A Derbyshire independent publisher that launched during the pandemic has opened up its own bookshop with a focus on small presses.
The Bearded Badger bookshop opened in Belper at the weekend, stocking a wide range of genres. Alongside the bestsellers, owner Paul Handley plans to showcase other small publishers such as Bluemoose, Galley Beggar, And Other Stories, Influx and Dead Ink.
He explained: “We wanted all these small presses that don't have the marketing behind them and you don't always see them in Waterstones and Foyles. We wanted to raise awareness that there's this whole network of fantastic small presses around and they're putting out some fantastic books. In the last few years the best books I've read have come from the small presses.”
The small shop unit, only around 150sq ft, is based in The 1924 Building which has been restored and developed into a shopping arcade in the heart of Belper, a town that won the Champion High Street award for the best high street in England in 2019.
Handley, who runs his business single-handedly, said: “To me is was about trying to connect with the community and I thought having a retail base rather than an office where people can drop in and have a chat about books would be better. When circumstances permit we're going to put on a whole bunch of events. We did start doing them pre-Covid with bookshop socials and poetry readings.”
A former Rolls Royce worker who named Bearded Badger Publishing after a joke a child made about his enormous beard, Handley launched the publisher last year after completing a Masters in publishing.
Despite the challenges of coronavirus, Bearded Badger published its first novel in November, Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel by Drew Gummerson, selling outs its first print run. A further novel is out this autumn, the debut by Derby-born and Berlin-based writer Ross Lowe called Step Forward, Harry Salt. Two poetry chapbooks will also be released this month, part of a series of nine being published in 2021.