Ripping Yarns

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Celia Mitchell,
Ripping Yarns

By Laura Braun

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Ripping Yarns is Celia Mitchell's second-hand bookshop. Every available space is filled with books, and when the bargain books on trolleys and in cardboard boxes are brought in from the pavement, they entirely fill the aisles.

Celia says the shop is in need of 'culling': she has to get rid of the less interesting material because the books are spilling into her house and already occupy two garages.

The range of books the shop offers reveals Celia's personal involvement and selection. It includes works by her late husband, the author and antiwar poet Adrian Mitchell, alongside other political literature, ephemera and poetry, and children’s books from the Victorian era to relatively recent times. As an actress on tour, Celia spent her days browsing in second-hand bookshops while waiting to perform at night in towns all over the UK.

The enjoyment of picking up the books led to a large collection, and while living in a Suffolk village she began selling books in a market stall. The premises she now occupies have housed a second-hand bookshop since before the Second World War, and Celia has added another 30 years of literary history.

Update: It is with great sadness that we report news that Ripping Yarns is to close after eight decades. Celia Mitchell told the Camden Review that a back-dated rent increase has made it impossible for her to continue,although the shop will continue to trade online.

Celia Mitchell
Ripping Yarns
355 Archway Road
Highgate
London N6 4EJ

Photographed May 2010

Métier, Small Businesses in London, is a book by photographer Laura Braun about small-scale independent and specialist businesses in the capital and the people who run them.

Available from 3 December 2013

Available from Paper Tiger Books