Wednesday, 14 April 2010


I've been a customer of Housmans Bookshop, round the corner from Kings Cross in London since about 1973 or 4. The long defunct "Housmans Peace Packets" mailing being essential reading in rural Aberdeenshire all those years ago. I've spent a small fortune there over the years, and from time to time become more closely involved, including, in 1995 drawing up a report for its Board advocating closure! Nobody ever pays any attention to me, which is just as well as Housmans is still there. You can see more of the shop on, including a long interview with the rather louche-looking Malcolm Hopkins. Malcolm's own career indicates that some radical bookshops can survive in the long run - some of his previous commercial employers Fagins in London (who remembers them?) and Borders both having gone bust. The video includes a nice snippet of someone browsing through our Jazz Jews - Housmans stock most Five Leaves' books.
Yesterday I joined the Board, not as a way of securing a belated agreement on my 1995 proposal, but to be part of Housmans modest revival. The shop is again trading at a profit, there is an excellent events programme, website hits on are rocketing and the Housmans ethical alternative to Amazon is working well. The Board is spending some money shortly on new floor covering, new lighting and there are plans afoot to attract new custom from the now-thriving Kings Cross area.

What can you do to help? Buy books there, obviously. Order any book in print via their website. But also donate books - part of the regrowth of the shop has been underpinned by the £1 book box (pictured on the video) which attracts the passing stranger, recycles books economically, and brings several hundred pounds a month into Housmans.

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