Sunday, August 21, 2011

Comedy Night Benefit Gig

Once a month we host a comedy night at the bookshop.
'A comedy night at the bookshop?', I hear you exclaim. '
Yes' I reply.
We started in March this year and if i'm honest, it's been rather flippin' successful. Brilliant comics have been doing some brilliant stuff, including Nick Sun, Lewis Schaffer, Dane Baptiste and Susan Murray.
The format is usually this:
Get to the bookshop at about 8pm
Turn up with booze.
Pay £3.
Sit down.
Listen and laugh to the lovely compere
Watch 3 different acts.
laugh a lot.
Compere returns.
Watch 3 more acts.
Laugh more.
(buy some books if you feel like it).
mingle a bit more, and either;
Go to the pub, or
Go home.

So that's the set up.
Well anyway, this month's Comedy Night was a Benefit Gig.
 Our compere, Chris Brosnahan..
This is Chris with a Light Sabre (of course)
..suggested to me that we could do a benefit gig for the residents and businesses affected by the riots in Tottenham. he's quite clever like that, and so we did.
And it was AMAZING!!!
We decided for this one off special gig, we should make tickets a fiver and also we made them available to pre-order.
The tickets sold out quickety quick quick, and we knew it was going to be a pretty full house.
And so the audience arrived.

The audience is ready (before the lights went down)
We manged to squeeze another 15-20 people in after this too, such was the popularity of the night.
The Comedians
(photos are courtesy of Daniel Dyer)
Dave Rego (pun filth)
Johnny Armstrong (pun filth plus insanity)

Robert Commiskey (US of Amazing. Look out for him btw)

Babatunde (who blew the audience away.I've had emails since telling me how much people enjoyed his stuff)

Peter Dillon Trenchard. Geek genius. (I thought he was super ace and he wore a Tom Baker T-shirt!) 

And our Headliner
Sir Ian Bowler MP (aka Natt Tapley), who "finished the evening off" in style.

It really was a special night and we want to say thanks to everyone who helped out, and donated money.
The total that you lot gave was
Thank you
This will make things a bit easier for the homeless and busniessless people of Tottenham, so thanks.

Hope to see you at the next Comedy Night on September 16th. x

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Question.

Hello online world. Can you help. I hope you can.
We like the shop to have lots of people in it. Not necessarily people buying books (although this clearly helps us to remain open), but people using the shop as a venue for activities and clubs.
At the moment we have 4 reading groups, a writers group, a monthly boardgames club, a monthly knitting club. We turn the shop into a market once a month on a Sunday, where people sell their locally produced goods (it's happening this Sunday from 10am to midday). We do storytelling on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 11am.
Most of these things happen during the day, while the shop is still open.
And we'd like to do more of them.
Can any of you lot think of regular events/clubs/meet-ups that we can hold in the bookshop during the day. For example, chess club, flower arranging, art class etc. Things that we can do that won't get in the way of customers coming in (should that happen).
Please have a think and let us know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wood Green. Normal service will resume shortly.

It's been a while (10 days) since the looting in Wood Green, and in most cases things have got back to normal. Nearly all the shops that were smashed up and robbed are back open again and people are beginning to talk about other things, like the weather and Bristol City's terrible start to the football season (that might just be me).
There are a number of things that I think are worth mentioning though, in relation to the trouble.

1. This amazing post-it note board that appeared on the boarded up door of Body Shop
Inspired by a similar board in Peckham, this appeared last Tuesday/Wednesday and was soon full of (mainly ) positive messages.  

I really hope that the board is saved and put up as a display somewhere like the Civic Centre, the Council Buildings or the Library, or even in the shopping centre, to serve as a reminder of the feelings of the vast majority people in Wood Green.

2. The Tottenham Fund. A fund was set up to help thise residents and business affected by the looting and rioting in Tottenham. Within only a few days  £16,000 was raised. I'm absolutely sure that as more people hear about this fund the figure will get higher and higher.

