Shame if development led to demise of Rare and Racy

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Although I have no strong views on the merits or otherwise of the proposed re-development of the shops on Devonshire Street, it would be a great shame if it led to the demise of Rare and Racy. I grew up in Cavendish Street and when the shop opened two streets away I was among its first customers.

In the early days the shop occupied just one room and only opened in the evenings. The books were cheap and I would often leave with several, some of which I still own. Later on, it operated on two floors, selling prints, as well as books and vinyl. There was also a Rare and Racy 2 on South Road in Walkley.

Much of the appeal of a visit to Rare and Racy in its heyday was meeting John Capes. Bookdealing tends to turn up “characters” and John was certainly one of them. He could talk for England and with passion. It was a sad day when John decamped to Staithes.

Alan and Joe tended to concentrate on the records and contributed to the shop’s reputation for finding and playing more esoteric and experimental albums, usually, at high volume – leading one guide to secondhand bookshops to describe Rare and Racy as being “kind to the deaf”.

Looking at the crowd gathered outside the Town Hall while councillors considered the planning application, I got the impression that some were there because of the celebrity status of those leading the protest.

I hope that, if Rare and Racy survives, at least a proportion of them will patronise the shop. It has lived a hand-to-mouth existence in recent years and needs all the customers it can get.

I am sure, though, that many of the campaigners will be as dismayed as I was by the attempt by HJ Greaves (Letters , March 24) to turn the issue into a party political one. Under the planning system local councils have very limited powers to stop developments and the application was likely to have been approved whichever party was in office.

Paul Kenny

S3