City bookshop threatened with closure

THE University of Portsmouth's flagship bookshop could be set to close.

Tuesday, 5th December 2017, 9:06 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:11 pm
Amber Lee Dodd from Portsmouth, who used to work at Blackwells at the University of Portsmouth, launched her debut novel We Are Giants there last year Picture: Sarah Standing (160532-8758)

Uncertainty is looming over the future of Blackwell’s as it negotiates its tenancy with its landlord, the University of Portsmouth.

The Cambridge Road store – which opened in 2004 – will close on Friday, December 22 if a new premises for the retailer is not found, says its manager Jo West.

Ms West, 48 – who has been involved with Blackwell in the city for 27 years – said: ‘We have been struggling over the past few years – as have most bookshops – and the university has been supportive to us in terms of our rent.

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‘But we know they now want to reuse the space we are in and they have not been able to provide what we think might be a viable site.

‘It is desperately sad – to lose the shop would be a great debt. We really hope an agreement can be struck.’

Multiple petitions calling for the store to be saved have been started by local authors and University of Portsmouth academics.

Many local authors have launched their books at the store, and the shop sells many works by Portsmouth authors.

One online document, which has collected more than 730 signatures, was started by city author Matt Wingett – who has had at least 10 of his books appear in Blackwell.

The 49-year-old said: ‘Blackwell is so much more than a bookshop – it’s one of the University of Portsmouth’s ways of reaching out to the public.

‘I think it would be a real blow to cultural life in Portsmouth if it had to close.’

Responding to city writers’ rumours Blackwell could close, a spokesperson for the University of Portsmouth said: ‘The university has been in discussions with Blackwell’s over a number of months about the long-term arrangements of the shop.

‘We have been working closely with them to see if we can find suitable alternative arrangements but unfortunately to date, we have not been able to agree on a location.’