3. The Help Centres. Immediately after the rioting, a number of help centres opened around Haringey. Clothes, toys, food, bedding etc were needed by those who were made homeless by the criminal behaviour and once again the people delivered. Within a day or two the centres were chocabloc with clothes and were almost at a stage where they were having to turn stuff away.
4. Andrew Thornton ( I like Andrew Thornton) who owns Budgen's in Crouch End deserves a special mention. There are lots of people doing things to help, but Andrew seems to me, like the kind of person that Haringey needs. Not only does he consistently come up with community minded projects, like the Food From the Sky, but he 'gets' Haringey. There is a huge East/West divide in the borough and Andrew has called a meeting (everyone is invited) to discuss ways of addressing this. Here are the details.

5. Entitled 'I Love Wood Green'  This blogpost made me smile

There are hundreds more examples of the wonderful acts of kindness and community spirit that have been shown by the people of Haringey. Whilst politicians and so called experts shake their heads and wag their fingers and tell us what the problems are and what they are going to do about it, our borough has actually pulled together and is doing what NEEDS to be done.
Perhaps rather than offering an opinion, these experts and politicians could offer something a little more practical.
I love Wood Green, and these last two weeks have emphasised why I feel this way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Committee Meeting

An advert we put on our website and on Facebook a couple of weeks ago;

"There's no point in us doing things at the shop if nobody turns up, so in order for the shop to be and do what you want it to, we're setting up regular meetings at the bookshop in which we ask for your opinions on different aspects of the bookshop. They won't last more than an hour and we'd love to see lots of you here.
This month we'll be talking about how the shop looks and what we can do to improve it, and also the kind of events and authors you'd like to see in the bookshop. If you have time, please have a think about this, and even if you can't make it to the bookshop, please email us with your suggestions.

The date we arranged this meeting was the Sunday just gone at 11.00am. In hindsight, this wasn't the best day to choose, but how were we to know that Wood Green was going to get trashed a few hours before this.

Anyway we shouldn't have worried as a good crowd turned up to offer opinions and ideas.
Here are some of the things that we learned (learnt?)
  • We should keep doing lots of events
  • We should advertise more in the shop beforehand (most of our advertising is online or in local papers).
  • We should do more themed events with more than one author.
  • The new format of our newsletter is clearer (we only highlight stuff that's happening in the next week, and point readers to our website to see what else is happening)
  • Our windows are rubbish (we knew this). Solutions were offered (by solutions, I don't mean soapy water).
There were other things we discussed that are very secret and exciting, which I hope we can introduce in the next month or so.

The best thing to come out of this meeting was that it's focussed us on the areas we need to concentrate on. We do have a habit of procrastinating and also we have so many things we want to do that we sometimes miss the most obvious.
It's always useful to get feedback (constructive please) from our customers and we're really going to benefit from these meetings.

So far we've cleared the front of our till area and painted it with blackboard paint. This will be a rolling information point for all that's going on in the bookshop.
We've also decided it's time to clear the crappy area to the left of the bookshop, that's used as a car park/toilet/rubbish tip. We're going to have a big clear up day on Saturday August 20th, with a view to fencing it off and making it into a garden/reading area. Oh, it'll be gorgeous. You mark my words.
Hopefully it'll be clear enough and clean enough to be able to put some stalls out there on the Sunday, when we have our next local market (check the website for details).

Keep the suggestions coming in for the first book you'd order if you owned a bookshop.

The other thing we'd like to mention is that our comedy night next Friday August 19th will be a Benefit Gig with all proceeds going to the Tottenham Fund helping those local residents and businesses affected by the riots and looting.
There's a Facebook group here with info or you can look on the events page of our website for more information (scroll down a bit).
Tickets are selling fast, so if you want to come, you'd better be quick.
 Headlining the gig is Natt Tapley, who'll be playing his alter ego Sir Ian Bowler MP.
It will be rather good.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

If You Had A Bookshop, What's the First Book You'd Order for the Bookshelves?

