A shop has opened in York specialising in sci-fi, fantasy and LGBTQIA books – and the response has been ‘amazing’.
The bookshop couldn’t look much more different to the Ernest Roy electrical shop which occupied the unit until earlier this year. Colourful pride flags adorn the walls and the shelves are packed with inviting books.
For Lali Hewitson, the founder and owner of The Portal Bookshop, this is a dream come true: “I’d always wanted to run a bookshop,” they said.
Lali previously worked at Oxfam on Micklegate when they first moved to York. “That was immense fun and I was able to run the sci-fi/fantasy bookcase there.
“I set up their online ordering and I got them quite a boost on that.”
From there, Lali worked at Waterstones for one year, starting off as a Christmas temp but quickly becoming a permanent member of staff.
New and secondhand
Portal’s books are a mix between brand new and secondhand, and are largely sci-fi and fantasy. “Mainly diverse stuff,” Lali tells YorkMix.
“So people of colour, women and minority genders and LGBT people of all kinds. Basically anyone marginalised, if they’re by or about them.”
There is also specifically an LGBTQIA section of all genres and non-fiction.
There hasn’t really been anything focused like that in York.
There was a lesbian bookshop in the late 90s up on Gillygate which did really well.
There isn’t so much a space, particularly in the centre of town, so I’m trying to help with that. I want people to be included and have somewhere safe to come.
The ground floor has room for wheelchair access and they’re working on getting a ramp, “even if it’s just one that we can put out and take back in,” Lali adds.
There’s also a cosy upstairs room which will become and place for customers to relax, drink tea, read, write, or a space to get away from the chaos of the busy streets outside.
Lali also plans on getting things like sci-fi and fantasy themed colouring sheets for children.
Today (Thursday 31 October) marked the official opening of The Portal Bookshop. Celebrations included cakes, biscuits and other refreshments (with gluten free and vegan options), games and competitions like pin the dragon on the rainbow, and a free secondhand book for anyone who comes in costume for Halloween.
The reception so far has been one of “wild excitement”, Lali says with a huge smile. “It’s been amazing, already. It’s day three and it’s more than I ever expected.
“Twitter has just exploded. Everyone who has come in has practically been bouncing and it’s been so lovely to just see them light up and get excited about what’s here.”
It’s great to see a bookshop like this opening up in the city centre. It’s been a team effort, with friends getting involved and helping out. “There’s an awful lot of community spirit coming out,” Lali says.
The Portal Bookshop is open Monday-Sunday, 10am-4pm.