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Samuel French bookshop closure prompts industry outcry

French's Theatre Bookshop
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The news that theatre publisher Samuel French is to close its London bookshop has prompted an industry outcry, with critics branding the move “a monstrosity.”

Leading theatre practitioners including Rupert Goold, artistic director at the Almeida Theatre, have criticised the closure of the bookshop after 187 years in the capital.

A petition has also been launched urging Camden Council to save what is described as a “priceless and invaluable asset to the theatre industry”.

The news was announced yesterday, with the publishing and theatre licensing company blaming an “unsustainable rental increase” of up to 300% at the Fitzroy Street premises over the past five years.

All bookselling activity will move online, and the company’s offices will move near to Euston, where the publishing and licensing arms of the company will be based.

Goold posted on Twitter that he was sad to hear about the closure, and that he had “spent days in here learning about plays and players”.

Actor, musician and model Noush Skaugen posted on Instagram: “So sad…just heard our beloved london theatre bookstore #samuelfrench where I’ve browsed many a play is closing down…maybe an angel philanthropist can find a new place for it? #wherearewegoing”

Others took to Twitter to condemn high London rents.

Playwright Michael Ross tweeted: “Rents in London are too high, killing the vitality and variety of this city. Do something, Sadiq!”

Children’s writer and illustrator Sue Eves tweeted: “How sad Samuel French is closing London doors – 200% rent increase!

“Thanks for being there when we needed you.”

A spokesman from RADA also expressed shock at the announcement of the bookshop’s closure.

Lloyd Trott, RADA’s academy dramaturg, said: “We were deeply shocked to learn of the imminent closure of French’s Bookshop.

“The London theatre world will be sadly diminished by the loss of this rich and reliable resource. It deserves a major subsidy to continue in business.”

A petition launched on Change.org called Save Samuel French Theatre Bookshop has reached 350 signatures.

The petition reads: “Samuel French is more than a bookshop. It is a priceless and invaluable asset to the theatre industry; an industry for which London and the United Kingdom are globally renowned.

“Upon hearing news today that the bookshop has been forced to close due to a 200% increase in rent over the past five years, the industry has been in shock.

“Spending hours in Samuel French searching for the perfect drama school audition piece is a memory held dear by countless actors.

“Not to mention the writers, directors, producers, designers, singers, dancers, composers, librettists and lyricists, students, technicians, and choreographers who rely on the unique service and expertise brought by the bookstore and its staff; one that Waterstones and Amazon will not be able to fill in its absence.”

It adds: “Do not let this vital piece of London’s theatre history be replaced by a Starbucks.”

Supporters commented on the petition to express their disappointment at the closure.

Gloria Baker said: “If you get rid of this bookstore you get rid of the heart of what is an actor’s precious hub of knowledge. You would never rid of a library with medical journals… why rid of this?”

In 2012, West End theatre shop Dress Circle closed, having operated for 33 years.

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