Owner of Willesden bookshop fears its the final chapter for independent sellers
Stephen Adams’ business is facing closure if the plans to redevelop Willesden Green Library go ahead
Over the past 23 years, the Willesden Bookshop has built up a reputation as one of the leading independent bookstores in London.
Located along Willesden High Road, on the same site as Willesden Green Library, it has celebrated the rich cultures of its community while specialising in children’s books from all over the world.
Yet its vast array of stock is now being sold off at half price before Brent Council knocks the building down.
“It’s the end of an era for independent bookshops,” owner Stephen Adams, explains. “I’m sure some will survive, but they will be in affluent areas.”
“What I have enjoyed about being in Willesden is how cosmopolitan it is, with its wide range of people, ethnicity and variety; it has made the job more interesting and pleasurable, catering for this diverse community.”
Mr Adams, a former teacher and literary translator, discovered his shop could be demolished 18 months ago when the council announced plans to knock down Willesden Green Library to build a new cultural centre.
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Thousands of people formed a united front against the proposals, signed petitions and held demonstrations.
But time is slowly running out and the planning committee will decide the fate of the bookshop in a matter of weeks. “It will be a huge loss to the community,” he says. The Amazon method of reading books is a convenience choice but you lose a lot from an aesthetic point of view. An enthusiastic bookseller can also lead you to new things and suggest new books.”
Mr Adams, who once worked in Camden’s Compendium Books before opening the Kilburn Bookshop in 1980 and Willesden Bookshop in 1989, says he has to be realistic.
“There has been a rapid change in the book selling world and independent bookshops are closing, up and down the country.
“We have been here 23 years,” he says. “Winding down a business is not something you can do overnight. That is why we are clearing our stock.
“Brent Council has been trying to persuade us to take an empty unit along Queen’s Parade but we regretfully had to turn that down. It is not suitable for us and the lease runs out in December.
“We don’t want to risk moving to a property that we can’t afford.”
But despite this, he is not giving up hope and will continue to supply schools in Brent through its website and Highgate Bookshop, which Mr Adams is co-owner of.
He said: “It might be that when the Brent planning committee takes its decision, a miracle might happen and this was all a bad dream.
“But we have been immensely touched by the huge amount of support from local people. The scale of the campaign has been humbling.
The Willesden Bookshop sale is on now.
“People have given up a lot of free time, signed petitions and written letters. It has been really touching to know how much an independent bookshop means to people.
“We haven’t given up hope of re-establishing ourselves on Willesden High Road but unfortunately there is no where suitable or affordable at the moment.”