The first LGBT bookstore to open its doors in Manchester is aiming to challenge corporate giant Waterstones as the owner says it is ‘too disconnected from the public’.
Joseph Parkinson, 27, plans to make Aspidistra Books a part of the community, and has created a survey to gage public reaction.
The store will stock a wide variety of books, related to politics, history, LGBT culture and quality literature there is one genre that he will never allow – celebrity biographies.
Joseph said: “I went to Waterstones the other week with a very clear idea of what I was looking for and I eventually found one copy shoved away in the corner, out of sight. In pride of place in the same section was a biography of somebody from Geordie Shore!
“I want to strip away all the common dominator rubbish and only sell literature of a high quality, the kind of books I’d have in my private collection, celeb bios are definitely a big no.”
The location of the store is still to be determined, after a previous location in the Northern Quarter has fallen through.
Results of the survey are currently pointing towards the Gay Village as the right location for the store, with Joseph seeing this as an opportunity to reinvent Canal Street.
“I believe the gay village should be a living, breathing cultural centre for the LGBT community, not just a bunch of bars. I see this as an opportunity to diversify the village,” said Joseph.
He doesn’t feel the store should be restricted to the LGBT community however, seeing this as a bookstore that is ‘welcoming to all’.
The store plans to host readings as well as fun literary-themed community events like speed-dating with Hemmingway.
We wan’t everyone’s input. If you can’t make a consultation we have an online survey http://t.co/F57UDki4W7 so everyone can have their say.
— Aspidistra Books (@AspidistraBooks) March 11, 2015
He also hopes to use his store to provide an outlet for local writers as well as people who may have been unpublished and are struggling to break into the industry.
Joseph initially wished to include a bar in Aspidistra but public reaction has been negative to this idea, instead leaning towards a café where people could read and talk.
The name Aspidistra Books comes from the George Orwell novel Keep The Aspidistra Flying, a story about a man who wishes to escape the capitalism of his time.
The book’s protagonist leaves the corporate world behind to pursue a career in poetry, working at a bookstore to make ends meet.
Joseph used to work in London writing corporate intelligence reports in the charity sector which he described as ‘soul destroying’.
“I was trapped by the rhythms of life that are drilled into you – get a good job, start a family etc – I had ended up working in a job that I found incredibly dull.
“I had a box of cheerios at work, I liked to eat breakfast there, and it became this running joke I couldn’t escape from – that I loved Cheerios.
“One day when I was writing a report it hit me ‘oh my god – this is my life, so I decided I couldn’t do that kind of work anymore and headed back home to Manchester.”
Joseph decided to open the bookstore last year, while walking around Altrincham.
He said: “It was then I realised this is what I want to do and so I started to get everything sorted. If I can find a location everything else is in place.
“I would probably just need a month to get the place set up and then we’ll be good to go, so it will probably open around May or June.”
Image courtesy of Kate Terr Har, with thanks.