About this Archive
Administrative Biographical History
Gay's the Word is the UK's oldest LGBT bookshop, established in January 1979 by a small group of people from Gay Icebreakers, a gay socialist group, as a community space where all profits were funnelled back into the business. For a period of time it was the only LGBTQ+ bookshop in England.
In 1984, Customs and Excise mounted a large-scale raid and seized thousands of pounds' worth of stock. Works by Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Christopher Isherwood, and Jean Genet as well as the Joy of Gay Sex and Joy of Lesbian Sex were among the books seized. Directors were eventually charged with conspiracy to import indecent books under the Customs Consolidation Act 1876.
A campaign was set in motion and the charges were vigorously defended. A defence fund was set up and raised over £55,000 from the public. Many well-known writers also gave their support. Newspaper articles appeared, various MPs visited the shop and questions were asked in the House of Commons. The charges were eventually dropped in 1986.
Scope and Content
Legal documents, press and publicity material, leaflets, information pack, newsletters, and other papers and publications regarding the Defend Gay's the Word campaign against a legal case brought against the bookshop charging the directors with conspiracy to import indecent books under the Customs Consolidation Act 1876, [c.1970-1986]