Gays The Word: Tributes paid to Peter Dorey who opened first LGBTQ+ bookshop

Gays The Word: Tributes paid to Peter Dorey who opened first LGBTQ+ bookshop

A pioneering shop owner who opened the UK’s first gay book store has died at the age of 73.

Peter Dorey, who was among a small group of gay activists, opened Gay’s The Word in Bloomsbury in central London in 1979.

The shop acted as a “safe place” for LGBTQ+ communities during a period of oppression and discrimination.

Mr Dorey, who was raised in Harrow, passed away on Friday following years of poor health, his family confirmed.

“Gay’s The Word has been an important part of the LGBTQ+ community for many years and we get visitors from all over the world,” store manager Jim MacSweeney said.

“We owe Peter Dorey a great deal of thanks for his part in setting up our bookshop.”

Gay’s The Word quickly established itself as a vital community hub during the 1980s, offering information and resources to members of London’s LGBTQ+ community.

“The shop was set up as a safe community space where profits, if any, went back into the bookshop,” Mr MacSweeney said.

“As well as books, we had a cafe at the back with community notice boards and space for various groups to meet.”

The groups that met at the store included a lesbian discussion group, a gay black group, Irish gays in London and, for a period in 1984, a lesbians and gays support the miners group.

Peter and co-owner Ernest Hole were also part of a group named Gay Icebreakers – a gay socialist group that ran a helpline and held regular discussion groups at the store, Mr MacSweeney added.

In 1984, the store was raided by HM Customs and Excise who seized thousands of pounds worth of stock.

Charges were brought against the staff and directors for importing “indecent” material.

The case gathered a great deal of media coverage and questions were raised in the House of Commons before the charges were finally dropped, Mr MacSweeney said.

“Both Peter and Ernest attended our 40th anniversary celebrations at the British Library in 2019,” he added.

“At the end of the evening, when we thanked them from the stage, the audience rose as one to give a standing ovation to thank them both for what they did for us all.

“Peter took great pride in the fact that the shop, despite all it’s difficulties over the years, has survived and thrives.”

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