By Dan Walsh in Wexford town
Two hundred people attended the enlargement and opening of a spacious extension to Red Books, a popular local bookstore in Wexford’s St Peter’s Square last Tuesday evening.
In an age when many had written off physical bookshops as being feasible, veteran bookseller Anton O’Broin, who cut the ribbon on the new building, said that Wexford would never abandon the written word.
“Books have run hand in hand with the development of our nation,” said Mr O’Broin, who added; “From Thomas Davis distributing the Nation in the 1840s to the fact that many of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, locally and nationally, were writers and poets. They were drawn by the power of the written word, just as we are today.
“Our extension doubles the size of Red Books and increases our stock to a quarter of a million books,” Wally O’ Neill, the owner of Red Books, said. “It also affords us much needed space for book launches, writer groups and the many other events that happen around bookstores like ours.”
Red Books began life in a converted bulls-shed in Bridgetown village five and a half years ago. It has since grown rapidly, expanding into Wexford town in 2019, and now doubling its size this year, despite pandemics, lockdowns and inflation.
“It’s gone from being the smallest bookshop in Ireland to being one of the largest independents,” Kieran O’ Brien, another local bookseller and MC for the launch, said. “It rivals anything in the big cities now, and many of them don’t even have a good independent bookshop left,” he concluded.
As well as being a bookstore, Red Books is also a publisher of local books, recently launching two new anthologies, the third issue of the Wexford Bohemian and the latest copy of Wexford Women Writing Undercover. Mr O’Neill told WexfordLocal.com that he anticipated that the bookstore would produce at least five more publications before Christmas, saying they were overwhelmed with the incredible array of diverse and powerful writing talent coming into the store every day.
“Wexford is certainly going through a literary renaissance,” he said. “You can’t throw a stone in this town without hitting a writer, poet, historian, artist, or musician, and all of them are contributing to the rich culture of the locality. We’re very proud to be part of all of this.
John Updike said that bookstores “were lonely forts spilling light out onto the sidewalks. Well, thanks to our wonderful bookshop community, we’re a not so lonely fort on a hill, spilling books and poets, quare-hawks and visionaries out onto the footpaths of Wexford.”
Red Books is open seven days a week in Wexford’s St Peter’s Square.