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#21 - Jim MacSweeney / Gays the Word / Monday 8th August 2011 / 1984

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Jim MacSweeney at Gays the Word - by Elly Clarke

As someone who had an experience similar to the one Jim MacSweeney describes of going for the first time to this bookshop, - feeling afraid of going in - wondering if I was being observed - not knowing what to look for - I wanted to include Gays the Word in this project. Also because it's been in Camden for a long time but has gained more widespread fame recently through the 2014 film Pride (for which Jim was closely consulted).

Jim first visited the shop in around 1984 ('Being Other is a Real Gift') and has worked there since 1989. The sticky memory he shared dates back to 8th August 2011, when the London riots happened and Gays the Word was targeted: window smashed, eggs thrown in - but nothing taken. Although this act of violence was certainly a homophobic attack, the support Jim describes as having received following the event was unprecedented, and took him and his colleagues also very much by surprise. For it was not only the LGBT community that rallied together, but also people from the locality, who ware not gay, and even those who had never visited the shop before.

Jim spoke about the importance of the continued existence of spaces such as Gays the Word, both for literature and the community - despite the increasing availability of almost everything on the internet.

We made the video to trace Jim's turning up to work that morning of the riots, when he discovered the smashed window.

It was a real honour - and also great fun - to meet Jim.

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Jim MacSweeney with Elly Clarke at Gays The Word - Photo by Kaajel Patel
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