Shropshire's Booka triumphs as the winner of £5,000 Sceptre Bookshop Award

Shropshire's Booka triumphs as the winner of £5,000 Sceptre Bookshop Award

Booka Bookshop in Shropshire has won the £5,000 Sceptre Bookshop Award for bookshops that make an outstanding contribution to their community, praised for its "commitment to making their bookshop a welcoming space for everyone". The two runner-up prizes of £1,250 each go to Kett’s in Norfolk and Winstone’s Hunting Raven in Somerset.

"What a fabulous start to our 11th Birthday celebrations and Bookshop Day tomorrow," said Carrie Morris, who runs the Booka Bookshop with husband Tim Morris. "Winning this award has given us, our staff and customers a real boost. We can’t stop smiling. Thank you to all involved and in particular to Noreena who we look forward to working with."

Organised by Hachette UK and the Booksellers Association, the award was created in honour of a forthcoming book by Noreena Hertz on the contemporary loneliness crisis called The Lonely Century, published by Sceptre this September 2020; as part of its prize, Booka Bookshop will be given the opportunity to host an event with Hertz as part of a speaker tour.

Hertz, who was chair of the judging panel, said all bookshop entrants had "inspired" the judges, making choosing winners "extremely challenging". However, with "inclusivity, outreach and a commitment to the broader community" its "primary criteria", she said Booka, Kett’s and Winstone’s Hunting Raven had "particularly stood out".

"Kett’s was notable for not only serving the community so comprehensively with initiatives like their ‘One Community One Book’ project and ‘Sofa Sessions’ but also for literally being of the community—the bookshop is run primarily by volunteers," said Hertz. "Winstone’s Hunting Raven stood out for explicitly seeking to engage with those who feel most isolated in their community with their important and pioneering ‘Books against Loneliness’ Campaign and their commitment to ensuring that their bookshop is ‘a place people can come and feel safe, welcome, listened to and heard’.

"And the winner, Booka, inspired us by their commitment to making their bookshop a welcoming space for everyone, including those who traditionally might not visit a bookshop or feel comfortable lingering in one. We were particularly struck by their creativity in reaching and engaging different audiences—as demonstrated by an impressive array of unusual and inspiring workshops, programming and collaborations, and also by their pledge to actively try to support local suppliers and shops, in doing so recognising the essential role local shops play in nurturing and anchoring their community."

Juliet Brooke, Sceptre associate publisher, said: "Now, more than ever, this award feels important and necessary. Not just because our local bookshops will be feeling the pinch, but also because Covid-19 has created even more loneliness and atomisation. My huge congratulations to the winners. They have inspired us with their dedication to community and inclusivity."

The winners were selected from a shortlist that comprised—in addition to Booka Bookshop in Shropshire, Kett’s in Norfolk and Winstone’s Hunting Raven in Somerset—Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich, Burley Fisher in Hackney, East London, Category Is Books in Glasgow, Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham and Housmans Bookshop in Caledonian Road, North London.