Welcome to the Five Leaves Bookshop
One of the few independents to open in any UK city centre this century! Find us opposite Nottingham Tourism centre – see map on the right.
Located in the centre of Nottingham, we specialise in:
Cityscape and Landscape, Politics, Fiction and Poetry,
Lesbian and Gay, Counterculture, International writing, and Magazines and Journals.
We are open Monday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.30pm, Sundays 12.00 – 4.00pm
If there was any doubt that Five Leaves is a radical bookshop it was dispelled the day after the 2015 General Election when a stream of Labour voters, Greens and assorted lefties drifted into the shop seeking comfort after the storm. We found ourselves providing an open therapy group for the forlorn (as we were ourselves). We printed up some badges – Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Labour/Green/I’m an Anarchist, as well as a set carrying the Joe Hill slogan, Don’t Mourn, Organise… This happened again after the Brexit vote and again after the American Presidential election! But not after the 2017 election…
But how can a political bookshop survive on the high street? We were, in November 2013, the first independent of any description to open in a city centre this century, and there are not many radical bookshops around. Like any good independent, we prioritise customer service – we offer next day supply for most UK books and one or two weeks for most books from the USA. Overall, our stock might be different to most other independents but some months our best-sellers are those that also appear on the best-sellers lists generally. We make sure that there is enough choice for anyone coming into the shop, regardless of their views. We have one very regular customer, for example, who only buys books on Buddhism. Others head straight for our cityscape and landscape sections and quite a few other regulars never get further than poetry. Poetry is important to us, not least as it is a strong interest of one member of staff, and we regularly put on readings.
But in any case, radical books do shift – whether they be academic, polemic or historical. Many of our customers, however, come for the specialist areas of the shop – Beat writers, Travellers/Roma, Anarchism, Jewish interest (our best selling magazine is Jewish Socialist!), Transgender, Black History… We might not stock celebrity biographies but for some of our customers it is more important that 25% of our fiction is in translation, with its own dedicated section.
Five Leaves Bookshop works with dozens of local community groups including trade unions, the Quakers, Nottingham Irish Studies Group, Nottingham Women’s History and various departments at our two local universities. We run an events programme with at least one meeting in the shop every week. Our own mini-Festival, Bread and Roses, attracted 850 people in its first outing, with packed events for Owen Jones, Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) and cult-writer Iain Sinclair. Bread and Roses is probably the only book festival funded by trade unions. In the second year Bread and Roses stretched to eleven days. This year it was smaller, but included the first Nottingham Radical Bookfair, with twenty other publishers and booksellers taking part.
With three full years and four Christmasses under our belt we are moving forward steadily – steadily enough to pay the staff the Living Wage. Nobody in the booktrade should earn less than the cost of a standard paperback novel.
The bookshop grew out of the longstanding Five Leaves Publications, which has been publishing literary, social history and political books since 1995. One of our staff also works at Nottingham Writers’ Studio and wrote the bid for Nottingham to become a UNESCO City of Literature. We published a 5,000 print run book of commissioned stories by local writers including John Harvey, Alison Moore and Paula Rawsthorne as part of a literature development project in the city run jointly with Nottingham Writers’ Studio and Bromley House Library, in support of the bid.
If there was ever a time when independent bookshops simply waited for customers to show up we feel that is long gone. We work hard to involve and be involved with as many groups in the city as we can. And not just in the city – from its previous publishing base and now from the bookshop we work with the Leicester Centre for Creative Writing to run the annual States of Independence celebration of independent publishing. Five Leaves also set up the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing and, with Housmans Bookshop in London, initiated the London Radical Bookfair. In 2016 – as well as events at Lowdham Book Festival and States of Independence we ran 63 bookshop events and set up our own reading group.
City centre rents make it difficult for any small businesses to survive. Fortunately our city has many alleyways and cut-throughs which provide spaces for “destination” shops. Five Leaves could not be more central to Nottingham. We are one minute from the city’s main square and City Council offices and happily occupy an alleyway which once included the headquarters of the Universal Suffrage Association.
Nottingham is a multi-cultural city and many of our customers are new to the city, joining those who have long been involved in the local literature or political scenes. We’ve doubled the stock since opening. We are doing fine.
Nottingham increasingly seeing itself as a “rebel city”. In literature terms we draw on the tradition of DH Lawrence, Lord Byron and Alan Sillitoe. The first radical bookshop in the city was opened in 1826 by one Susannah Wright and there were several others in our local history. Nottingham’s radical bookshop tradition lives on!
We also stock:
A wide variety of greetings cards and post cards, Book Tokens and our own Bookshop vouchers.
Leading up to Christmas we start selling Zapatista coffee, Palestinian oil and dates, a small selection of Radical Tea Towels, mugs, the odd set of owls and a flock of literary ducks… diaries, calanders, left wing bric-a-brac.
We have many events planned in the shop over the next few months. Please check the events section for regular updates.
We can order any book in print, Most books arrive within 24-48 hours. Books can be ordered in the shop, by phone or by email with payment only on collection. Orders from the USA take a few days longer.
We offer 15% discount to book groups ordering four or more of a title, collected together or individually. Such orders can be monthly or occasionally. We welcome visit buys or more regular orders from institutions.
We can provide bookstalls at conferences and events, not just in Nottingham.
Five Leaves is also a publisher – see our list at www.fiveleaves.co.uk.
“…the wonderful, idiosyncratic new Five Leaves Bookshop” New Walk Magazine
“Notts TUC’s bookshop of choice” Nottinghamshire Trades Union Council
“You ain’t gonna find a d-list celeb biog here. Book your ideas up. ” LeftLion
“A commie bookshop that likes poetry” – in truth this was a completely misheard comment about the shop by a customer, but we are rather fond of it