Ukraine refugee free shop London

We’ve all seen the horrific conditions that war has caused in Ukraine (and other countries like Yemen and Syria). Not all of us can offer accommodation or big donations to those fleeing such war zones. But we feel we can help those refugees in a small way.

After seeing that “free shops” for Ukrainian refugees have been set up in countries like Poland and Ireland, we’ve decided to try something similar here in north-west London. We’re going to offer free English-learning books and childrens’ toys for Ukrainian refugees (and others fleeing war in their homeland). We are going to put in items when we can (our turnover is not great), but we will need help/donations where possible – can you spare a childrens’ toy, learning book or dictionary? It’s going to be a bit of an experiment, and if we get requests for other items, we’ll update this page.


  1. Donate items to our bookshop on 92 Willesden Lane, Kilburn, London NW6 7TA. We will then make those items available free to refugees.
  2. Spread the word – retweet or share our twitter and Facebook messages (@OffsideBooks)
  3. From time to time, if we get a request for a specific book, we’ll put it out on twitter. You can then “buy” that book for the fund, by paying us on our paypal account info@offsidebooks , or if you have the book already (or buy it at Waterstones or other bookshops) you can drop it off at our Kilburn location.

We hope this project will help those who’ve been forced from their homes by war, and thank all those who help, in any way.

Shop is closed on Tuesdays

We need a day off each week for rest, and for vital admin etc. But if you need to send us a message email us at We are normally open soon after 10am until 7pm (11am until 5.30pm Sundays)

You can order books from us!

We have been told by the government to close our doors for a second lockdown. So far as we are aware, this is until December 2, but it may be extended.

However you can support the bookshop by ordering new books from us. Contact us via twitter, where our username is OffsideBooks, or send us an email at Postage is free for local delivery in Kilburn and all of the NW6 area. Payment can be made via Paypal or bank transfer.

Short Break

We are out of town for a couple of days this week.

The bookshop re-opens Friday 10 July. We look forward to seeing you again then.

Please stay safe when you shop by using sanitiser and masks. Thank you.

Mark & Fatma

Open for business, please stay safe

We are open, but are maintaining a two customer limit in the shop at any one time. We ask people to wear masks where possible, and to make use of sanitiser on their hands if handling books or cash. Contactless payments are available.

Good to see you back, but please stay safe.

Offside Books

Email situation

Apologies if you’ve sent email lately. We’ve been in the process of changing webspace; hopefully things will soon be working ok.

Small businesses – beware of telephone and email scams.

Life in the retail sector for small businesses is hard, and it’s been getting even more perilous lately with a rise in phone and email scams. These type of frauds obviously target the population at large, but there do seem to be a rise in the targeting of small businesses.
I cover this for attendees of my Airbnb experience “run a London bookshop for a day”, but am putting a post here as the more people who are aware, the better.

One scam which recently caught out a local business here in Kilburn, took advantage of the climate of a flood of  “pre-approved” loan messages that banks and lenders seem to send out willy-nilly. A struggling shop-owner was “offered” a pre-approved loan at a very low interest rate. Given this could have meant saving the business, the owner jumped at the chance. However the snag was, the “lender” insisted on a small insurance charge up-front, since they had to cover those people who would default on repayments.
Of course after making that up-front insurance payment, the lender disappeared, and the loan never materialised. The scammers prey on desperate people, so if you think something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Another method the scammers use is to pretend their email or text comes from an official source – this is known as phishing. Just this week I received a text message with govuk in the header. The message stated “You are due to receive a refund from your council…” A lie of course, and best not to engage in any way with the text or email.
As per Action Fraud “Local councils never cold call, text or email residents in this way requesting bank details.”
Also, if this comes via a phone call “If you receive one of these calls, do not give out any personal information and end the call as quickly as possible. The fraudsters can get aggressive and ring back if you put the phone down, but this is all part of the scam to make you act as they want.”

This is one reason why I have no patience with all the cold callers offering me “better” deals on utilities, internet charges etc. I have no idea if they are genuine or one of the scamsters, and I’m not willing to take the chance. If you want to offer a better service, send me details by post. I’m not discussing it with a cold caller on an anonymous phone.

Run a London bookshop via Airbnb Experiences.

I recently registered on the Airbnb website, an option for people to run a London bookshop ie Offside Books.
The idea is that we give the applicant some training in how we run the shop, and advice on what it would take if you want to open your own venture. Of course much of the buying/selling information is specific to bookselling, but some of the information is useful for anyone thinking of running a shop. It’s also a great way to experience the daily routine of a London bookshop and meet the varied mixture of regular and new customers in Kilburn who visit the shop.

Our first booking was a charming gentleman from Essex called James, who loved the idea (as he’s a regular visitor to London bookstores). James didn’t just take part in the experience, he also took the opportunity to select a good haul of books (at a discount) and promised he’d be back at a later date when he next ventured book-buying into London. Which was a great result for us as it meant we’d gained a new customer!
Just one week later we were surprised to get a booking from a Chinese family, who were in London to celebrate their Spring Festival/Chinese New Year. I’m hoping that they found this as fantastic an experience as we did. Both Fatma (my wife) and myself found it a great privilege to meet a family from China, and talk about the different libraries/bookshops in our two countries.

At one point the father of the Li family wanted to buy some clothing gifts to take home, and I was able to show him the Kilburn High road offerings – not always trumpeted, but there are very good discount stores such as TK Maxx, where Mr Li was able to purchase some good value gifts to take back with him.
So, it’s early days yet in hosting these experiences, but so far we’ve been very privileged to receive such nice guests. And if we can bring a little bit of extra custom to our corner of NW London so much the better. There are a lot of plus points to the Kilburn area, and I hope to write a blog post shortly about some of them, possibly under the title “little-known secrets of Kilburn”.