A bookshop celebrating its 40th birthday, and another which is just 18 months old, are among the regional winners of the Independent Bookshop of the Year prize at The British Book Awards.
The Bookseller can today reveal the eight regional winners of the award, whittled down from 39 vying for the overall crown.
Triumphing in the South East of England is Red Lion Books in Colchester, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year under founders and industry veterans Peter and Sarah Donaldson. Judges praised the outlet’s survival over such a long period, crediting its deep understanding of what its customers want and need, especially in the face of competition from rivals Waterstones and W H Smith.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Woodbine Books in the small town of Kilcullen in Country Kildare has taken the gong for Ireland for the first time, after opening just 18 months ago. It is the youngest indie among this year’s regional winners and in its short life has already developed close ties to schools and run a number of local events, achieving impressive sales of some hyper-local books in doing so.
Another relatively fresh face on the independent bookselling scene to make an impression is Drake – The Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees, which wins the gong for the North region. Owned and run by former teacher Richard Drake and his partner Melanie Greenwood, the store has only been going for two and a half years, but is already a community hub on Teesside. After celebrating its first birthday by moving to a larger premises to take advantage of its rapid growth, the retailer now also offers an after-school tutoring centre for children aged five to 16.
Over in Nottingham, Five Leaves Bookshop emerged triumphant in the Midland and Wales category. Specialising in politics, it staged the city’s first ever Radical Book Fair last year—just one of more than 100 events the shop held in 2017.
The Book Hive in Norwich, meanwhile, emerged top for the East of England region. Last year it made the headlines after author Susan Hill cancelled an event there because of the store’s supposed anti-Trump bias, but it also attracted attention for its creative ways of pulling in shoppers, including a “mindful reading” event called Page Against The Machine. The combination only helped the store, which achieved its best Christmas trading in its eight-year history.
Completing the regional winners list is The Edinburgh Bookshop for Scotland, Pages of Hackney for London and Westbourne Bookshop for the South-West.
A regular in the Scotland category after winning in three of the past five years, The Edinburgh Bookshop has also been nominated for the Children’s Bookseller of the Year award, after nearly trebling sales and range since owner Marie Moser took over five years ago. Recently it has added to its offer with a monthly “Speakeasy”, inviting regular customers to come into the shop for a drink and a reading.
Pages of Hackney, meanwhile, has a mission to give a platform to marginalised voices, going out into the BAME community hosting events with Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty, and celebrating Black History Month, among many other initiatives, helping it put an extra 30% on its annual turnover.
Finally, Westbourne Bookshop in Dorset, completing the regional winners list, has grown its sales, range and reputation since 2015, when it changed hands.
The winners will now compete to be named the UK and Ireland’s overall Independent Bookshop of the Year, set to be revealed at a glitzy ceremony at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 14th May 2018. The winning bookshop will also receive a £5,000 cheque from award sponsor Gardners.