July 26, 2019
East London Waterstones forced to close after huge fire
by Nikki Griffiths
This Monday, July 22, a huge fire ripped through East London. Declared a major police incident, it broke out in The Mall shopping centre in Walthamstow, which contains 66 shops. 150 firefighters worked tirelessly to extinguish the blaze, managing to getting it under control five hours later.
The Mall put out an official statement the next day saying:
We can confirm that a fire broke out in part of centre on Monday 22nd July. Thankfully no one was injured in the incident and we are enormously grateful to the London Fire Brigade for their efforts in bringing the fire under control.
It is not yet known what caused the fire and the area is currently being examined by the Fire Brigade, Police, and representatives of Walthamstow Council to ensure it is safe. Once this process is complete, we will be able to properly assess the damage and determine which parts of the centre can be reopened and when.
Thank you for your patience and understanding and we look forward to getting back up and running as soon as possible.
The Mall contains a much beloved branch of Waterstones serving east London which also hosts a regular Rock ‘n’ Roll book club, which our own Jason Heller, author of Strange Stars, appeared at last summer. Luckily no staff were harmed in the fire but the whole mall is now closed with no timing given for possible reopening. Locals took to Twitter to share messages of love and support with the store.
Hi @Waterstones just want to say your long standing Walthamstow branch team aka @WaterstonesE17 are brilliant. Knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. Really hope that after today's fire at the shopping centre where your store is located you'll do all you can to support them.
— Sally Dobson (@SallyDobson) July 22, 2019
Can I just say that @WaterstonesE17 is the first Waterstones I’ve been to in London that has a dedicated section for black writers. Every time I go I end up circling the table and just yesterday I bought Zoe’s Neale Hurtson’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Local stores matter
— Jacq Darkwa (@Darkwa_Says) July 22, 2019
In response, the Walthamstow Waterstones branch tweeted: ‘Thank you for all the kind and supportive messages. At present we are helping out in some of our other branches.’
It remains to be seen if any innocent books succumbed to the blaze. Let’s hope the bookshop, along with many other shops devastate by the fire, will be operational again soon.
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.