- The Booktown Experiment Fails
took most of the morning to nerve myself to phone Joanna Chambers of Broadleaf
Books in Blaenavon. I'd heard reports that more shops had closed, which had to
be bad news - but Joanna sounded amazingly bright.
told me the she and Browning Books (the children's bookshop) are the only remaining
bookshops and that the Booktown project had collapsed with James Hanna's departure
at the end of February. Apparently he had been unable to persuade Torfaen Council
to directly fund the project, which it was said no longer enjoyed the support
of the community.
from seeing this as the end of Blaenavon as a regional centre for secondhand books,
Joanna sees only opportunity. 'There's considerable interest in the town because
commercial property is still so cheap. You could buy Jo Wyburn's shop (Chatterton's
Books) for £75,000 ', she says'. 'A shop with a flat above, where else could you
get that for the money?'
also thinks that shops are more likely to open in the town now that James Hanna
has left. 'People had been led to believe that in order to open a shop here you
had to buy the Booktown package', she said.
is some evidence to support Joanna's view. In April a Chepstow bookdealer will
open in the old 'Booktown' office (Blaenavon Books). As well as books, the shop
will sell antiques and collectibles offered by a number of dealers. In May or
June a long awaited bookshop will open, when the renovations and the owner's relocation
is keen to stress that the shops that are now opening are not startups, that the
owners already run successful businesses and that they were attracted to the town
by it's unique character, history and landscape.
never doubted that Blaenavon could, and would throw off the grey shroud of its
past and reinvent itself for the twenty-first century. Few other places enjoy
the advantages of a unique industrial heritage, set in glorious countryside, at
the gateway to a National Park.
of the burden of trying to live up to the title 'Booktown', Joanna is confident
that a nucleus of four bookshops will have the potential to attract others. But
bookshops will only ever be one part of a retail mix aimed at visitors to the
area. She also believes that visitors will finally start to see the visible benefit
from the local council's considerable and continuing investment in the town's
quick fix 'Booktown' hasn't worked in Blaenavon - and lets face it, there are
few in the trade who believed it would - but hard work and commitment to the town
almost surely will. If anyone is in it for the long haul, it's Joanna. 'I just
love it here', are her parting words.
should be noted that the Blaenavon
Spring Festival is unaffected by these changes and it will be staging a number
of book related events between Friday 24th March and Sunday 2nd April.
Booktown - Now We Are Two 13.05.05
01.11.03 & 26.10.04
Booktown - A Book Buyer's View
Blaenafon Booktown 01495 793093 website
articles by Maev Kennedy in the Guardian:
eleven: May concern
ten: April is the cruellest month
nine: Winter of our discontent
eight: From fetes to the fates
seven: 'A couple of bob for Christmas'
six: Nothing going on but the rent
five: Local poet scores on first try
four: Grishams Grishams everywhere
three: Blood, sweat and tears
two: 'We can't have too many witches'
one: First day
open new chapter for Plywood City
could help town to turn over a new leaf
ic Wales Ex-iron
town delves into books
ic Wales New
'book town' booms
The Independent Town
opens 10 new bookshops in a day
BBC News Bookish
Blaenavon opens new chapter
International Organisation of Book Towns booktown.net