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16th November 2023

LGBTQ+ bookshop expands premises following funding injection from NPIF


NPIF - GC & River MicrofinanceNorthern Powerhouse Investment FundGreater Manchester LEP

Award winning independent LGBTQ+ bookshop, Queer Lit, has received a £100k loan from NPIF – River & GC Microfinance, which GC Business Finance (GCBF) manages in partnership with River Capital as part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Founded by Matthew Cornford, Queer Lit was established to represent the queer community of Manchester, making it easier for the LGBTQ+ community to access literature that represents them. Having grown from providing around 700 titles online to providing over 3,000 titles since opening its first physical store in 2021, Queer Lit has supported LGBTQ+ causes through its abundance of donations.

To open its first physical store on Manchester’s Tib Street, Cornford secured a Start Up Loan from GCBF. Subsequently, Cornford worked closely with senior loan manager, Andy Nichols to secure the necessary funding to move from the existing premises to a larger store on Greater Ancoats Street.

The new premises, called the Social Refuge, comprises a larger bookshop, as well as a coffee shop, co-working area, and events space with the intention of being a hub for Manchester’s LGBTQ+ community. To celebrate the new opening, it hosted its first event in October in partnership with Pride in Leadership.

Looking ahead, the business plans to utilise the diverse space to host more events and co-working opportunities, while also continuing to welcome more people to be involved in literacy from its new prime high-street location. With the shop now open, it will use multiple revenue streams to expand its services and create a community-led approach to its operations.

Matthew Cornford, owner of Queer Lit and the Social Refuge, said: “Availability to information is incredibly important to the LGBTQ+ community, with Manchester becoming the cornerstone of historic queer culture. Queer Lit’s new relocation will serve to fulfil this purpose, creating an engaging platform for accessing key literature, while also offering new community-led initiatives.

“We’ve already been able to scale the business to a wider community, with this new loan signifying a bold next step. By working with Andy, we were able to create a funding package that is entirely bespoke and allows us to create our vision at the Social Refuge. As we begin to open our doors to the people of Manchester, I hope to empower people to read and socialise in a safe, friendly environment as the next few years promise to be just as exciting for us.”

Andy Nichols, senior loan manager at GC Business Finance, added: “The work that Matthew and the team have done over recent years is nothing short of remarkable, from mainly having an online presence to now opening a new, bigger shop in the heart of Manchester. It’s been a pleasure to work closely with Matthew to build this funding package, ensuring this unique business continues to expand and grow. I look forward to seeing what’s next for Matthew over the next few years in building a community around this amazing shop.”

Debbie Sorby, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “Queer Lit is a brilliant example of a modern Northern business that has succeeded in providing a community led project, while also undergoing exceptional expansion as a business. Given the rise in Northern investments, this latest funding through NPIF will help to provide a crucial platform for businesses like Queer Lit, accelerating their growth and encouraging a more diverse, inclusive business community. It is by delivering this key funding that the wider business environment across the North can continue to flourish.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

The MSIF group of funds are managed by River Capital Management Ltd which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the course of investment business. Financial Conduct Authority Registration Number is 180891.

BFS Funding Managers Limited is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority as a Small Authorised UK AIFM under firm reference number 608682.

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