Booktown Revisited |
thought I'd take another look at Blaenfon Booktown as I was passing, in a manner
of speaking. For those who don't know the area, everywhere in this part of Wales
is a long way from everywhere else, mainly because of all the lumpy bits and the
roads that mostly don't go over them. Because of this you have to pass quite a
lot of places in order to get to where you really want to be.
was on my way to Brecon which, on a clear day you can literally see from Stroud
(well the Beacons anyway) but is at least a two hour car journey away. A bookseller
there had bought a collection of art reference titles he thought I would be interested
in, "the sort of books you like" he'd said. I don't have to be asked twice.
was early afternoon by the time I'd worked out a shortish route and laboured my
way up the mountain road, under a pewter coloured sky that promised all sorts
town's tiny central car park is just up the hill from "Broadleaf Books", easily
the most attractive bookshop in the town. The owners have succeeded in creating
a shop which literally draws you in off the street, even when unaided by persistent
drizzle. The stock seemed more interesting and less remaindery than on my first
visit, and I found a handful of books.
Left Bank" immediately opposite, yielded a few cinema titles from a stock that's
strong on fiction and videos. The owner is refreshingly honest about his lack
of knowledge and seems determined to discover what his customers want.
before, James Hanna (Blaenafon Books) the Booktown's instigator stood in a shop
full of unopened boxes of books. A different shop it's true, but the demands of
the Booktown appear to leave little time for personal bookselling. Buying in bulk
and sufficiently cheaply, the quantities of books needed to support the more inexperienced
shopkeepers, is not a task I envy him. "Three more bookshops by the end of the
year and not an empty shop left to rent" was his response to my "How's it going".
Time was pressing
and the drizzle heavier, so I made off up the road to the next shop. "Browning
Books" stocks exclusively children's books but will order new titles on any subject.
It was warm and friendly with an imaginative Halloween window display, but I left
empty-handed. "Chatterton's Books" was so close I nearly didn't get wet, and I
bought a couple of books to boot.
are a number of shops with books in them rather than being proper bookshops. I'll
try anywhere, but on this occasion found nothing.
do the booksellers feel about their first half-year trading? The ones I spoke
to appeared happy with what they were doing, and said that business had been,
if anything rather better than they had hoped. They were well aware of the towns
sort comings and the dangers of bigging it up too much. And of course they are
all busily listing books on the Internet to get them through the dark days of
my overall impression? The shops were warm and the owners friendly; which I can
tell you, as one who spends a lot of time visiting secondhand bookshops, makes
a pleasant change. The stock is in most cases no worse, and in some cases rather
better, than the average secondhand bookshop. I
will certainly visit again, the next time I'm passing.
to visit personally, I asked Joanna Chambers of "Broadleaf Books" how she viewed
the closure of four of the town's original bookshops. Her view was that they failed
for much the same reasons shops close anywhere - lack of commitment and patience
to build the business. She says that new shops are replacing those that have closed,
and that the town is continuing to improve it's retail base, with gift shops and
a cafe recently opened.
- The Booktown Experiment Fails 17.03.06
Booktown - Now We Are Two 13.05.05
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