The Lavender Menace Queer Books Archive is being established:
- To collect a physical archive of queer and LGBT+ books, especially those Lavender Menace Bookshop sold and those which are out of print, in order to keep them alive for readers in a way the publishing industry’s business model makes it difficult to do.
- To create a database of these and other books, both older and newer.
- To make this database interactive on a website with reviews and a blog about queer and LGBT+ books (those by or about queer and LGBT+ people or involved with queer and LGBT+ history).
- To take part in or organise events such as meetings about queer and LGBT+ writing, history and theatre, and run bookstalls, in order to promote queer and LGBT+ writing and bookselling.
- To highlight the collection’s books and (newer queer books) in the archive blog, and on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in order to encourage others to read them and write about them.
- To collect ephemera associated with queer bookselling, especially in Scotland.
- To build links with other queer and feminist archives, and heritage groups such as LGBT History Month, in order to promote dialogue and learn about new developments.
- To raise funds to support the archive through grants, crowdfunding donations and sales of queer book-themed products.
- To encourage donations of queer books from individuals and organisations.
- To seek partnerships with institutions to secure the archive’s future as a space for the books, a research facility, and a forum for discussion and events around queer writing.
When Lavender Menace was opened in the 1980s, and 1990s as West & Wilde, we were part of a burgeoning interest in lesbian and gay literature. We had many bestsellers from independent lesbian and gay presses and large publishers began to offer openly lesbian and gay books. It was a vibrant time for both writers and readers.
Now, nearly 40 years later, publishers such as Gay Men’s Press, Onlywomen Press and Brilliance Books have closed, while large publishers have reduced the size of their earlier catalogues. Many of the original titles we stocked, once very popular, are hard to find.
At the same time, an even larger new wave of queer and LGBT+ books is being published very often replacing the old with the new. But the titles from all eras are part of our community’s identity. They provide us with a story in a society where we have often been silenced.
After the success of James Ley’s play about our shop, Love Song to Lavender Menace, we decided to reopen as a popup bookshop with a new project – to create a queer books archive supported by a blog. We want to help preserve copies of out of print queer books, some of which are now rare, and set up a physical archive to preserve them and a database to list queer books and record readers’ views and stories about them.
We will be applying to secure grant funding and are working with partners and supporters in the LGBT+ queer community to bring the books together as we once did in the bookshop.
If you’re interested in the idea of an archive of LGBT+ queer literature, either by donating books or contributing your skills, have a look at and see how to get involved.