly an honor and a privilege to work here.

If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?

More books by, about, and for LGBTQ+ people!! Our bookshop is very small, so we are limited in some ways with what we can stock. However, we’ve recently given more space to young adult novels, graphic novels, and poetry, which has been very well received. 

 

How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?

We’re the oldest LGBTQ+ bookshop in the country and one of the only queer spaces in London that is not related to alcohol. In our local areas of Bloomsbury and King’s Cross, we’re also neighbors to a fantastic group of indie bookshops–Housmans, Persephone, London Review Bookshop, Judd Books, Skoob, and more.

What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?

Specialist knowledge and a curated collection that is based on decades of reading, research, and community interaction. 

image via gay’s the word

Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?

Each of us has our own areas of interest and knowledge, but our main objective as staff is to be friendly and welcoming with each person who comes through the door. 

How else do you create a welcoming environment?

We strive to make sure that the bookshop–from the window display to the smallest details of the shop–makes it possible for every person who visits the shop to find something that speaks to them. 

 

What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?

Whether people live or just work nearby, our neighborhood customers know the bookshop is a place where they can visit for book recommendations or to have a browse or a chat. Marchmont Street really is a lovely place to be. 

image via gay’s the word

Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?

There are some great new books coming out in April 2020, such as The Ministry of Guidance and Other Stories by Golnoosh Nour, No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami, Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez, and Tongues of Fire by Sean Hewitt. 

Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?

Absolutely! It’s the bread and butter of what we do, and we work to constantly respond and adapt to the diversity and evolution of our community. 

Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?

We miss seeing you, and are excited to re-open once the threat of COVID-19 has passed!

Well, what did you think of Gay’s the Word? It sounds like a magical little shop where dreams come true! If you have a book spot you’d like to see recognized as well, just contact us through any of our social channels and you just might catch it here next week.

Featured Image Via Gay’s the word

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