By 12.30pm, a queue had formed down Charing Cross Road and was snaking around the corner. 300 people waiting for a bookshop to open its doors. Many had already seen a time lapse video, on Newsnight or the Guardianwebsite - 500,000 or so books being moved down the same stretch of pavement over the preceding week.
‘I can't remember the last time I celebrated the opening of a bookshop’ the Evening Standard's art correspondent, Louise Jury told us at a party packed with publishers, authors and booksellers a few days later. The phrase was repeated often throughout the following three weeks, during the Foyles Grand Opening Festival, which saw each department of the new flagship store opened by a leading author of the genre. Jarvis Cocker reminisced about his days in the former Central Saint Martins building, as he opened a whole floor dedicated to music. Grayson Perry, cheerfully dressed as a clown, celebrated the 'multi-coloured tombstones' in the art department.
'If God had been a bookseller', declared double Man Booker award-winner Hilary Mantel at the official opening, addressing a packed central atrium, 'then he could have done no better than welcome you to this new temple of words'. While not everyone went quite this far, praise for the stunning new shop was abundant. Foyles' move was seen throughout the press as a bold statement of faith and a canny exercise in future-proofing, with help from LDS architect Alex Lifschutz and a cross-industry planning workshop held in partnership with The Bookseller. Truly, many agreed, 'a bookshop for the 21st century'.
Some of the greatest praise came from the booksellers themselves, who poured their hearts and souls into the move, along with many hours overtime. This, as the visiting media discovered, is the real enduring success of bricks and mortar. It's a place where you come to be part of something, to receive expert recommendations and share in the passion of other people who read, write, publish and sell books. The bookshop, like Foyles itself, is an indispensable part of our culture.