Samuel French bookshop re-opens following 'wonderful coincidence'

Samuel French bookshop re-opens following 'wonderful coincidence'

Theatre bookshop Samuel French has found a new home in the Royal Court theatre a year after rent hikes forced it to close.

The bookseller’s m.d Douglas Schatz described the new home in London’s Sloane Square, in the theatre which has celebrated playwriting for 60 years, as “a wonderful coincidence and a beautiful thing”.

The store will be based in the theatre’s balcony bar and will open on 5th March, 11 months after a rent increase of 200% caused it to close its premises in Fitzroy Street.

The new outlet will stock 6,000 books across a space of 800 square feet, consisting mainly of play texts. Customers will be able to browse and read titles in the bookshop, buy refreshments from the bar and attend author events. 

The space has been designed by London-based architects Haworth Tompkins, which oversaw the redevelopment of the theatre in 2000, and refurbished the theatre’s bar and kitchen three years ago.

Schatz told The Bookseller that the supportive messages following the closure in April had encouraged him to consider another space. He said: “We were devastated about closing down. There were sound financial reasons and we had no choice. We were quite overwhelmed by the response to the closure and had so many people talking about it and so many messages of support. We had underestimated that and it was interesting to see how strong the feeling was.”

He said that he sought meetings with the Royal Court to discuss a collaboration and theatre representatives had thought about the same venture independently so it was a “a wonderful coincidence and a beautiful thing”.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” he told The Bookseller. “It is an iconic theatre and one of the most important centres for playwriting in this country. We are so delighted to get back out there.”

Lucy Davies, executive producer at the Royal Court, described it as “a thrilling and significant new partnership, which allows us to re-imagine and share the loveliest public space in our building – our balcony bar – giving audiences, readers and writers a very special new resource”.

She added: “We are delighted that Samuel French’s legendary bookshop can move into a new era with us here in Sloane Square.”

The UK arm of the Samuel French business was founded by Thomas Hailes Lacy in 1830 and a bookshop has existed on various sites around London since that time, moving to its present location in Fitzroy Street in 1983.

The store will be open between 11am and 5:30pm, Monday to Saturday, with a bookstall open from 6pm to curtain on performance nights.