An emergency crowdfunding campaign launched by Saqi Books after its Al Saqi shop was flooded this week, damaging the building and hundreds of books, has raised more than £13,000.
On 12th July, nearly three inches of rain fell in 90 minutes causing flash floods in several areas of west and south London. Al Saqi bookshop’s basement was flooded with wastewater one metre high, damaging the building in Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, west London, and its stock.
The bookshop first opened 43 years ago. After months of closure owig to Covid-19, Al Saqi was only able to reopen full-time last month. The bookshop is also home to Saqi Books, a leading independent publisher of trade and academic books on the Middle East and North Africa. Combined, the publishing house and bookshop have lost tens of thousands of pounds worth of stock, which was stored in the basement. Some of Saqi’s damaged titles are the last of their print run.
Speaking to The Bookseller, bookshop director and Saqi Publisher Lynn Gaspard commented: "Our basement has had water damage once or twice over the years since 1979, but we’ve never experienced anything like this. The water has now mostly receded though there are still pools of water in parts of our basement. The dirty water was a metre high, and those books that were on the lower shelves that aren’t soaked, have dirty muck on them. Thankfully, many of the books were placed higher up so the loss of books amounts to approximately over £20,000’s worth. It could have been worse. Longer term, there is also a worry about how the damp will affect the stock, which we are addressing. Half of the stock was of Saqi London’s titles: a mix of new and backlist works; most of our coffee table books have been damaged. Of the Arabic stock, it’s a mix of Dar al Saqi publications and other publishers’ which we source from across the MENA [Middle East and North Arican] region.
"Events like this are always a shock, but we are buoyed up and really touched by the support we are receiving from booksellers, publishers, and the wider reading community, both at home and internationally. It really means so much to me, my family and colleagues, especially when so many of us have felt so disconnected over the past 18 months. Luckily, our bookshop is still open as the flood was limited to the basement, so for those who are able to come by and would prefer to buy a book to support us and our authors, we would love to see you."
Saqi Books launched the crowdfunding campaign on 13th July via GoFundMe. It hopes to raise £15,000 in the next week, which will go towards cleaning and pulping costs, replacing the ruined stock and proofing the basement against future floods.
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