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Gay's the Word bookshop co-founder Jonathan Cutbill has died at the age of 82

Jonathan helped start the tiny Bloomsbury bookshop back in 1979 with Peter Dorey and Ernest Hole

2019-08-15

Words: Steve Brown

The Gay’s the Word bookshop co-founder Jonathan Cutbill has died at the age of 82.

The pioneering bookshop owner starting the Bloomsbury bookshop back in 1979 with Peter Dorey and Ernest Hole and during his time, he built up a huge collection of LGBTQ-related literature and the shop became the UK’s first LGBT-dedicated bookshop.

In 1984, Gay’s the Word was raided by Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise officers.

Dubbed ‘Operation Tiger,’ they seized thousands of pounds worth of stock that were deemed obscene by the British government.

The bookshop’s board of directors and staff members, including Jonathan, were charged with conspiracy to import indecent material.

A campaign was set up in defence of the shop and charges were finally dropped.

Jonathan retired back in 1993 and moved to Shropshire. He died at the age of 82 after a period of ill health.

Gay’s the Word manager, Jim MacSweeney, told the Bookseller: “For more than 20 years he bought a copy of every LGBT book that the bookshop stocked adding them to his already extensive library.

“When I joined the bookshop in 1989 Jonathan was hugely supportive and I often turned to him for advice on difficult issues or simply to chat and perhaps glean some of his enormous knowledge of gay literature.

“He was outspoken and had strong views on many issues, not suffering fools gladly. A great activist, I had enormous respect for him.”

The small bookshop has gone through years and years of trouble and even this year, one of the window's was smashed but they refuse to let the incident shatter the positivity and optimism of their work.

Gay’s the Word was honoured with an Attitude Pride Award last year.

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