'Unbelievable' response to Newham Bookshop's Grenfell Tower appeal

'Unbelievable' response to Newham Bookshop's Grenfell Tower appeal

The publishing industry has rallied round to support Newham Bookshop’s charity drive for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, which has so far raised £1,100.

Owner of the east London store, Vivian Archer, said she was “absolutely overwhelmed” by the clamouring of support from publishers and authors to help victims of the fire in the 24-storey block in north Kensington on Wednesday after she issued a fundraising appeal on Twitter. The major incident has led to the deaths of 17 people, with 17 more in critical care and many others missing.

Archer called for donations of items to raffle for an author event with Mark Thomas yesterday evening (15th June).

She tweeted to her 7,700 followers at 7.30am yesterday morning: “At our event tonight @thewansteadtap we will raffle some great items to raise cash for the Grenfell Tower residents. Any publisher/author who would like to donate a signed book we will raffle tonight at our Mark Thomas event for Grenfell Tower residents.”

The @NewhamBookshop account was then inundated with offers from publishers and authors and retweeted 100 times within an hour.

Many publishers such as Penguin Random House, Serpents Tail and September Publishing began biking round books and authors such as Matt Haig, M G Leanard, Lisa Thompson, Anna Mazzola and Nikesh Shukla offered signed copies of their books for the appeal, with responses still flooding in.

Archer, who has run the shop in Barking Road for 30 years, told The Bookseller the response had made her “very emotional”. She said: “It was such an awful thing that happened. We have a lot of towerblocks in Newham and I thought we would raise a lot through something like this. We sent the tweet out at 7.30 this morning and the response has been unbelievable.  I’ve not had a chance to catch up with all the emails which have come in because there have been so many.

"People like Penguin Random House, Serpent’s Tail and September Publishing have been in touch as well as authors such as Matt Haig and Stuart Heritage. Around twenty people had got in touch within two hours of the tweet going out.”

She has been taken aback by the offers of help: “It has been amazing, I am absolutely overwhelmed, and is making me very emotional. We’ve had a huge reaction from authors and publishers.”

The event raised £1,100 on Thursday night (15th June) with signed copies of Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run and Hillary Clinton's memoir Hard Choices donated by Simon & Schuster raising over £300 combined after they were auctioned at author Thomas' event.  Archer said she would continue on the raffle, for £10 a strip, for another week.

Author Vaseem Khan was dropping off copies of books from his Baby Ganesh Agency Book series (published by Mulholland Books and Redhook) as The Bookseller interviewed Archer. He texplained why he felt compelled to help his local bookshop, which has been running since 1978.

“I live near the bookshop and here in Newham we have a number of similar tower blocks and it makes you question what more could have been done," he said. "The shop is doing a wonderful thing - when a tragedy happens this is the sort of thing we need. When you see those horrific images, the people coming out of the building, you have to help." 

Khan believes that the industry has a responsibility to highlight social issues. He said: "As authors we have a responsibility. I try to show some of the social realities in Mumbai in my novels and this not a million miles removed. We have serious levels of inequality in London and we must highlight things like this, that things like this can still happen in places here. What happened could have been prevented. I am not blaming anyone in particular but the right material had been in the building it could have stopped this happening."

Archer is now calling on the rest of the industry to organise similar schemes to help those affected by the fire. She said: “I would ask other bookshops to consider doing this as well."

To help, visit newhambooks.co.uk or tweet @NewhamBookshop.

Is your bookshop or publishing house helping victims of the Grenfell Tower incident? Email Heloise.wood@thebookseller.com.