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Bishop backs rhino monument to paperback shop behind book festival
by Craig Brown,
Scotland on Sunday, 06 February 2011

IT COULD be a landmark to rival Greyfriars Bobby, but perhaps not as cute.

Visitors to Edinburgh may one day be charging across the city to see a rhino sitting on the site of a historic bookshop, at least if one senior churchman has his way.

The Bishop of Edinburgh, the Right Rev Brian Smith, of the Scottish Episcopal Church says that The Paperback bookshop, opened in 1959 by a recently demobbed US soldier called Jim Haynes in Charles Street, deserves to be commemorated as a cultural nexus from which the ideas and impetus for the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Traverse Theatre emerged.

As Britain's first paperback-only shop, it became popular with university students and fans of forward-thinking literature of the time, and the stuffed rhino's head that hung outside the door was a well-known landmark in the area.

The block of buildings was later demolished and the site used as a car park for a number of years.

Smith, who had just started studying at the university at time of its establishment, said that the shop's second role as a theatre venue was pivotal in creating what amounts to a cultural landmark.

He said an apt memorial for the shop would be the representation of a rhino, either as a plaque or a sculpture, echoing its former sign.

"If you talked to anyone in Edinburgh who was around at the time, the fact that the shop had this trademark was well known. It would be the obvious way to mark what was a very seminal and creative focus for Edinburgh life around 1960," Smith said.

Edinburgh author Alexander McCall Smith shared the bishop's enthusiasm for the idea. "One of the problems about that part of Edinburgh, is that the physical memory was obliterated because of the destruction of so many parts of the old city there that had character," he said.

"I think particularly given that Edinburgh is a Unesco world city of literature, these are important seeds of this literary movement."

McCall Smith added: "I would readily pay for it if he wanted to do.

"I can't imagine it would cost very much and would be willing to fund it within reasonable limits."

Haynes, who went on to become a pivotal figure in London's counter-culture literary scene, and now lives in Paris, said: "I think it's true The Paperback Bookshop was a major source of creative energy.

"It brought people together from all of Scotland, England and Europe to proclaim their creativity."

read the article on the Scotland on Sunday's Website
article published with kind permission
©Scotland on Sunday, 2011



2011, Scotland on Sunday : Bishop backs rhino monument to paperback shop behind book festival

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