Melbourne City of Lit meets The Book Hive of Norwich


In this series, conducted in partnership with the Melbourne City of Literature Office, we discover some of the bookstores of the UNESCO Cities of Literature network. Today we visit The Book Hive from Norwich, which is owned by the co-founder of Galley Beggar Press and where Margaret Atwood finished her novel. The heart goes last (Virago).

For just over a decade, a remarkable building in the heart of Norwich has housed The Hive of Books. “The store is located in a tall, three-story old building right in the city center,” says owner Henry Layte. “I knew that if I had to take the risk and open a store, I couldn’t apologize and hide in an alleyway. He had to make a statement or not.

Layte, who before opening the bookshop worked in the theater as both a writer and actor, grew up in Norfolk, where Norwich is located, and ‘after returning from London he thought the city should definitely have its own. independent bookstore, being such a famous literary city ”. So in 2009 he opened The Book Hive.

Since then, things have moved in several different directions. First, there’s the store itself, which has built a large and loyal community since the doors opened. “The Book Hive has attracted curious readers and budding writers with its unique book collection, sunny reading nooks and regular book events and launches since 2009,” says Róisín Batty, communications assistant at National Center for Writing in Norwich, UNESCO City of Literature. Batty highlights The Book Hive’s carefully curated stock as a great highlight, as well as the store offering “handpicked recommendations and the most recent translated stories from around the world.”

“The whole stock is kind of a specialty because it is carefully organized and chosen to reflect us, the city and our customers and NOT what the bestseller lists force us to sell,” Layte explains. Their shelves contain “the best of small publishers and independent presses, as well as the best of more commercial items.” We avoid bestsellers, famous authors and all that overly commercial bullshit, but we can order anything for next day delivery if needed! ‘

However, The Book Hive doesn’t just store books, it helps create them. Since the store opened, Layte has created two publishing houses, starting with Galley Beggar Press, “which I then left to create Propolis, the store’s own press,” he explains. “Publishing has been a big part of my business here most of the time we’ve been open. “

His motivation to start publishing came from the community. After the store opened, “In the first year or so, I met two customers with whom I lamented the fact that so many good books were never published,” says Layte. “We said we should do something about it! From there was born Galley Beggar Press.

The Book Hive isn’t just about the books on the shelves, it’s about the people who make the store what it is. There are places to read and write: “You can squat in one of the private work booths, where Margaret Atwood finished her novel The heart goes last, ‘ suggests Batty. There’s also Page Against the Machine, “a weekly event for quiet readers to disconnect from the outside world and enjoy an hour of non-stop reading, with a free glass of wine.”

When asked what her favorite aspect of the store is, for Layte it comes down to the community: “Pick great books – or great authors and publish them – then sell them to people who come back and say that reading this or that had a significant impact on their lives.

“It could be deep, it might have just made them happy, it might have given them a recipe that they will have forever.” I have always said that the joy of buying books is in choosing / browsing / chatting in the store. If you like it when you get it home, it really is the icing on the cake. But it also makes us feel like we’ve done a good job and that we are something that really matters in the world.

Key words: The bookstores of the Cité des Lits

Category: Features


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