The Willesden Bookshop that inspired Zadie Smith faces closure
‘Heartbreaking’ final chapter for independent bookseller White Teeth author praised for its service to its community
The shelves of the Willesden Bookshop are half-empty. The independent bookseller which launched local author Zadie Smith’s debut, White Teeth, and has provided a vast range of books to the diverse north-west London community it has served for 23 years, is in the throes of its closing down sale, and staff and customers are devastated.
Helen Sensi, who has worked at the shop since it opened, called the latest closure “heartbreaking”. Sensi is also known as the mysterious “Helen” from Zadie Smith’s recent New York Review of Books article] in which the novelist lamented the shop’s closure and praised her as the woman who “gives the people of Willesden what they didn’t know they wanted. Smart books, strange books, books about the country they came from, or the one that they’re in.”
Part of the Willesden Green Library Centre, the bookshop is being forced to close by Brent council’s redevelopment plans for the area. The council believes the current centre, which also houses a museum and a library, is “not fit for purpose, and struck a deal with developer Galliford Try to knock it down and rebuild it in return for allowing Galliford to build 92 flats behind the library. Following huge local protests the plans have now been delayed subject to further consultation, but the bookshop was told its lease would end at the end of August, and it has nowhere else to go.
“It’s ironic in that the whole protest has been successful in that the council has had to listen and halt its plans and realise it has to get local people on their side,” said owner Steve Adams. “But sadly they haven’t come to us and said ‘It looks like right now this is happening, can we give you a new lease?’ … We would have grabbed at the chance.”