Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 20 May 2018

Hay Cinema Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

This converted cinema is now one of the iconic bookshops in this extraordinary town of books. Its own website captures the history of the building quite precisely:

"Redundant Cinemas have been turned into many things - mostly bingo halls and supermarkets it seems - but in Hay on Wye they did something different. They turned it into a second-hand bookshop way back in 1965.

Hay Cinema Bookshops is the longest established of the big bookshops in the famous Town of Books and it’s been opening its doors to browsers ever since. Customers from all over the world continue to be amazed by the quantity and range of the stock  which runs to 200,000 volumes on all subjects - from Art to Zoology - and at prices from 50pence to thousands of pounds."

It certainly is an extraordinary place that’s quite literally cavernous inside. If you’re a serious book buyer you can ignore the outside stands full of 50p books because they are, with the best will in the world, disposable obscurities. They do, however, serve as a great bit of advertising to lure customers inside.

There’s a liberal mix of second hand and remaindered stock here in just about every configuration you can wish for or imagine. Sometimes I find shops with so much stock a bit soul destroying – it almost feels like you’re at a banquet where there’s nothing to eat but junk food; initially exciting but it soon palls. The Hay Cinema Bookshop however somehow manages to pull off the unexpected trick of making you feel that there’s enough of interest here to keep you looking – with the lingering promise that there just might be something…..

This is a no frills setting because every last bit of space is shelved for books and the old wooden floors upstairs creak in a gratifyingly olde worlde style. There’s an added little extra on the first floor too because there’s some concession space for another dealer – Francis Edwards Antiquarian Books – that you can go and have a look around for a more collectable, more curated stock.

You really can’t go to Hay and not go to this bookshop – even if you don’t find anything to buy the experience itself is worth the effort.

Terry Potter

May 2018