Taking Libertas

February 11, 2009

York based Lesbian bookshop “Libertas” was once known as a beacon of light in a sea of isolation.

Sadly the day of the specialist bookstore has come and gone. Even the the big high-street chains have had several years of trouble seeing a string of mass mergers between the mainstream book and multimedia retailers, companies that have established links and distribution contracts with one of the main gay mafia “families” also in the same business.

Dillons was bought by HMV, Ottakers was taken over by Waterstones which became a subsidiary of HMV. The group proceeded to take over a number of stores from struggling rivals including Fopp and 8 Books etc stores from rival Borders UK. The market now consists of three key players – Virgin, WHSmith and HMV (HMV have been poised to take WHSmith over).

Despite being a relatively small, local operation based in a small shop in York,  it’s owners quick thinking and success in mastering the mail-order market had paid off. Only 4 years after it was founded the company became “Europe’s Number 1 Lesbian Bookstore”. Sadly the actual bookshop itself which also sold gifts, greetings cards and specialist Lesbian products and local merchandise operated at a loss but stayed open despite facing an uphill battle.

The founders of Libertas are now retired and approaching their 70’s. It’s obvious they cared a great deal about their romantic little lesbian bookshop and must have been heartbroken to be forced to close shop for the last time in 2004. The actual bookshop itself wasn’t just a shop, it was a meeting place for Lesbians and other Women from all over the country. Something that to this day is missing although that does continue to some extent through the York Lesbian Arts Festival that was founded by a group of Women who used to meet at the shop. Various other Women’s groups, reading clubs and small businesses also used the premises including the once independent “DykeLife” newsletter, a free community alternative to the mainstream women’s mags such as DIVA.

The famous Lesbian colonies that still exist throughout the small villages of Yorkshire such as Hebden Bridge weren’t the only people who saw Libertas as refreshing. As the country’s only Lesbian bookshop it also offered gay, bisexual and trans women a national alternative to the male dominated gay lifestyle stores like Clone Zone and Prowler.

When it was announced the shop may be forced to close various reports and letters appeared in the gay press from it’s supporters expressing their shock and dismay. This is a slightly different story than the one portrayed by the Millivres Prowler Group – owners of rival online book store “DIVA Direct”, DIVA magazine (as well as many other titles including GayTimes, AXM, the Pink Paper as well as owning their own chain of gay lifestyle shops and publishing houses) which claimed they were stepping in as the bookshop’s saviors and would keep it alive through the established Libertas online store.

As a result, Millivres Prowler completely took the operation over and moved operations to it’s London office. Two years later the group relaunched DykeLife as a glossy magazine and filled it with targeted advertising and placements for it’s own products, capitalising on the acquisition of the 7,000 strong subscriber base built on the bones of the grassroots alternative it once was.

Despite the claims by the Millivres Prowler Group that the spirit of the bookshop would continue through the continued existence of the Libertas online store at http://www.libertas.co.uk which now redirects to “DIVA Direct”. It’s final remnants exist as the “Libertas forum” – a message board for reviewing titles available through DIVA Direct.

Today it appears Libertas is well and truly dead, although spinning in her grave – May she rest in peace.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.
~Groucho Marx

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world an loses his own soul?”
~Robert Fulghum

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Gay Dating Wars

July 8, 2008

Its clear the gay media are now part of some type of gay “mafia round table” primarily concerned with promoting the commercial interests of their friends and investors at the expense of the LGBT community.

Monopolisation of the “Gay Dating Sector” provides a constant flow on revenue for a growing number of the alleged “Gay Mafia” – and the majority of them have proven some type of connection to either gay sex chat-lines, gay dating websites and the gay press. There is no love lost between a number of the big gay websites that are not only competing for membership and subscriptions but also as a virtual advertising space that they use to promote the commercial interests of their friends.

Aggressive and stealth marketing techniques are being used by certain gay empire builders in a sleazy new media war against their competitors, using their ownership and influence over the gay press as a weapon to fight off any emerging threats. We have already reported on how the purchase of the “Puffta” gay teen website has been used by owners of gay tabloid “The Pink Paper” by “Millivres Prowler Group” to recruit new customers for it’s paid-for publications and it’s adult mail order trading arm, and how both Prowler and Gaydar had dubiously provided sponsorship under various brand names to a number of events and groups in exchange for influence, advertising space and as an attempt to make their customers believe they are supporting the interests of the community.

Last year our article exposing the truth about Puffta receive several careless, childish comments here on our wordpress blog attempting to defend their actions of the company – after which a simple check of the I.P address told us that it was posted from the offices of “QSoft Consulting” – the owners of Gaydar.

Millivres Prowler Group also carried out some rather in-depth research last year with “Out Now Consulting”, these comments appeared in an marketing news blog:

“This new UK gay market research report is a real groundbreaker,” said Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now. “Many organisations, companies and brands, want to better understand the complexities of the UK gay and lesbian consumer market. Now the market data behind the UK gay market is going to become accessible in a way never possible before.” “This study will reach gay consumers through print and online. It will reach lesbian and gay youth and it will reach gay men and lesbians through their most important gay and lesbian media products,”

“We are delighted to announce this new research,” said Kim Watson, Deputy Managing Director of MPG. “Many people espouse views on the lives of lesbians and gay men, often without knowing the facts. Now, as a result of this new research, we will know more than ever before about the very many gays and lesbians in the UK whom our media products reach.”

GayMafiaWatch believes this current assault against ladslads.com is one such new technique dreamt up to cash in on the community. The above is clear proof of smarter, sneakier, move covert ways of harvesting the pink pound being explored and deployed – and the identity of those who are employing them.

More recently a “campaign” was launched on “Facebook” and promoted via the FitLads dating site after articles began to appear in “The Pink Paper” (which recently re-launched it’s own online presence) attempting to mount a campaign against “ladslads.com” with a rather dubious and blown-out-of-proportion story about a young man who had been told he would have to pay to have his ladslads.com profile removed which had been defaced.

Searching for this individual’s name on Google came up with a post apparently from someone of the same name claiming that his MSN messenger account had been hacked into. Even if this rather vague and contradictory story proves to be true and the actions of ladslads.com are right to be called into question – BUT clearly the bigger issue here is why all of a sudden has there been such a massive fuss focusing on this particular incident, and who would be benefiting from promoting it and smearing the company name through whatever means they have?

It could well be that “ladslads.com” has become too much of a threat to a threat to “them” and their friends, hence why the “The Pink Paper” has been so keen to pursuing this story whilst dismissing and ignoring other, more serious and relevant gay issues.

Fellow gays, please inform your peers of this possible stitch-up, and use this knowledge to protect your dignity and your own reputation. Don’t just sign up and lend your name to any old cause or campaign, especially when it is one promoted by the media itself that has the indisputable and dubious intention of protecting it’s own vested interests by getting it’s hands on your pink purse.