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Helen up at Corbridge Didn’t Enter!

Monday, 8 October 2018

Vertebrate's Managing Director is on a mission to visit every independent bookshop in the country. Look out for him, he could soon be coming to a store near you ...

I popped in to see Richard at Drake the Bookshop in Stockton, the shop being the regional winner of the Independent Bookshop of the Year award at this year’s British Book Awards. With the continued resurgence in non-digital media, especially books, and bookshops, we thought it well worth finding out what the best of the best could tell us about it. 

Richard summed it up perfectly. I asked, ‘What one thing made you the winner?’  

‘Helen up at Corbridge didn’t enter’ was the reply. 

This spoke volumes, one needs to feel comfortable and relaxed in a bookshop, a bookshop is a place of escape. What it also said was a good bookshop is just part of the community, the local community, the reading community, the bookselling community and the publishing community. It isn’t trying to win anything, it’s not a competition. I wasn’t made to feel like a rep, which I was, I was made to feel like a friend popping in for a gossip. Richard could have listed his impressive numbers, he could have talked about all the events the shop runs, all the authors they entertain: Philip Pullman, Joanna Trollope, and Nick Sharratt to name a few. He could have discussed his book groups, he could have talked about the carefully curated stock, but instead he tried to deflect all that and discuss Helen in Corbridge (Forum Books) choosing the deadline weekend to move.

The other point that was evident, especially to someone like me who grew up in the North East, was that Stockton, and its council were helping. The town was getting smartened up, edge-of-town retail was evident; a smart, large Go Outdoors attracting attention next to the McDonalds, but also a rather clean and inviting River Tees, and recently pedestrianised town centre streets. Altogether Stockton town looked like a nice place to be. I pulled into the carpark, and you know, free parking for an hour. Richard concurred the council were working with local business to make the place a success, including twelve or so town centre events each year.

So where does Richard see the future? ‘Well we are becoming a proper bookshop’.

Happy to say if you’re looking for general fiction, a local guidebook or perhaps a copy of Waymaking, then check out Drake the Bookshop, Silver Street, Stockton on Tees.

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