Tucked away in Crown Street Wollongong, in a strange spot between an axe throwing range and a board game shop, is a door and a staircase, leading to a second-hand bookshop: a bookshop that overlooks the Spotlight store on the opposite side of the street and a short walk from a bus stop. An anti-capitalist bookshop that quadruples as a co-working space, a stage and a theatre. This bookshop is Society City Wollongong.
Society City Wollongong is run entirely by its members who volunteer their free time to help take care of the space, cleaning it, taking care of its books, selling to the occasional customer and decorating the space to create a safe haven for their community. The key word here is ‘help’, they offer their own labour free of charge to keep the bookshop run with minimal costs. It’s a bookshop by the community.
All sorts of events are run here, from poetry slams to movie screenings to book launches and late-night study sessions. After-hours, the space can be booked for $20 an hour by anyone, for any purpose. The space can transform into a stage for bands to debut their music, or a small room in the corner of the bookshop can house the recluse writer, seeking to clack away the written word on a typewriter. It’s a bookshop for the community.
Out front is a basket for free books: drop one off, pick one up, doesn’t matter. The books that line the shelves are curated by its members, who deliberate on whether they align with their values of diversity, inclusivity and creativity. Local and independent authors come to offer up their books in this space, where the local community gathers. But it’s not just the writers, it’s the musicians, the artists, the occasional journalist and the rest of the local community. It’s a safe haven.