Tributes are pouring in across the literary, and LGBTQ+ world at the news that pioneering bookshop co-founder, Peter Dorey has died, aged 73. Dorey opened the UK’s first gay bookstore with Ernest Hole, as part of a group of gay activists, in Bloomsbury in central London in 1979.
Gay’s the Word was and is so much more than a bookshop. Then it was a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community at a time of great oppression and discrimination and has remained an oimportant part of the LGBTQ+ community for many years, as stated by current store manager Jim MacSweeney. McSweeney also stated that ‘We owe Peter Dorey a great deal of thanks for his part in setting up our bookshop” as he led the tributes to the bookshop owner.
Mr Dorey, who was raised in Harrow, passed away last Friday after years of poor health. Through the years, Dorey had worked Gay’s the Word into a vital community hub offering information and resources on everything from LGBTQ+ rights to information during the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s. More than a bookshop, the café and noticeboards made Gay’s the Word one of the most important LGBTQ+ spaces in London through the years, and especially during times of persecution and lack of acceptance for the gay community.
Groups met at the store over the years including a lesbian discussion group, a gay and black discussion group, a gay socialist group, and even LGBTQ+ group who supported the miners during the industrial strikes of the 1980s (featured in the film and novel Pride).
In 1984 the shop was even raided by HM customs and much of the stock seized. Charges were brought against staff and directors for importing indecent material!
MacSweeney finished his tribute by stating that “Peter took great pride in the fact that the shop, despite all it’s difficulties over the years, has survived and thrives.” And we agree that in his name, Gay’s the Word is an important and relevant part of London culture