Gosh!, 1 Berwick Street, London, W1F 0DR
Gosh! sits at the end of Berwick Street in London overlooking the few remaining fragments of the ‘old Soho’ comprising strip bars, local prostitutes and sex shops selling poppers and fake Viagra. Berwick Street has changed immeasurably over past ten years, and although still embedded within the local ‘rag trade’, the vibrant record buying culture led by Selectadisc, Sister Ray and Reckless has all but collapsed against the shabby, energetic backdrop of the market. I’ve always loved Berwick Street but losing its edge means losing some of its spirit. It’s becoming gentrified and sanitized but still provides a central London location for the unusual.
The location therefore works perfectly for Gosh! it’s upscale with a hint of estate agent or coffee shop in the internal decor. You might call it industrial chic. I would never do that. The presentation of the store tells you a lot about its approach; its hip, friendly and modern; and really wants you to know that. It’s a handsome open space, don’t get me wrong.
The main floor; is arranged into nooks of themes, and sections for writers such as Garth Ennis and Alan Moore on your right as the enter the front of the store. A large table in the centre of the store provides a smorgasbord of varied titles, and new release trades are at the back to the right of the till. The experience is manicured and curated. It doesn’t threaten, and has the feel of a classy museum gift shop. This feels deliberate, a way to step away from the ‘traditional’ comic book shop. The staff are friendly and open, and you’re always greeted with a smile. The store can speak to you in one of three ways:
- This is a hipster hangout that’s only worth dropping into on the way to Flat White for a Bongo, or to buy some Andalusian Nose Funk & Blues fusion at Soul Jazz.
- This isn’t hardcore enough for me; why are there ‘normal’ people in here?
- Holy shit! This is exactly the kind of store I’ve been looking for and its right in the centre of London. Thank the Maker!
The first is plain wrong; the second has a surprise waiting for you downstairs and the third is the way most visitors to the store including myself feel. Gosh! is a cracking comic book store. The trick up the sleeve of Gosh! is that away from the well-lit environs of the ground floor, there is a basement accessed by a stair case at the back of the store. Down there, is a much more traditional comic store vibe, with lots more trades and back issues in abundance, along with a deep manga selection. So that’s points 1 and 2 completely erased.
The selection across the two floors is deep, but I have a couple of minor niggles. Gosh! isn’t cheap. I completely understand the situation and location, but you will likely always pay the full price, so if you want cheap (for trades at least) this isn’t the place. If you want to keep a great store alive, you wont balk at paying the RRP. I’ve noticed that the selection across titles isn’t always there, whatever I seem to be reading the particular volume of that trade isn’t often there. Again, I get it; there’s probably a high turnover of stock, but I would have spent more money at Gosh! if there weren’t a few holes in the selection.
On the plus side, there is a wide variety of non DC/Marvel/Image titles, including a raft of smaller/indie/self published titles that help to widen the appeal to the non-traditional comic book readers. A great selection of titles for the younger reader and a whole rack full of Little Golden Books, which are awesome (if you’re looking for these they are to the left of the counter). The staff have been universally friendly on every visit I’ve made and give good considered advice. There’s a big guy with a beard; might be the owner. Looks like an antipodean bear. He’s great, trust his opinion; don’t mention the bear comment.
Dependent on your perspective, there really isn’t a fault with Gosh! and for me its one of (if not) the best stores in London. The fact they have a Calvin A board only deepens my affection. Its got a great location, a robust selection and friendly staff. There are regular signings and events and the passion for the art form and the culture, practically runs out of the door onto the street. If Gosh! was trying to open comics to a wider potential audience it has completely nailed it, it’s a great environment where hardcore readers, noobs, art fans and eager children can all feel equally comfortable; that’s not an easy feat to achieve.
Go to Gosh! Buy something and #readmorecomics. It’s a simple as that.
As Good As It Gets: 5 out of 5