Independent Bookshop Week 2021: Meet the Leeds bookshop owners celebrating LGBTQ+ literature of all genres

Tucked away in the Merrion Centre, The Bookish Type offers more than just a good read.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 11:45 am

As one of the only LGBTQ+ bookshop owned by women in the country, the small space celebrates the array of literature written by and for the LGBTQ+ community.

Customers receive a friendly welcome from owners Nicola Hargrave, 46, and Ray Larman, 47, who are confident they can find the perfect book for anyone.

As the couple join the national celebrations for Independent Bookshop Week, which launches today, they shared how The Bookish Type journey began.

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The Bookish Type customers receive a friendly welcome from owners Nicola Hargrave (left), 46, and Ray Larman, 47

“We found a queer bookshop in Glasgow and we thought it was a wonderful, friendly place," Nicola told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"That planted the seed for bringing a bookshop to Leeds but we had no idea if it would work because it's so niche.

"We decided to start small by doing pop-ups and events and they were really popular. We realised there might be scope for it.

“Neither of us are risk-takers, so it was a challenge to push ourselves and gain the confidence to take those risks.”

Ray (pictured) and Nicola wanted to open a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community

The Grimsby couple, who moved to Chapel Allerton eight years ago, opened their bricks and mortar store in September 2020.

They understand the importance of being represented - that's at the core of their business, and often why customers return.

Nicola added: "The responses have been amazing from the LGBTQ community, customers are often bowled over about being surrounded by all these books that are about them - they've never seen that in a regular bookshop.

"But beyond the LGBTQ community, we get lots of people who stumble upon the shop and find something they want to read.”

The bookshop celebrates the array of literature written by and for the LGBTQ+ community

Leeds is home to some brilliant LGBTQ+ bars, but Nicola and Ray wanted to open a safe space for the community that isn't centred around alcohol.

“There is still a lot of homophobia and transphobia out there and I know other book shops like ours have been attacked in other cities," Nicola said.

“Luckily we've avoided that, but it just tells me that these kinds of spaces are still important.

“It’s a safe space, but it’s about much more than that - we really want to celebrate the array of literature about and by queer people.”

The Bookish Type will celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, which runs until Friday, with a series of social media posts highlighting the books on offer.

Nicola and Ray will share their own story in a collection of 'meet the bookseller' posts, joining other independent stores in the annual event - which has taken on new importance this year.

Nicola added: "It will be nice that for a week there’s a spotlight on independent businesses; we're still in the throws of the pandemic.

“High streets would be desolate if indies didn’t exist. You can buy books cheaper online, but you won’t get a personalised recommendation and a space to browse.

“We stock books that are very intellectual, but also trashy summer readers. There’s no snobbery to the books we stock and we’re always on hand for a recommendation.

“No matter how obscure your request is, we can try and find a book for you.”

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