Book Trade Charity pays out £112k in 'life-changing' hardship grants

Book Trade Charity pays out £112k in 'life-changing' hardship grants

The Book Trade Charity has handed out £112,000 in hardship grants from funds raised by the trade, but it expects applicants to keep coming forward until the end of the year as the effects of Covid-19 are felt.

Back in April, a fundraising push by Gayle Lazda from the London Review Bookshop, Picador commissioning editor Kishani Widyaratna and Daunt Books publisher Zeljka Marosevic attracted £130,000 in donations, smashing its original £10,000 target. The fund was further added to with a surprise £250,000 donation from Amazon.

Four months on, charity c.e.o. David Hicks said 60 grants have been paid out using the fund, mostly ranging from around £600 to £4,000. Most of the money has gone to individual booksellers but some shops unable to reopen have also received money, while the charity has also helped some ex-Bertrams staff following the firm's closure.

Hicks said the situation faced by some booksellers applying for money had been “dire and desperate” but at least one had claimed their grant was “life-changing”.

He said: “Generally it was people who were suddenly without any income at all or on £70-odd a week from Universal Credit but still had their mortage to pay, their rent to pay, or just had to put food on the table.”

Hicks said applications were still coming in, although slightly more slowly than first anticpated. He said: “Certainly when the furlough scheme ends but also when shops go back and find that their trade is not what it was and they can't justify keeping on as many staff, they're going to be letting people go. So we're estimating that until the end of the year we're going to be dealing with these applications. I would encourage anyone who's in a difficult situation now to contact us because we've still got funds to give.”

He said: “Part of the problem is people don't like coming to the charity for help even though it's specifically set up for them. It's all completely confidential, nobody knows anything else about it. But people are reluctant to ask for help. The people who have come, I've had some wonderful words from people saying a grant of £1,700 or something has been completely life-changing.”

Hicks, whose charity had a £500,000 fundraising drive for a refurbishment of its Whetstone subsidised housing project put on hold during the crisis, said it was difficult to tell how the trade was doing as a whole but individuals, particualrly those on part-time or zero hours contracts were feeling the pinch.

“Not everyone was eligible for furlough or business grants so we're plugging the gaps,” he said.

People can apply for hardship grants confidentially by emailing  info@btbs.org.  Money can still be pledged to the charity online.