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World famous London bookshop Gay’s The Word has been attacked yet again

Emma Powys Maurice February 9, 2020
Gay's the Word

The bookshop on Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury (Twitter/@Gaystheword)

London’s much-loved Gay’s The Word bookshop has been the victim of an attack, the latest of many in the shop’s history.

On Sunday morning Gay’s the Word manager, Jim MacSweeney, reported that he’d had a message informing him the glass in the shop’s front door had been smashed.

“I’m assuming deliberate rather than the storm which hasn’t hit yet,” he said.

“The front door has now been boarded up and I’ll go in, check it out and clean up shortly. The bookshop is open as usual from 1pm today.

“Not feeling particularly despondent as it’s great privilege to work at Gay’s The Word and I’m not letting some homophobic prick get me down. So there!”

He later confirmed that the incident was a break in, not a hate crime, and that the police have arrested the suspects.

LGBT+ bookshop experiences repeated attacks

The shop on Marchmont Street was founded in 1979 when gay titles were generally not available in ordinary bookstores.

It is run by a small group of people from Gay Icebreakers, an LGBT+ socialist group, and has become an iconic cornerstone of queer history. It featured prominently in the award-winning film Pride as the epicentre of the Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners activist movement in the 1980s.

Unfortunately its “very visible presence” in the LGBT+ community has led to an onslaught of repeated attacks from vandals over the years.

In 2011 the shop window was smashed and pelted with eggs by a group of youths on bikes; a year later another break in saw the store’s safe and computer equipment stolen.

In spite of all this the cherished bookshop continued to stand against hatred and bigotry, and didn’t stop trading “for a single second” after another attack in 2018 left the shop with £500 worth of damages.

Gay’s the Word shop window after vandals attacked in 2011

The day before the latest attack, MacSweeney shared a story that perfectly encapsulated the importance that the store has for the LGBT+ community, young and old.

“Yesterday, a young man of about 14 came into the bookshop with his dad. After browsing for a while, he selected some books from the young adult section and came up to the till. Very relaxed and polite, he knew what he wanted and had some money put aside.

“His dad was chilled and completely unfazed – he was here with his son on a trip to London. They’d seen the film Pride and come up from Folkestone to visit the bookshop. We chatted as the son totted up how much he had spent and then decided to buy a few badges.

“I threw in an LGSM poster as it was their first time here and they both shook my hand before leaving. It was a lovely moment.”

More: Gay's the Word, lgbt literature, London

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