Top 3: Marchmont Street hangouts, WC1

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This summer explore the capital’s most famous LGBT+ bookshop, a photography cafe – and a cavernous second-hand treasure trove


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LGBT+: Gay’s the Word

For nearly 40 years, this hive of queer thought and creativity has stocked the nation’s most comprehensive array of LGBTQ+ literature. While societal attitudes grow in amenability to non-hetero ways of being, the shop still feels like a queer sanctuary. With hushed conversations emanating from every corner, excited squeals from those reacquaint themselves with forgotten faves and tips from clued-up manager Uli, on hand to show fledglings their Woolfs from Whitmans.

For decades the backroom has housed a series of support groups, screenings, discussion and activist meetings. Once a week there’s a lesbian discussion group (Wednesday, 8pm) with topics ranging from drinking culture in the community (Aug 8th) to Coming Out (5th Sep). The event is followed by an after-party at cosy LGBT+ bar, New Bloomsbury Set. There’s also a monthly TransLondon meeting (third Tuesday of the month, 7:30pm). Open 10am-6:30pm Mon-Sat, 66 Marchmont St WC1N, more here.

the exterior of the observatory on marchmont street
A great new gallery-cafe on Marchmont. Photo: SE

PHOTOGRAPHY CAFE: The Observatory

Want a new summer hang? This gallery-café-shop on Marchmont Street displays all sorts of camera-related gadgets as you enter, whether you’re a selfie obsessive or serious snapper. The speciality coffee shop is provided by Redemption Roasters, plus there’s Joe’s herbal teas, fresh croissants, toasties for lunch and a selection of cakes throughout the day. Until December there’s a captivating retrospective of iconic documentary photographer John Bulmer on the walls. Open daily till 6pm, 64 Marchmont Street, WC1. More info here.

Cavernous. Inside Skoob Books. Photo: Skoob

BOOKS: Skoob

Why not burrow your way down to the capital’s temple of second-hand academic texts? Skoob’s been feeding local students their year’s essentials at a snip of the price for alomost 40 years now – like Gays the Word, it launched back in 1979.


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With floor to ceiling bookshelves lining the walls of the labyrinthine store, it is home to over 55,000 uncatalogued titles. Staff replace over 5000 books each month, delivered from their warehouse in Oxfordshire, so regardless of whether it’s been a couple of months of a couple of decades, they’ll have a fresh selection of works to peruse. Open 10am-8pm Mon-Sat, 66 The Brunswick, just off Marchmont Street WC1N, more here.

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