Brick Lane Books: Diversity in the East End

Brick Lane Books: Diversity in the East End

Brick Lane Books, a rich history

Nestled in the bustling streets of the East End, Brick Lane Books has a rich history that dates back to the 1970s. During a time when there was not a single bookstore in the entire Tower Hamlets area, a group of locals came together to challenge the popular misconception that people in the East End didn't read. They started small with a Saturday stall in Whitechapel Market, selling discarded proof copies from Penguin, alongside THAP (Tower Hamlets Arts Project) and Centerprise local history publications. This do-it-yourself initiative was a huge success and inspired a further bookstall at the 'Big Show' in 1976, strengthening the project's resolve to create a permanent outlet for books.

Close up of Brick Lane bookshop print
Brick Lane Bookshop Painting by Laura Willis

A permanent spot in Brick Lane

As the demand for diverse literature grew, Brick Lane Books evolved from its humble beginnings as a market stall to a fully-fledged bookstore. It became a hub of creativity, literary engagement, and community empowerment. Today, Brick Lane Books continues to be a prominent landmark in the East End, promoting inclusivity, diversity, and local engagement. It stands as a testament to the power of grassroots initiatives and the enduring legacy of a group of locals who dared to challenge misconceptions and make literature accessible to all in the community.


Books on shelf multi colours

Embracing Diversity 

Brick Lane Books has also been recognised for its vibrant literary events and workshops that foster community engagement and promote local writers. The bookstore has hosted numerous book launches, panel discussions, and readings, featuring BAME authors and their works. These events provide a platform for authors to share their stories, engage with readers, and create meaningful connections within the literary community.

In addition to its events, Brick Lane Books has collaborated with local schools, libraries, and community organisations to promote reading and literacy, with a particular emphasis on BAME literature. The bookstore's outreach efforts have helped instil a love for reading among young people and have created a sense of belonging and empowerment within the local literary scene.

Brick lane book shop print, with plants
 Brick Lane Bookshop Painting by Laura Willis

Brick Lane Books

Today, Brick Lane Books continues to thrive as a literary landmark in Shoreditch. The bookstore's commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and community engagement remains unwavering.

I personally can never resist the temptation to step into Brick Lane Books and lose myself in the glossy pages and the new book smell. There's a certain magic in picking up a physical book and flipping through its contents, something that never fails to captivate me. If you love books as much as I do you can get your own copy of my illustration here.

Three prints in a frame, Beigel Bake, Britains first beigel shop and Bricklane bookshop
Brick Lane paintings by Laura Willis


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