A Kickstarter is under way to create a “feminist safe haven” bookshop in Paris called COVEN to offer English language books, a café and range of events.
Paris-born hospitality worker Lucie Camara (pictured below) has joined forces with copywriter Louise Binns, who was born in the UK but has lived in Paris since 2009 and volunteers at the American Library of Paris. The pair have already raised more than £7,600 of their £21,262 goal, with the aim to find premises for the bookshop after narrowly missing out on a space earlier this year.
Camara told The Bookseller that their aim was to create "a feminist safe haven that will offer predominantly English language books, an ethical café and a range of engaged literary events in Paris".
Binns said: "We met by chance earlier this year at The American Library of Paris when I attended a panel discussion on race and identity, which Lucie spoke on," Binns said. "I saw that Lucie had started a feminist book club in December 2018, which was of huge interest to me as I had started The Feminist Book Club, Paris, in March of the same year. We spoke very briefly after the event before meeting up a few days later where Lucie told me her idea for an English language feminist bookshop and café."
The crowdfunder should help them secure a property in the north-east of the French capital. Camara said: "We found a great space over the summer, which we had to say goodbye to owing to lack of funds. This is what inspired us to launch our Kickstarter campaign and ask for some help. Over the past decade the north-east of Paris has become the new place-to-be for young creatives, both international and local. This is why we feel it’s the perfect area to open the COVEN bookshop and café—we want to bridge the gap and become the go-to place for intellectual nourishment in the north of Paris."
To start with, Binns will manage the shop and events calendar while Camara will oversee the café though long-term, they are aiming to offer employment or volunteer opportunities to people who share our values and are invested in the COVEN community. They also plan to host a book club in the shop once opened.
When asked why they wanted to start the store with a feminist focus now, Binns said: "We know from our Paris community that there is a craving for more feminist conversations and a need for more venues that cater to them. With the critical state of politics, we want to radiate beyond borders and be an active part of the conversation and the change that is taking place around the world while providing a space that others can enjoy and benefit from. Toni Morrison once said, ‘If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it’. By launching COVEN we are simply creating a space that we ourselves would wish to visit and be a part of.
"There are just two notable feminist bookshops in Paris, both of which stock a limited selection of English language books… And while Paris is home to around 25,000 English speakers, it is surprisingly short on international bookshops. We see COVEN as a welcome and timely addition to the city, joining the wonderful bookshops, specialty spaces and feminist projects that already exist."
Binns described the reaction to the project as "overwhelmingly positive". She said: "People both near and far are really excited about COVEN, which confirms for us that there’s a need for this type of place in Paris. Just three days into our campaign, Kickstarter selected us as a Project We Love which was a very pleasant surprise. We’re both working on COVEN alongside other freelance projects so this community support and enthusiasm keeps us going and will see us through the rest of our crowdfunding campaign."
The friends have been sourcing inspiration for the shop from around the world, including the US and Australia, and Binns revealed some of their favourite bookshops in the UK. Camara said: "Gay’s the Word and Pages of Cheshire Street in London are such welcoming spaces. We met the fantastic people behind Lighthouse Books in Edinburgh over the summer—we absolutely love what they do and they are a great example of creating safe spaces, as well as Category ii Books (Glasgow) which inspired us with their 'pay it forward mentality'."
For more information, visit kickstarter.com/projects/covenparis/coven-bookshop-and-cafe/description.
Photo credit Elodie Paul