Herne Bay’s Portrait Bookshop

Ashlea Murton-Cole is the heart behind Portrait Bookshop, an independent family-run bookshop at the back of Raw Bar in Herne Bay.


The shop specialises in diverse children’s books, its mission to help every child find a book that represents them and their experiences – so it’s no surprise that the shop also holds an autism hour every Saturday morning for neurodivergent customers to browse in a safe and welcoming atmosphere.


CommunityAd chatted with Ashlea to find out more.


How did the idea of an autism hour come about?

Our bookshop is in the back of Raw Bar who have been running a #BayAutismHour for Autism Awareness month since March 2020 and continued this throughout lockdown. Jenny the owner is passionate about inclusion too and knows first-hand how important it is to have an autism hour to encourage everyone to feel welcome after recently receiving her own autism diagnosis as an adult.


Why is an autism hour so important, both for neurodivergent and neurotypical customers? 

Quite simply because both neurodivergent and neurotypical customers are both valued customers and human beings, and this should just be the status quo. We all know that it is the neurotypical that benefits from how our society works currently, and that the neurodivergent learns over time to “fit in”, normally through painful masking, avoidance or particular places or other coping mechanisms. We are trying to change this here in Herne Bay.

At the Raw Bar Jenny has been actively working with local shops to educate the owners and offer her expertise in Autism to help make their shops inclusive for all. Most recently the Seaside Museum contacted her and then launched its first ever Autism hour for an event they were running.


Are there any other autism resources your bookshop offers?

We have a wide range of books written by autistic authors for children. It is important that the characters are credible so we always ensure that any of our books with neurodivergent characters are told from an authentic point of view. We have picture books for the young, fiction and helpful guides for tweens and teens, and our adult Inclusive Book Club runs monthly.

The Raw Bar also holds a support group for neurodivergent adults on the last Saturday of every month.

We have strict values here at Portrait and we stock a wide range of books. Our bookshop is here to promote inclusion and we will not stand for hate or stereotypes or prejudice in any form. If the book is deemed to fall into one of these categories it will be removed from our shelves. We also try to actively promote indie authors, illustrators, and publishing houses that are trying to get their stories out there to be heard. Any author or illustrator using their platform to promote hateful views will not be stocked and instantly removed from our shelves. We may be small but we are mighty and we intend to keep promoting inclusive, wonderful reads, one book at a time.


To find out more you can visit the Portrait Bookshop’s website or visit in person at 1 William Street, Herne Bay, CT6 5EW.

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