I remember – as I’m sure most London-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do – my very first visit to Gay’s the Word, which is now the UK’s only surviving specifically lesbian and gay bookshop. It can also, in my opinion, lay claim to be the UK’s friendliest and most welcoming one. So it was wonderful to be there last Friday for a party to celebrate their 35th anniversary. The tiny shop was jam-packed, filled with authors, readers and staff, and there was even a DJ playing tracks that were released in 1979, the year the shop was founded.
Jim, the current manager, was able to show us a copy of the very first newsletter, and spoke movingly about the shop’s history and the difficult, turbulent times when it was often a struggle to survive, reminding us what a marvellous resource it is, not only for LGBT literature in all its forms, but also as a space for events, for discussion, for friendship, for inspiration. There used to be a piano and a café in the shop, which have both since disappeared, but the strong sense of community is still there and thriving.
It’s impossible to go into Gay’s the Word and leave empty-handed; the staff are passionate and knowledgeable, and even if you can’t afford a full-priced book there is an excellent second-hand section.
Follow Gay’s the Word on Twitter and find them at 66 Marchmont Street, just north of Russell Square tube station.