#IBW2015 Two Roads Indie TourINDIE BOOKSHOP WEEK – Day 5


Day 5 of our Indie Tour is upon us and we’ve got a treat for you: follow our Publicist Yassine as he pays a visit to Brick Lane Bookshop

Pungent smells of turmeric and spiced onions mingle in the air over the lower end of Brick Lane as I walk up from Aldgate East tube station. Dancing past the curry-house waiters who try to tempt you in with promises of 25% off your bill, a much more tempting mainstay of Brick Lane can be found up ahead – Brick Lane Bookshop. Located at 166 Brick Lane, this is a small bookshop in terms of space but its bookshelves have a pulsating array of texts – ranging from children’s books to classic texts to London history to contemporary fiction. The time I spent scanning the shelves and tables and speaking to the owner Denise Jones found me feeling that this is a bookshop that is assured in its identity and proud of its history.

Brick Lane Bookshop was originally known as the Tower Hamlets Arts Project (THAP), later to be known as Eastside, with Brick Lane Bookshop being the latest incarnation. The shop started out in the early 1970s when there was not a single bookshop in Tower Hamlets. As the owner Denise Jones has said, ‘There was a group of local people who were not prepared to put up with this we realised that we would have to start one – but start small.’ This determination to put right a visible wrong has clearly stuck and fuels the bookshop’s ethos to take books out into the community. This is evident in the bookshop supplying books to local schools, having stalls at school author events as well as having author events at the bookshop and conducting its own reading group every month.

I walked away with three titles that were recommended to me by Denise. The first was Rebel Footprints: A Guide to Uncovering London’s Radical History by David Rosenberg (Pluto Press) which is a book that looks at periods in London history where dissenters have tried to usurp the Establishment. Each historical episode is then followed up by a map and route that you can walk in the footsteps of past heroes. I was also handed the sublimely designed pamphlet for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay We Should All Be Feminists (Fourth Estate) – a well-crafted treatise on gender inequality in society and how he can set about curing such disparity through an increase in awareness and inclusion. Probably my favourite of Denise’s recommendations was The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990 to 1990 (Boxtree) by Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia – a tragic, comic, and stirring read of poet/philosopher Edward the Hamster’s journals during his days in caged confinement. Existential angst pours out of each entry, replete with beautiful monochromatic illustrations – a diary that make you laugh and think in equal measure. Each of these recommendations echoed the identity of Brick Lane Bookshop – one that believes in the power of words and books in making us more socially conscious. For a bookshop that is such a part of its immediate community, I hope those further afield will flock to visit.

Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Brick Lane Bookshop - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 2

Come back tomorrow for our next stop and find out more about Independent Bookshop Week at indiebookshopweek.com.

Slightly Foxed - Two Roads IBW indie tour day 1


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