On Saturday I asked this question on Twitter (we have a twitter accout @biggreenbooks)
"if you owned a bookshop, what's the first book you would order for the shelves"

I asked this because, being a small bookshop we rarely stock more than 1 or 2 copies of any one title, so we often sell out of things, and it's cringworthy when someone comes in and asks if we have (for example) Animal Farm having sold it earlier in the day, and we have to say we've sold out.

The response was brilliant and very interesting (I think so anyway), so I thought I would share it with you.

I've marked all the kids books in red (because I felt like it)

1984 (four times)
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
Little Prince by Saint Exupery
Crime and Punishment (twice)
All the Discworld Novels
Room on a Broom by Julia Donaldson
Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis
Metamorphosis by kafka
The Non-League Football Directory (chosen by Enfield Town FC)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Love Monkey by Edward Monkton
To Kill a Mockingbird (twice)
Vampire L'Estat by Anne Rice
The novels of Rex Stout
Count of Monte Cristo
Complete Oscar Wilde
Dharma Bums by Kerouac (twice)
My Cat Like to Hide in Boxes (twice)
Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre
Peggy Larkins Way by Trevor Forest (chosen by Trevor Forest)
The Complete Saki
Mortdeai Trilogy by Bonfiglioli
Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries
The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman
Complete Sherlock Holmes
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
Carter Beats the Devil
Winnie the Pooh
Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche
The Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Like water for Chocolate by Esquivel
Good Omens by Terry pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Faust by Goethe
The Harry Potter novels (twice)
Cyteen by CJ Cherryh
Alice in Wonderland
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric carle (Four times)
Post Office by Charles Bukowski
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Hienlein
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (twice)
Ulysses by james Joyce
Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Euginides
Pride and Prejudice
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein
Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers
Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
Timbuktu by Paul Auster
Girlfriend In a Coma by Douglas Coupland (twice)
Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (twice)
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Bend Sinister by Nabokov
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon
Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (twice)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (twice)
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Wuthering Heights
Cement Garden by Ian mcEwan
Atonement by Ian mcEwan
The Bible
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Tressell
Yes Man by Danny Wallace
All the Tea in China by Bonfiglioni
Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Birdsong by Faulks
Memoirs of a Sword Swallower by Dan Mannix
Master and Margerita by Bulgakov
As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
Couples by John Updike
Jane Eyre (twice)
Archy and Mehitbel series
Mt Vertigo by Paul Auster
Catcher in the Rye by J D Sallinger
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
The Haunted Bookshop by Morley
Perfume by Suskind
The Book Thief by Zusak
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (twice)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
The Thomas Covenant Chronicles
The Phantom Tollbooth
Little, Big by Crowley
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh
Witch's Gold by M Elliot
Bridget Jones Diary
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Ash by mary Gentle
The Magus by John Fowles
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Tomorrow Insha' Allah by Tina Johnston (chosen by their publisher)
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseni
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Complete Works of Shakespeare
Hamlet 'if I had to choose one' (twice)
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Howl's Moving Castle by D Wynne Jones
Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
Great Gatsby
Tom Jones by Fielding
Harriet the Spy by Fitzhugh
Reclaim the State by Hilary Wainwright
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
Can't Wait to get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane
War and Peace
Anna Karenina
Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
All A S Byatt's Short Stories
The Guttenburg Bible ( mmm..   )
House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier
Small is Beautiful by Schumacher
Clockwork Orange
In The Cut by Daniel Blythe
Tommy's Tale by Alan Cummings
Idiot by Dostoyevsky
Vodka by Boris Starling
Awaydays by Kevin Sampson
Jennie by Paul Gallico
History of Mr Polly by HG Wells
Violins of St Jacques by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer
Crow Road by Iain Banks
Secret History by Donna Tartt
A good dictionary
The Ancient Future by Traci Harding
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Alexandrian Quartet by Durrell
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

This is an ever growing list and i'll add to it as and when more suggestions are given to me. Perhaps this will become a perfect list of books for anyone thinking of opening a bookshop. Perhaps, however, this would be a total disaster and you should completely ignore it. There are a few titles on the list we don't stock and have since ordered, so I'd appreciate any further suggestions.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Wood Green 2 Days Later.

