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Norwich independent bookshop defends itself after being accused of "censorship" and being "anti-Trump"

PUBLISHED: 14:47 28 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:43 01 March 2017

The Book Hive, Norwich. Manager Rory Hill.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Book Hive, Norwich. Manager Rory Hill. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

An independent book store in Norwich has continued to defend itself after author Susan Hill branded it an "anti-Trump bookshop" and accused it of censorship over the stocking of books about the American president.

The Book Hive, Norwich. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe Book Hive, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Woman in Black writer cancelled an event with The Book Hive before penning an article attacking the shop which was published on the website of The Spectactor.

Within it, she said general bookstores had a duty to provide books reflecting a wide range of views, and that not to do this was a form of censorship.

About the Book Hive, she said: “They have put their own political and personal views about the USA and its President before their business, their customers and what a bookshop is and must, more than any other sort of shop or business, be about.”

The Book Hive team said they were astounded at the claims and quickly moved to defend themselves, and an array of people have also visited the London Street store today and taken to social media to give their support to the team.

Author Susan Hill during a visit to Norwich. Photo: Bill SmithAuthor Susan Hill during a visit to Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Henry Layte, the owner of the Book Hive, today published an open letter to the Spectator.

Within it he wrote: “Such a ban [on pro-Trump literature] has never existed in my shop. She would know this had she ever visited, which she hasn’t.”

His letter goes on to say: “As a business, it would be churlish of me not to reflect in much of my stock the prevailing political temperature of the place I am in – just as it would be nonsensical for me to keep a wide range of books on the hill paths of North Wales. Norwich is and always has been a city with a strong sense of radical thought and rebellion.”

He said the store would order anything for customers, with the exception of books such as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

US President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)US President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Meanwhile in the shop today manager Rory Hill also spoke out about Susan Hill’s article, and said he was heartened by the show of support the shop has received from the public.

He said: “We are very lucky to have had a very positive reaction from people. We hope that having been here as part of the community for almost eight years that we have fostered close links with the public, and people are more than welcome to disagree with us as well.

“That’s the great thing about living in the society we do, we are allowed to debate about these things...Most of this morning has been people coming in intentionally to talk about it and buy a book as a direct result, which is lovely, because as we are going back to, we are a business and it’s very nice to have people show their support by coming in here and taking part in what we are which is an independent bookshop.”

Among the people to visit the shop yesterday was Bethanie Collins, a 43-year-old finance officer from Wymondham.

She said: “I came in specifically buy a book [after hearing about Susan Hill’s article].

“It makes me really cross because I think you have to be allowed to say what you want and have your own opinions and this is an independent bookshop...It’s up to the public to support it or not, and not up to an author to say if it is right or wrong.”

Sixty-seven-year-old Jenny Aldous from Sprowston said: “I read the initial article and saw the full letter sent in response to Susan Hill cancelling, and her refusal to come to what she deems an anti-Trump book shop - which is totally erroneous. I read a lot and this is a totally independent, wonderful bookshop we have here.”

Forty-three-year-old Julia Ellis from Barford said: “I have never ever sensed any political bias or anything [at the Book Hive]. I think what is happening is not fair. It’s terrible in my opinion.”

Rachel Hannyngton, a 58-year-old Norwich painter, said: “I think her [Susan Hill’s} point about libraries and bookshops [being similar] is completely spurious.

“An independent bookshop by nature is not obligued to stock anything it does not want to, that’s why I come into this book shop. It’s like a boutique that you like, you know that they stock the things that you are interested in and it is catering to the needs of the people who live in Norwich.

“This bookshop is a complete treasure for Norwich...the reason I come here is because I trust the taste and understanding of Henry Layte, the owner, to choose and put out books he thinks people will find interesting. There is always a fantastic choice of books.”

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