Strolling around the city on a lazy Sunday afternoon, window-shopping and taking in the street-scene – this is what Londoners love to do, but until recently there has been one key ingredient missing from the regular weekend diet we enjoy: a place to indulge in book-browsing en plein air.
This has now changed, and London finally has a bibliophilic attraction to match Paris’s ‘bouquinistes’ or Amsterdam’s Boekenmarkt.
Less than three months old but going from strength to strength, The Goldsmith Row Book Market off Hackney Road is drawing increasing numbers of visitors as word gets out about this unique string of stalls.
Linking Broadway Market to the north and Colombia Road Flower Market to the south, the inauguration of this book-lover’s paradise has created a ‘market mile’.
The weekly Sunday market was started by photography bookseller Neil Burgess as an off-shoot of Broadway Market, where stalls selling books had grown in numbers.
Mr Burgess approached Hackney Council, who were enthusiastic about the idea and helped him to establish the Goldsmiths Row venture this spring.
Bad weather dogged the market in its first few weeks; the booksellers recount how only three of the first ten Sundays were rain-free, which did little to encourage custom.
But weather notwithstanding, the market is gaining in popularity with vendors and buyers alike. “The past two weeks have been fantastic”, says Mr Burgess.
“We’ve got a collection of bookshops, independent traders and enthusiasts all coming here to sell their books”, he explains.
Buying books at a market such as this has distinct advantages over buying online. “Enthusiasts know about the books they are selling and can tell you about them.”
There are now approximately 15 regular stalls and 20-25 on any given Sunday.
The stalls sell new and second-hand books as well as collectibles such as the Stephen Gill photography volumes sold at a dedicated stall of the artist’s own Nobody Press.
Regular book-signings have also been a feature; Iain Sinclair and Rachel Lichtenstein were on hand to autograph tomes on 29 July. John Hegley is due on 26 August and Clive Bloom is booked in for 2 September.
The chat on the market is another draw – erudite and amusing, the booksellers mostly seem genuinely to enjoy a good natter, and the mood is indisputably friendly.
Online trade is one of several recent developments that have made the lives of traditional booksellers difficult, but the market brings a new twist to the selection of reading material and offers buyers distinct advantages over the internet.
“The market is supporting independent booksellers at a time when they’re fighting online sellers. It’s a great way to show people we’re different; here people can touch the book”, says Vivian Archer of Newham Bookshop, which has a regular stall at the market.
The other sellers on the market concur, and all appear to be of the view that this new venture has considerable potential.
With its convenient location and wide range of literary offerings, Goldsmith Row Book Market is bound to become a Hackney institution.
For more about all things bookish go to Goldsmith Row Book Market.