Newcastle bookshops: Ultima Thule

Photo by David James

Ultima Thule had a brief life (c1969 - c1973) in 'Arcadia' - as the Handysides Arcade had been unofficially renamed in the Summer of Love. It was run by the poets Tom Pickard and Tony Jackson (a Ginsburg look-alike) along the lines of the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and Shakespeare and Company in Paris (which reminds me there was a 'Shakespeare etc' bookshop in Jesmond around the same time).

Ultima Thule was originally on the south side of the north passage of the Arcade and then moved to the north (of the north - if you follow). I remember the humiliation of mispronouncing 'Kerouac' in front of the local beats, and being told by Jackson that I didn't need a paper bag because he wasn't going to accuse me of stealing the book. (Maybe the brown paper bags were reserved for the books under the table.) For some reason I also recall a sign saying 'More nice books this way'.

Pickard ran at least two other bookshops in the arcade at different times but they rarely seemed to be open. Arcadia also contained a cafe called the 'Witches' which you had to crawl to enter (or am I dreaming?).


(In 2012 I re-read On the Road and The Dharma Bums (which I preferred) and discovered from the introduction to my new edition that there is no consensus on how Kerouac should be pronounced or spelled.)


It seems Jon Silkin was also involved in setting up Ultima Thule.

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