Monday, 21 December 2020

Indie Advent: Chris Brosnahan on The All Good Bookshop

I was a huge fan of The Big Green Bookshop and was sad to see it move online, but delighted when co-owner Tim announced The All Good Bookshop! Sadly, COVID-19 stopped me visiting before leaving the UK, but I can't wait to get to it when we get back, and this piece by Chris Brosnahan has made me even more excited to visit. Over to Chris...

I love the All Good Bookshop because of what it represents. How many bookshops could open two weeks before the first lockdown and be carried through the year by the community they're part of? 

The All Good Bookshop is a community-owned co-operative in Turnpike Lane/Wood Green. After the much-loved Big Green Bookshop closed down its physical store and went online-only, it left the area without a bookshop. And the Big Green Bookshop had been a real cultural hub for the area - personally, I'd run a writing group and comedy nights there for years. This was a void that needed filling. Bookshops are amazing things for the local area.

A few of us suggested a co-operative to Tim West (the former co-owner of the BGB) and a massively busy kick-off meeting showed that other people were up for it. A committee was formed and shares started to be sold. The entire funding of the shop was done by customers. Some through small, low-interest loans, and some through buying share packages. Nobody’s expecting to make a fortune through the shares (although the lifetime 10% discount you get for being a shareholder could save you one).

Later in 2019, the first All Good Bookshop was a reality, in a small shed in the Blue House Yard (a temporary art and small business space that many of us hope will stick around).

In March 2020, the All Good Bookshop found new premises in Turnpike Lane. Members of the committee (including myself) turned up to empty, clean and decorate the former beauty salon, and turn it into a bright, colourful new bookshop. It opened its doors... and almost immediately closed them due to Covid.

Tim came up with the idea of local delivery on his bike. And books were a useful thing during lockdown, so everyone won. In fact, Tim was given an award as a 'Haringey Hero' during lockdown, helping to keep spirits up during a difficult time.

Once lockdown lifted, people started finding the new bookshop. Some small events even took place before that started to become more difficult again. But between orders, collections and deliveries, the shop has actually thrived in 2020, despite the worst possible launch timing.

All of this has only been possible because of the community. It's a wonderful new bookshop, entirely crowd-funded. Once the Covid times are over, we're looking forward to it becoming a cultural hub for the area as well.

On top of that, it’s a damn good bookshop. Tim (and Carmel, who has also brought her experience from the Big Green Bookshop) have a great approach to building stock. They started off with a fairly small number of books, to see what sells. But, also, because orders are such an important part of the shop’s trade, they’ll regularly order extra copies of what people order – like a real-time version of Amazon’s ‘other people also liked…’ feature. So even the stock is crowd-sourced.

To me, the All Good Bookshop represents the best of local communities. And it shows just how important bookshops are to those communities.

I’ve bought more books in 2020 than in most years – more time at home will do that. I like browsing, because I see stuff I wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise.

Most recently, I’ve picked up a few independent graphic novels. Flake, by Matthew Dooley, was a wonderful read, and I’ve just ordered Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist.

Chris Brosnahan is a writer and film-maker in North London. He's run a writing group for 10 years this month, which you can find here. He can be found online at his website and on Twitter.


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