As London and some of the big cities around the UK get pounded by rioters, I thought it would be useful to update you on what's happening in Wood Green.
The shops that got clobbered on Sunday morning are mostly open again now. However some of the worst affected, like HMV are 'closed until further notice' according to the signs.
HMV on Sunday and again this morning

The Body Shop spent all of yesterday cleaning up and doesn't look like it'll be open for a few days.
Body Shop on Sunday and again this morning

Last night there were a few idiots causing mischief on the High Road. It seems that this time they were more intent on smashing things rather than nicking stuff. Stones were thrown from the balconies in Sky City (a block of flats above the shopping centre) and windows of the shops below were smashed. I remember a few years ago having eggs thrown at me from here. That was funny. This is not.
Shocked? I'm appalled.
We have opened as normal. We held our Knitting Group on Sunday and we did our songs and stroytelling to under 5's on Monday morning. We're trying not ot let the situation affect us, but you cannot help but notice the strange atmosphere. Rumours flew around all day yesterday. According to various sources throughout the day I heard rumours that gangs were heading to Wood Green on about eight different occasions. Thankfully none of these rumours were true but at 4.00pm (after the trouble started in Mare Street in Hackney), a number of the shops on the High Street suddenly closed. The owner of the cafe next door to us came in and told us that he'd had a call from his friend up the road in Palmer's Green say there was trouble on the way and that he was closing. Then a rumour that trouble was brewing in Green Lanes just south of Wood Green. I then got a phone call from a friend in the Council telling me that all the shops on the High Road were being closed, although the police were stressing there was no trouble.
When we got a call from my daughter's nursery up the road, telling us that they were closing early and I should come and pick her up, we decided it was time to close.
All these rumours make it very difficult to carry on like normal and, as a precaution, we have cancelled our Book Group discussion tonight. Having 15-20 of our customers leaving the bookshop after dark while there's so much tension in the air seems like an unneccessary risk. We hope this is the only thing we'll have to cancel as the events and groups define the bookshop (in normal circumstances this would be the time where I link you all to the events page on our website).

I suspect this atmosphere will remain for a while, but it's a testament to the communities that have been affected that they have all rallied round to help clean up the areas affected. If you're on twitter, please check out @riotcleanup as they seem to be coordinating things very well.

Thanks for your messages of support They really do mean a lot.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

North London Looting

I was going to write a lovely blogpost about figuring out what book you would hate to not have in stock if you owned a bookshop, but sadly things have turned rather ugly and horrible here in North London. Tottenham has taken the brunt of the rioting and looting and setting fire to anything that it is possible to set fire to, however at about 2am this morning things started happening in Wood Green.
People turned up, having realised that all the police were trying to control the stuff going on in Tottenham, and started smashing Wood Green to pieces.
Burnt out car on Wood Green High Road
The Body Shop. Where looters can stock up on their Jojoba.

These are two photos I took this morning as I came to work. They are both less than 200 yards from the bookshop.

We are not at all happy about this. The people who did this are not representative of how Wood Green (and Tottenham) feel. The people who did this, for example, to HMV...

are fucking idiots. They have used a controversial and tragic incident and turned it into an excuse to steal things and smash things and ruin things. They have no interest in anything other than what they can gain from this situation and I am furious.
I had a text message at 5.30am from one of our most wonderful and precious customers. She lives above a shop on the High Road (where these photos were taken). She texted me to tell me about how horrible things were and to give me a warning in case I didn't know. Now here's the thing. She is pregnant, and was due to give birth yesterday. The High Road has been cordoned off. All the police and ambulances are in Tottenham. Not a good situation when the looting and rioting in Wood Green has been going on for 2-3 hours without any police intervention (they are all still in Tottenham) and the likelihood of a taxi to take you to a hospital is zero.
This is just one example of the short sighted, ignorant, self indulgent and greedy nature of the actions in Wood Green and Tottenham. There are many many more.
Here are a couple more photos.
This is an independent clothes store, ransacked and destroyed. Insurance will not cover the damage caused.
The Carphone Warehouse

