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Sunshine On Leigh Street, The Magic of Comedy

Collinge & Clark Bookshop in Leigh Street, London. Set location for Channel 4's 'Black Books' TV series. Photo by J. Lambert


5 October 2023

It is the summer of 2000, and a non-descript bookshop in Leigh Street WC1, is about to ascertain a degree of fame it could have never anticipated.

The launch of the sitcom 'Black Books' in 2000, was to change the life of this authentic little bookshop, forever. No longer were customers enquiring about dusty copies of 'The Grapes of Wrath', now they wanted to know about 'Dave syndrome', 'The Little book of Calm', “Did the shop really have molluscs on its water pipes?”, and “Can they see Bernard's bedroom?”.

As usual, for many people, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred when obsession kicks in, and they can mistake this quaint old shop’s vintage frontage for the real life set of a cult comedy sitcom.

The fact is the success is probably more of a hindrance than a blessing, as a succession of people, from all parts of the globe, make their own personal pilgrimage to the spiritual home of Bernard, Manny, and Fran, expecting to see Bernard in a wine fuelled rant at a customer, Manny cowering from Bernard's wrath, while Fran maintains an utterly dismissive air, unmoved by Bernard's madness.

None of this of course is in evidence, and you cannot help but sense the disappointment in one or two visitors faces, but in all honesty, what did they expect; did they imagine that by simply visiting the site of the show's opening exterior shot, they would somehow be magically transported back to the neverland of 2000-2004, when the show they love so much, was on air and in its prime?

It is, however, still the place where Bernard borrowed an elderly lady’s umbrella, and then furiously beat it against a rain-soaked council notice; it's where Manny erupted with 'Dave syndrome'; and where Fran gave us her own particular rendition of the Cornish dialect.

So, there is still a little magic there, not as much as many people want, but in this grey world, a little magic is better than none at all.

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