The nine winners of the regional round of the Independent Bookshop of the Year Award have been revealed, with the 2018 overall champion, Five Leaves Bookshop, in contention to take the main prize for the second year in a row.
The shortlist features both new names and long-established bookshops enjoying something of a renaissance—a heartening sign of the health and variety of independent bookselling in 2018. The winner of the overall prize will receive a £5,000 cheque from sponsor Gardners Books.
Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller managing editor and chair of the Independent Bookshop of the Year judges, said: “In 2018, we had the wonderful news that indie bookshop numbers increased for the second year in a row, the first time that has happened in decades. We’ve seen that renaissance in the sector reflected in the sheer depth and breadth of submissions to this award. These are nine worthy winners, from regional shortlists of startling strength, all of which represent the best in British bookselling but, perhaps more importantly, are hubs of their communities.”
The regional winners will now vie for the overall Independent Bookshop of the Year, to be announced at the British Book Awards, a.k.a. The Nibbies, ceremony on 13th May. The nine are:
Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, the Midlands category winner, which claimed the overall Nibbie in 2017. Sales in its fifth year were its strongest yet, and it hosted more than 80 events. Outward-looking work included the organisation of the national Feminist Book Fortnight and Nottingham Radical Book Fair.
Book-ish in Crickhowell, the Wales category winner, saw turnover grow by nearly a third in 2018, thanks to an events programme and a host of community initiatives. It attracted several thousand people to its literary festival, stepped up its social media and helped its town take top prize in the government-run British High Street of the Year Award.
Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway, the Ireland category winner, has been serving its city for 30 years now. Its labyrinthine rooms with a huge range are at the heart of Galway’s cultural community, and it supports many west Ireland authors and publishers. The shop hosted seven book clubs and numerous readings, launches and storytime sessions in 2018.
Drake—the bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees is the North of England category winner for the second year in a row, and a beacon of inclusion and reading for pleasure in one of the most deprived areas of the country. Standout achievements last year included a crowdfunding campaign to supply a copy of Nicola Davies’ The Day War Came to every Tees Valley school.
Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh, the Scotland category winner, is also shortlisted in the Children’s Bookseller of the Year and Individual Bookseller of the Year categories. It has a carefully curated range of just 3,000 titles, and its small team works tirelessly on events and initiatives such as the Edinburgh Book Fringe festival and “Bibliophile” podcast.
Gullivers Bookshop in Wimborne Minster, the South-West England category winner, has been part of the fabric of its town for 50 years, and is staffed by three generations of the same family. It grew sales last year, organised the Wimborne Literary Festival and even rescued the town’s independent record shop from closure for good measure.
Newham Bookshop in Upton Park, the London category winner, marked 40 years trading in 2018. The huge affection for the shop became apparent in a fundraising campaign to support its move to new premises last year, while manager Vivian Archer received the Outstanding Contribution to Bookselling Award at the Books Are My Bag Awards.
Niche Comics & Bookshop in Huntingdon, the East of England category winner, is a new independent with a remarkable story. Set up by two brothers on the autistic spectrum, the tiny store in a Tudor building bursts with passion for its range of comics and books, and has provided both a haven and work experience opportunities for the learning- disabled.
Sevenoaks Bookshop in Kent, the South-East England category winner, is the longest established independent on the shortlist, and celebrated its 70th birthday in style in 2018. It put on events with big names including Philip Pullman, Matt Haig and Kate Atkinson, and was a big supporter of local writing talent, schools, libraries and festivals.