Wednesday 9 December 2020

Indie Advent: Ali Palmer from Book Clubs In Schools on Barter Books, Alnwick, Northumbria

Back to England for today's #IndieAdvent post, and I'm really excited that we're getting so many posts about shops I wasn't familiar with. A huge thanks to Ali Palmer, co-founder and director of Book Clubs In Schools, for this great post about Alnwick's Barter Books.

Over lockdown I found it difficult to read and in fact concentrate on anything. It has been very strange as reading is my thing, my go to escape, the mechanism to take me to other places. I thought I would be reading lots of different books but in reality, all I wanted to read  was classic children’s books, where there may be adventure, but all will be well in the end.

Latterly I have picked up adult fiction again, starting with The Sound Mirror by Heidi James and just like that I am back, reading, it’s a huge relief.

I am missing visiting book shops and browsing the shelves to find random suggestions by the book shop staff or interesting covers that might tempt me to buy.

It has made me think about my favourite bookshop and wondering when I can visit again.

The rambling Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumbria. It’s inside the old station so along with the glamour of journeys from a bygone era, think the Railway Children, Agatha Christie, Brief Encounter; there is the musty, fusty smell of books combined with coffee and cake or Kaffee and Kuchen as Jo in the Chalet School books (one of my re-reads). There are sections for everything you can imagine a great bookshop would have including, local history from all over the UK. I found some interesting ones about Manchester; I always look for books about my hometown when I go into a book shop. Alongside the books about Manchester I always look for old school stories of the Angela Brazil type or vintage Puffin classics.

Most books are in sections with secret places to read and some are hidden in glass cabinets which adds to their allure. So many books you didn’t know you needed until you saw them here. There’s a train set running around the top of the shelves and somehow this adds to the feeling that time stands still inside the shop – it feels like you can spend all day in here lost in other worlds, but outside only a moment would have passed. It’s a place to linger, wander and discover, without a set book purchase in mind.

In Alnwick there's also a cool castle and amazing garden, with a fairy tale treehouse - if you can tear yourself away from the books...

Ali Palmer is a Co-founder and Director of Book Clubs in Schools. Find her on Twitter.

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