The Bookshop Darlinghurst, Australia’s oldest LGBTQI bookshop, turns 40 this month.
In recent years, The Bookshop has weathered the effects of COVID, economic and political uncertainty and inclement weather, and for a while its future has been precarious. However, his investments in online sales and community support helped him weather the storm.
“After the past few years, it’s a miracle we’re still here – so reaching our 40th birthday is certainly something to celebrate,” reads a post on the bookstore’s official Instagram account.
At the beginning
The seed for The Bookshop Darlinghurst was planted in the 1970s when founder Les McDonald vacationed in the United States with his then-partner.
When McDonald saw LGBTQI books being promoted in the gay press, he saw an untapped market in Australia.
Upon returning to Sydney, he began importing and mail ordering LGBTQI books.
Soon the business became too big to operate from home so they opened a bookshop on Crown Street in Surry Hills and then at their current location on Oxford Street.
As a gay man, the bookstore was important to me.
In the 1980s, during the AIDS crisis, the Bookshop became a center for information and community support, as well as a place of safety.
Speak with stargazerSydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, hailed the milestone anniversary by saying: “The Bookshop served as a hub for information and support during the AIDS crisis, and since then, despite the rise of e-books and the devastating effects of the pandemic, one constant has remained – longevity, that of of the community’s appreciation for Les MacDonald and his place.
“My warmest congratulations on this milestone and best wishes for many more years to come.”
Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich revealed what the Bookshop means to him and to the LGBTQI communities, saying: “As a young gay man growing up in Sydney, the Bookshop was important to me.”
“It was a safe space and community center that to this day fills a void where everyone from queer young people to parents of gay children and our allies can find materials that reflect their lives, to learn from and who they can share.
“I always get gifts for new parents from the Bookshop to ensure their children have stories that reflect diversity and inclusion.”
A beacon for LGBTQI people for 40 years
dr Christopher Pepin-Neff, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney who focuses on LGBTQI politics, discussed the importance of LGBTQI bookshops to the community, “Bookstores play a central role in the story of queer and trans liberation. More than just meeting places, they serve as material value for community trust by creating social networks that share information.
“The Bookshop Darlinghurst has been a beacon for countless marginalized LGBTQI+ people for 40 years.”
Sylvie Ellsmore, Green Party Councilor for Sydney, believes that “Bookshop Darlinghurst is one of the oldest LGBTQIA+ bookshops in the world working for promote LGBTQIA+ writers and stories over decades have been groundbreaking and so important.
“From the early days, when attempts to silence, censor and shut down queer voices were sanctioned by the state, to the present day, when the community unfortunately still tries to deny the diversity and beauty of LGBTIQA+ communities – the whole Sydney community owes her [The Bookshop Darlinghurst] a great debt.”
To celebrate his milestone The bookstore hosts celebratory special events and promotions throughout August.