October 19, 2018

Local East London bookshop calls for support after being forced to relocate


The Newham Bookshop is a London institution. A firm favourite with customers and publishers alike, it has been in its current premises in East London’s Upton Park for forty years. 

The bookshop is a higgledy piggledy Aladdin’s cave: books are literally stacked from floor to ceiling; in windows, in the aisles, by the tills; book in front of books on top of books. But everything has its place and just ask, and your requested book shall be found. It has a run-down charm: this is East London, not a slick, soulless book showroom.

The store has been managed by Vivian Archer for thirty-one years – speak to any British publisher worth their salt and they’ll know Vivian, she’s pretty formidable. So when she heard from the landlord that buildings on the road, including the bookshop, were going to be converted into offices, it came as a shock. Rather than losing a third of floor space and having to close while renovations happened, it was decided the shop will move premises, from 747 Barking Road to 743 Barking Road.

Archer told The Bookseller’s Katherine Cowdrey:

“We’re going to move two doors down but it’s going to cost us a lot of money: £25,000. The premises we want to move to are not in a good condition – we would have to rewire, put heating in… we would have to do everything.”

To raise the money needed, Vivian and co have been calling upon the help of publishers and authors.

“We decided to have an auction to raise money, and I put it on Twitter asking for donations. The response has been overwhelming. We had 2,500 retweets,” Archer told Rhiannon Long at the Newham Recorder. She continued:

 “It proves that independent bookshops are important in the community “They’re not a chain, they respond to the needs of the customers.

“They’re cultural hubs – we can even track how the community’s changing by the kinds of dictionaries we have to buy.

“Some people just come in for a chat and don’t buy anything, and we try to make it a place where they’re comfortable to do that.”

Already 250 books have been donated, including signed books from Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, and Michelle Obama, which will be auctioned off from 6pm on Sunday 21stOctober at The Wanstead Tap, a pub venue the shop often uses for author events (Newham Bookshop’s events schedule is and has always been hecticly impressive).

“The response already has been amazing,” Archer said told Cowdrey. “We’ve yet to start crowdfunding but there’s been loads of support. Big names like Ken Follett and Nigella Lawson have sent us signed copies for the auction and publishers have been phenomenal. It’s been quite moving actually.”

It just goes to show the love and support for independent bookshops and the important role they have to play in local communities. Each indie shop has its own personality: rough round-the-edges Eastender Newham Bookshop is a perfect example of this. There’s a place for slick Waterstones chains for sure, but the heart, soul and dedication shown by indie booksellers is unique and is to be celebrated and supported.

For support and donations, Archer can be contacted on [email protected]. A crowdfunding campaign will also kick off on the night of the auction.




Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.