Indies From the Madding Crowd, Imagined Things, Hunting Raven, Mostly Books, Moon Lane Ink and Newham Bookshop have all been named winners of the Independent Bookshop Innovation Award.
The award, run by Pan Macmillan as part of its Macmillan 175 celebrations, will see each bookshop receive £1,750 to launch a new and innovative project in their store, with projects focusing on community outreach or supporting new readers particularly encouraged. The winners were announced this evening (10th September) at the Booksellers Association conference in Birmingham, by Pan Mac m.d. Anthony Forbes-Watson.
Sixty entries of “exceptional” quality were made to the competition, which was judged by Pan Mac’s high street sales director Sarah Clarke and field sales manager Richard Green alongside Forbes-Watson and Pan Mac's digital and communications director Sara Lloyd, sales and brand director Anna Bond and children’s publisher Belinda Rasmussen.
Far From the Madding Crowd won in the Scotland category, its winning idea being a sustainable schools festival with a broad programme of authors from across the UK. Judges said owner Sally Pattle’s “ambitious” plan meant her use of the Macmillan 175 Award “will be felt in the community for many years to come.” The bookshop said: “The West Lothian Schools Festival is something we are really proud to have created, giving so many children the chance to attend a book festival on their doorstep is transformative in terms of access to authors and helping to nurture a lifelong love of reading and storytelling.” The award means the shop can broaden the scope of what the festival does, and ensures its sustainability for years to come, Far from the Madding Crowd said.
Imagined Things of Harrogate won in “The North” regional category, its winning idea being The Little Dragon’s Reading Scheme for young children, giving away 385 free books to children aged three to eight. The judges described it as “a sustainable scheme that provides book libraries for deprived schools”, saying “We loved the creativity and imagination within this scheme, and the central idea that reading books feeds the dragons!”
In the Wales, West Midlands and South West regional category, Frome’s Hunting Raven won with the idea of Books Against Loneliness, which will work in partnership with a befriending charity to offer in-store book recommendations to those most affected by loneliness. The shop said: “Books offer solace and companionship to those who are isolated and alone, and bookshops themselves are an essential place for people to find a sense of belonging and to connect to other readers. The kind support of Pan Macmillan will help us to play our part in tackling the issue of loneliness in our community.”
In the South East, Moon Lane Ink of South London won with the idea to increase diversity in bookselling and publishing by working with year 9 and 10 students to give them the chance to learn more about the book industry. The bookshop will expand its peer-run secondary school bookshop and develop a small publishing house within a local state secondary school. The judges said: “The sheer commitment from Moon Lane Ink to working with their local schools was incredible and this idea has huge scope for wider industry initiatives. Outstanding!”
In the Central and Eastern England category, Mostly Books of Abingdon won with The Travelling Bookshop, a mobile service that allows those with mobility problems to access books. The judges said: “We loved the idea of a travelling bookshop which would reach the local community and beyond to give access to books in areas of the community who have difficulties with mobility.”
In Central London, Newham Bookshop won with a project to support a local charity – Arc in the Park – with materials and books. Judges said: “We loved the immediate results that this project will bring to a broad range of children including those with disabilities. Year one will provide book access for 50 families and year two plans to broaden the scheme to a second hub.” Newham Books said: “We are pleased and proud to have been given this award. We are celebrating 40 years as a community bookshop and this will really help us to promote reading with our partners in this diverse community, thank you Macmillan for recognising this."
Forbes-Watson said of the competition: “In between frequent episodes of getting lost around the country, I met some wonderful booksellers, each of whom came up with a different brilliant idea to bind their business more closely into their community… My lasting impression is of them as burning beacons, illuminating and communicating the joy of books and reading, across the land. Thank goodness for independent booksellers!"