Stoke Newington’s independent booksellers on their great expectations (or otherwise) for the industry

PUBLISHED: 16:18 19 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:21 27 June 2019

Tim Watson of Church Street Bookshop in Stoke Newington. Picture: Roy Chacko

Tim Watson of Church Street Bookshop in Stoke Newington. Picture: Roy Chacko


To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, which runs until Friday, Roy Chacko speaks to two Stoke Newington bookshops that have managed to stay open throughout turbulent times.

Church Street Bookshop in Stoke Newington Church Street. Picture: Roy ChackoChurch Street Bookshop in Stoke Newington Church Street. Picture: Roy Chacko

In the half-mile stretch of Stoke Newington Church Street from Clissold Park to the high street, there is a fair amount of literary history.

The neighbourhood was once home to Daniel Defoe, Edgar Allan Poe and Joseph Conrad, while writer and comedian Stewart Lee is a current resident.

Along with the thriving literary community it also used to be the home of multiple secondhand bookstores - but now the only one remaining is Church Street Bookshop, opened in 1982.

Owner Tim Watson said: "At one point there were four second hand bookstores on Church Street and one by one they closed.

"I was the first one here and I'll be the last one out."

When Jo Adams opened Stoke Newington Bookshop in the High Street 32 years ago it was the only new bookstore in the neighbourhood and has remained that way ever since.

Mrs Adams said people were eager to have a place to buy new books and her customers have been loyal throughout the years.

"Some of my customers were pregnant when we first opened," she said, "and now their kids are qualified doctors."

Independent bookshops in Britain in numbers. Graphic: Roy ChackoIndependent bookshops in Britain in numbers. Graphic: Roy Chacko

According to trade organisation the Booksellers Association the number of independent bookstores across the UK rose in 2017 by 15 to a total of 883.

The peak in modern times was in 1995 when there were 1,894 across the country.

That same year was when the Net Book agreement ended, which was a fixed book price agreement between the Publisher's Association and booksellers.

Mr Watson said: "It's been more or less down since then."

But Mrs Adams said she'd seen an upturn in business since, with people wanting to go back to buying physical books.

She said: "Publishers are making more of an effort to produce beautiful and desirable books and people are interested in that."

The Church Street Bookshop has been in business since 1982 but Mr Watson said it won't be around for too much longer because he wants to retire and focus on selling online.

Asked if he thought the shop would remain a bookshop, he was doubtful.

He said: "I wouldn't claim it's a fantastically viable business, rents and rates being what they are."

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