Independent Bookshop of the Year

Winner - Book-ish


The modest sign on the front of Bookish in Crickhowell reads: “Books, conversation and more”, but this bookseller does much, much more than one might expect of a high-street bookshop. Emma Corfield-Walters’ store in the small town at the edge of the Brecon Beacons had its best ever year in 2019, with superb service, imaginative book buying, great promotions and lively social media. But sales through the till were just the start of the story.

Book-ish put on over 100 events, including at the sixth Crickhowell Literary Festival which attracted 2,500 people in 2019. The events space in the loft of its shop hosted five book clubs, including one for teenagers, and two writing clubs, plus regular film and games nights and meetings of many community groups. Initiatives added to the mix in 2019 included a new kids’ book festival and a YouTube channel.

Book-ish’s invention continued through the coronavirus crisis. The closure of the shop led it to sustain itself through online sales and book subscription service to its loyal customers, and it joined forces with three other indies to put on a host of Facebook-based author events. Crickhowell, voted High Street of the Year in 2018, is better placed than most towns to bounce back from the pandemic, and Book-ish will be leading the revival. “The scope of what Emma and the team have achieved is extraordinary,” said the judges. “It’s a great bookshop that does everything right, but it’s so much more besides —a true community hub that has a spirit of huge commitment to both the Crickhowell community and to indie bookselling.”

As well as the Independent Bookshop of the Year title, Book-ish receives £5,000 to support its bookselling from sponsor Gardners. It was one of nine regional winners of this award.

Our Regional and Country Winners

  • Book-ish
    Book-ish had a best-ever year in 2019, running its own literary festival, hosting numerous book clubs and local groups and launching a new book subscription service. “It exemplifies community—home from home,” said one customer.
  • BrOOK'S
    Launched in 2018 it is a thoroughly modern retailer, opening until 10pm three nights a week and popular for its wine and coffee as well as books. It has a slick online presence too and is tireless in its outreach.
  • Button and Bear Children's Bookshop
    Like all these shops Button & Bear is a pillar of its town, staging well over 200 events including book clubs, supporting schools with events, stock and literacy initiatives and partnering with several charities.
  • Forum Books
    North England
    After moving home in 2018, Forum Books found room to grow, and clever promos included ‘Blind Date’ books wrapped in brown paper - but knowledgeable handselling is its real bread and butter.
  • Hunting Raven Books
    South-West England
    It achieved double-digit growth with some very creative promotions and events with the likes of Jacqueline Wilson, David Nicholls and Rick Stein. An outreach highlight was a ‘Books Against Loneliness’ campaign backed by charities and Pan Macmillan.
  • Philip's Bookshop
    Philip's celebrated 30 years in family ownership in 2019, but continued to find new ways to push forward. It moved to a new 5,000 square feet space last April, launched a book club and grew its sales by a third.
  • The Book Hive
    East England
    The Book Hive launched a new membership scheme and was a big promoter of the region’s culture, hosting poetry and children’s writing workshops, providing desk space for local creatives and showcasing talent via its own imprint, Propolis Books.
  • The Book Shop
    South-East England
    Since changing hands in 2018, it has appealed to younger demographics with evening events, school holiday activities and book clubs. Outside-the-box thinking includes book bag giveaways at Christmas and a ‘ComicCon’ promo of comics and graphic novels.
  • The Lighthouse Bookshop
    In business for just three years, it has quickly established a reputation as a dynamic radical bookseller. It averaged an event every other day in 2019, including workshops, exhibitions, fundraisers and its own Radical Book Fair.

Regional Shortlist: East England

Regional Shortlist: Wales