Independent Bookshop Week is, not surprisingly, all about bookshops! To celebrate the 2023 edition, we thought we’d introduce you to one of our favourite indie publishing spots we’ve discovered so far this year, Manchester’s UNITOM.
Where does your story start? How did you come to set up shop where you have?
UNITOM’s origin story is one of fortunate serendipity. Half of the UNITOM team, including Tim (our store manager and buyer), previously worked at Magma. Having worked at Magma for over a decade, we had built many relationships with our regular customers, including an art advisory duo operating under the name of Universal Tomorrow. The unfortunate post-Covid closure of the Manchester branch of Magma coincided with Universal Tomorrow seeking a space for a design-led, visual arts-orientated bookshop. When the space on Stevenson Square became available, everything aligned and UNITOM was born.
Where can customers find you? What’s your favourite thing about the area you’re in?
We’re located in the heart of Manchester, the Northern Quarter. In the warmer months, it’s one of the nicest places in Manchester to sit and have a drink in the sun. The Northern Quarter in general is a great place, we’re surrounded by many amazing independent businesses, such as Fred Aldous, The Nordic Muse, Form Lifestyle Store, and Soup Kitchen. Not to mention amazing coffee shops! The team loves Just Between Friends and Siop Shop. When tourists come to UNITOM and ask for recommendations in the area, we usually have to get pen and paper out to write them all down.
Are you hosting or involved with any in-store events, readings or activities?
Since opening, we’ve really made an effort to host as wide an array of events as possible, to cater to all visual arts sectors. Our programme of events for the rest of 2023 is shaping up nicely.
Already this year, we’ve hosted a zine launch and pop-up shop with the FIMS students at Salford University, a pop-up shop with Manchester-based home fragrance brand VENOMCULT, a book launch for the BCN/MCR design festival, a foil-printing workshop with Foil Co, a panel discussion event with Rough Trade Books, a window takeover and pop-up shop with Courier magazine, a publication showcase with Fashion Promotion students at MMU, a pop-up shop with Manchester-based workwear brand Uskees. In addition to these in-store events, we’ve also opened three exhibitions at the Ducie Street warehouse with Suzy Babington, Picassa and Benji Reed.
Some of our upcoming events include:
Hold Your Metaphors Accountable, 21st June
Hold Your Metaphors Accountable: The debut poetry collection by the writer in residence of the Portico Library, Ab Parcell. The collection will explore butch identity, culture and testimony. The event will be part interview, panel discussion and part open mic!” Tickets are available here:
MUD – Launch on 23rd June, running until 25th
We will be selling a range of items made by artists from Engine House to raise funds for Urban Diggers Charity. All proceeds will be going to the charity. Artists will include Holly Elizabeth Temple, Caroline Dowsett, Taxi Cab Industries, DR.ME, Amy Victoria Marsh and many others.
Tobbs – Launch on the 29th of June, pop-up running till the 31st of July. We will be hosting Tobbs, a Manchester-based plushie art-toy maker, for a month-long pop-up selling his one-of-a-kind creature creations. A number of yeti-like monsters, dubbed ‘Sneezies’, will be up for adoption, each one handmade from colourful faux fur and totally unique!
We’ve got lots more events lined up for the year and the potential for more to come. Almost too many to mention. You’ll have to sign up to our newsletter or keep an eye on our Journal.
Any new releases coming out later in the year that you’re particularly excited about?
New titles arrive with us almost daily, so every day feels a little like Christmas morning unboxing all the latest arrivals. However, there are a few forthcoming titles that we’re especially excited about. There is a new book on the horizon from IDEA Books. We wouldn’t be allowed to reveal exactly what, but it’s a slight departure from their usual repertoire of fashion and photography. The Moomin art book they published last year was stunning and we’re hoping this one is going to have the same appeal. We also have a pre-order in place for some signed copies of Marr’s Guitar, out later this year from Thames & Hudson.
What makes your shop unique? Why should our readers come and visit you in person?
One of the things that makes us special is the close-knit team of book/zine/art/design enthusiasts and the diversity of our interests and backgrounds. Each member brings their own individual passions and expertise, allowing us to collectively offer valuable insights and guidance on a broad range of subjects. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, knowledge, or a fresh perspective, we’re here to provide personalised recommendations that resonate with your unique tastes and interests. We love to geek out over the most random topics!
Velocity Press specialises in titles about electronic music and club culture. Any music-related titles you guys would recommend?
Velocity Press titles are very popular at UNITOM, especially the Icon Catalogues! To mention a couple of recent music arrivals, Hypnotised – A Journey Through Trance Music 1990-2005 is a beautifully made book and a great read if you’re into Trance music. Another recommendation I would give is Archivio, which is a collection of record store ads and paper ephemera from Rave Fanzines of the early 90s. Some crazy and way ahead of its time designs in there!
Any favourite authors or local writers/designers that you want to mention here?
Manchester has such a thriving creative community! The Filler Zine, a magazine focusing on food and mental health and run by Manchester-based Holly Temple, is very special. We are launching the next issue in-store in August!
We’re also really looking forward to seeing what Meka Goulding produces next, their zine “A Book to Give Your Grandma a Heart Attack” was one of our most-sold titles, and something everyone should read. Each chapter discusses something that the queer community has to battle and explain daily. Whether it be gender, language, slurs or religion. We hope we get some back in stock soon!
If you had to retreat into self-isolation with one title you’re currently stocking at your shop, which one would it be?
Such great but difficult to answer questions! The first title that came to my mind was the Dictionary of Colour Combinations, so I guess I’ll have to go with that. It is a wonderful collection of 348 colour combinations created by Sanzo Wada who was a Japanese Painter & Costume Designer in the early 20th century. The concept of “combining colour” was not generally recognised at the time, so samplers of colour combinations containing specific colour combination patterns were highly unusual. This book was the precursor of such samplers. It never gets boring, so perfect for self-isolation!