Many more shops got trashed on the High Road. Specsavers, Boots, H & M, Holland & Barratt, The O2 shop, and more.
Sometimes, when there is a protest about something and violence occurs in the back of your head you think 'I do not agree with this at all, but actually I can understand why they are angry'. This piss poor excuse for violence and mayhem has caused nothing but anger in Wood Green. Everyone I have spoken too is ashamed and angry that this has happened.
This is not representative of Wood Green. This little place in North London is a diamond and we will not let this terrible night of violence ruin things.

I don't have any solutions but I know that there are so many passionate and community minded people in N22. And we need to make sure that we remain proud and supportive of the area.
On Friday I was at a nursery just up the road, where my daughter goes. They were having a 'carnival' and there was music and dancing and lots of food and drink, and it was a wonderful atmosphere, where you realised what a wonderful community there was. This is how is still see Wood Green and i'm sure that in the next few days Wood Green will show how resilient it is to this dreadful series of events.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Catch Up

Here's a list of things that have happened recently. This blogpost is a precursor to more regular posts in future.
  • I cycled 120 miles to Dunwich from Hackney overnight on July 17th/18th. This is what it was all about. Despite forecasts of thunderstorms and gales, an hour before we left peace descended and the weather for the whole journey was wonderful. It was one of the most memorable expereinces of my life and i'm currently looking for other similar bike rides that I can get involved with. So far we've raised about £400 for local schools, but the schools themselves are also raising money, so I won't know the final figure until September, when they come back from their holidays. Many many thanks to Azeem, who was my inspiration for this. He is a lovely lovely person.  
  • It was my birthday last week.
  • The local market was a big success at the bookshop. We aim to have a regular market in the bookshop, where people can come along and set up a stall selling stuff that's locally produced or made. We had six stalls, selling necklaces & bracelets, knitted stuff, Tottenham Honey, plums and berries, plants, cakes (and cupcakes). Next month (August 21st) we intend it to be bigger and we already have jam in production, a local artist who's interested in coming along and a lot more produce. If you know someone who'd like a stall, no matter how big or small, let me know. The stalls are free.  Check out the event page on the website for more news.
  • We're teasing with the idea of selling second hand books
  • Our attempt to break the World Record for the largest ever reading group sadly failed. That's the bad news. However the good news is that the systems we set up (the forum and the facebook page) were visited, and discussions took place. I have learned lessons from this. Firstly, I need to give myself more time to organise things. Secondly, I need to be less of a control freak, and accept all the offers of support and help I had to get this working. The book we discussed, Where Would I Be Without You by Guillaume Musso, got mixed reviews as we expected. It is a translated novel, and is part romance, part thriller and part paranormal. We chose it, as it is a pretty easy read, very accessible and there'd be lots to discuss. We asked everyone involved to give it a score out of ten and of the 31 people who replied, the average score was 5.6. Not to bad. We'll be doing this again next year, but we'll be giving ourselves a lot more time to organise it and i'll get a lot more help.
  • We had a rodent in the shop. We don't any more.
  • Our computer collapsed recently. Very badly. This meant that we couldn't send out our newsletter and we lost some very important documents. A nasty virus ate our backup (i don't know what any of that means). Anyway, a lovely person called Suze has given us her old laptop, so we can now send out the emails again. We still need to keep our old computer, as it has our stock control system on it and lots of other dreamy things. It stops working every 3 hours. This isn't much fun. This story isn't going anywhere. These are the facts though. 
  • I have tried Blackcurrant Lucozade and I deem it GOOD.
  • The Booker Prize longlist has been announced. This year there are some PAPERBACKS in the list! That means that people might be able to afford to buy them. That's much more inclusive. Well done. Oh hang on, 2 of them weren't actually published when the longlist was announced. So NOBODY, except those of us lucky enough to be in the book trade who occassionaly get books early, are able to read them. As you were. 
There we go.