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 Book Shops > Blaenafon Book Town - A Book Buyer's View

Blaenafon Book Town - A Book Buyer's View

James Hanna is the first to admit that press coverage of the opening of the world's latest book town has been uniformly positive and uncritical. For anyone visiting the town it's not hard to see why. Blaenafon must be one of the most battered and bruised casualties of the post-industrial revolution.

One can't help but be struck by the bravery of the enterprise. This isn't picturesque Hay, sleepy Wigtown or snug Sedbergh; it's...bleak. A town stripped of its function in a landscape where the industrial past sleeps uncomfortably under a shroud of sparse grass.

The visit didn't begin well. An attempt to buy lunch in an almost deserted local pub at 1.30 proved impossible, so we ended up eating sandwiches in the car on a patch of waste ground shared, rather appropriately, with a travelling tarot card reader.

At least parking (on a Wednesday) was easy and believing that I can buy books almost anywhere, we set off. In the first shop we picked up the Blaenafon Book Town leaflet but the map proved to be unnecessary as the shops line the rather narrow Broad Street.

We bought something in nearly every shop but most from the as yet unpacked boxes in James Hanna's shop which doubles as the book town's office.

James explained that much of the stock was from a recent shop closure in Derby and as we share an interest in similar subjects, I look forward to returning when the books are on the shelves. Of the other shops, Broadleaf Book's extremely attractive shop and Chatterton's Books were a pleasure to browse.

OK, so it's true that it's possible to find more books in some of the UK's larger secondhand bookshops and there were a lot of remainders and publishers' returns, but I just loved the buzz. The shop owners all had a terrific opening day and seemed pleased by the continuing level of sales.

Of course there are questions about restocking and the relative lack of bookselling experience, but many have invested not only their savings but also their lives in this and what they lack in experience, they certainly make up for in enthusiasm.

Unencumbered by academic studies, government and European grants and all the attendant bureaucracy, Blaenafon Book Town will stand or fall by the individual bookseller's efforts and our willingness to visit them.

Will it work? James Hanna is in no doubt, "it's a done deal!"

Mike Goodenough 04.07.03

Previous Articles:
Blaenafon - The Book Town Experiment Fails 17.03.06
Blaenafon Booktown - Now We Are (Nearly)Two13.05.05
Blaenafon Revisited 01.11.03 & 26.10.04
Blaenafon Booktown - A Book Buyer's View 04.07.03

Links:

Blaenavon articles by Maev Kennedy in the Guardian:
02.06.2004: Chapter eleven: May concern
01.05.2004: Chapter ten: April is the cruellest month
23.03.2004: Chapter nine: Winter of our discontent
02.03.2004: Chapter eight: From fetes to the fates
31.12.2003: Chapter seven: 'A couple of bob for Christmas'
22.12.2003: Chapter six: Nothing going on but the rent
04.11.2003: Chapter five: Local poet scores on first try
13.10.2003: Chapter four: Grishams Grishams everywhere
02.09.2003: Chapter three: Blood, sweat and tears
30.07.2003: Chapter two: 'We can't have too many witches'
30.06.2003: Chapter one: First day
28.06.2003: Books open new chapter for Plywood City
10.03.2003: Books could help town to turn over a new leaf

BBC News Bookish Blaenavon opens new chapter
International Organisation of Book Towns booktown.net

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