Durham Cathedral Bookshop: One Month On

Pages Renamed
The About page is now called Info and the Petition page is called Durham, which gives us space across the top for Evidence… apologies for any confusion caused…                 

Sign the Petition
Just sign it: you know you want to. Already signed it? Talk about it. The petition remains open until the Brewers are no longer in control of the Cathedral bookshop and will be resubmitted to the Dean at each multiple of 50 signatures.

Two Months On
Exactly two months on from Mark Brewer’s ‘Cease & Desist’ letter to Dave Walker, David Keen offers a very helpful SPCK roundup.

Phil Groom writes:

This weekend (Saturday 20th September, to be precise) marked exactly one month since the launch of our online petition to rescue Durham Cathedral Bookshop from its mismanagement under the Brewers. The 200 signatures mark was passed back on September 3rd and whilst the rate at which people are signing has slowed down since then, feelings are still running high, as shown by recent comments on the petition discussion page.

As well as an increasing number of former staff, clergy, students, members of local churches and other disillusioned customers, those signing the petition include: 

 All of the comments left on the petition — which now runs to five pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 — deserve to be read, but this from Gina Duckett, former Assistant Manager at Worcester, stands out especially, a reminder of the human cost involved:

I was Assistant Manager of the Worcester SPCK shop until February this year, when I and other staff were sacked by the Brewers (by e-mail!). My Manager, Stephen Jeynes was summarily dismissed a few months later. He committed suicide. I am appalled at the mis-management of the shops since the takeover by the Brewers, and disgusted at the way staff have been treated. I fully endorse this petition

A few more, most recent first, here:

no place for crooks on world heritage site.

— barenda

A serious deterioration in the what was once a jewel for spck based at Durham Cathedral. I have seen a great decline in what should be standard stock items The staff do their best but are hampered by the Brewers and their business practices. I am also a little concerned at some of the material that is now on sale.

— Anonymous

I have used this bookshop ever since I came to Durham 36 years ago and until the last year or so found everything I wanted there. Now the books are leaning too far in one direction, the staff have little, if any, confidence that any book ordered will arrive, or even if they will be able to order it in the first place. It was always a joy to visit and browse, always worrying my husband as to what I would come out with – he is not so worried these days.

— Liz Strafford

Having had, as a customer, the dubious pleasure of meeting both Brewer brothers in the early days following their takeover, I have to say that their attitude and demeanour towards both staff and customers left me less than inspired with confidence. I fear the writing was on the wall from day one. I am simply glad that my local branch has been rescued from their clutches by a local family of faith and goodwill. Why could not such a friendly arrangement have been implemented at other branches in the first place – before this debacle happened?

— Revd Richard Green

As a former employee of 8 years standing at the SPCK Bookshop in Durham Cathedral I was totally appalled and upset to see this once exceptional bookshop/giftshop on a recent visit to Durham. The shelves were sparsely stocked and very limited in nature. The lack of customers present reflected this as in past times the store was always vibrant and busy. It was sad to see my former colleagues so stressed and demoralised under the current ownership.

— Jaye Amani

Mark Brewer’s bad faith in submitting a spurious filing to the US Bankruptcy Courts in an attempt to evade his responsibilities here in the UK is now a matter of public record. Philip Brewer’s instructions to staff requiring them to deceive and lie to customers in direct violation of an agreement with a third party are now in the public domain.

Allowing these people  — people who treat the courts as well as their customers, staff and suppliers alike with contempt — to continue to trade on Cathedral premises does little to enhance the Cathedral’s reputation.

Once again, I call upon the Dean and Chapter of Durham to take whatever action is necessary to take control of the shop from these men; and I urge all who share these concerns to publicise them as widely as possible, both online and offline. If you run a blog, please consider not only posting your concerns but also placing a prominent link from your blog to either this site’s petition discussion page or direct to the petition itself.

Thank you.

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5 responses to “Durham Cathedral Bookshop: One Month On

  1. I’ve thought long and hard about this one. It might be easy to assume that the Dean and Chapter should have no difficulty taking over the bookshop and running it themselves. I believe that they should. It’s just that they prefer renting out space. It takes upwards of £60 000 a week to run the Cathedral and there is no charge for visiting this World Heritage Site. They don’t want the Lindisfarne Gospels because of the expense of security. Why would they want to take over a Bookshop? As long as the Brewers pay the rent, SSG will be OK.

    I think it is entirely wicked that the staff have no idea of what the future holds for them.

    So what do the staff have to do? Since it is SSG who pays them they should do what SSG says. It’s quite simple really. They should turn it into what Phil Brewer wants it to be and leave the rest up to the Dean and Chapter.

    If anybody has been wondering about the spike in petition signatures – that’s because someone has e-mailed all students who use “Theo”. How do I know? I received one.

  2. I agree, the staff should do what they’re paid to do for now, and hope wider pressure results in a change of management.

  3. Fair enough – but what if the staff – who are being paid now to lie and handle stolen goods – happen to have consciences …but at the same time have families to support. Their original contract was not to do what they are doing now.
    Does doing what they are paid to do mean working according to SPCK ethics or Brewer `ethics`? And is it fair and just of the Cathedral to put them in such a position without any pastoral support other than the odd bun?

  4. Speaking of Contracts of Employment, I gather the staff in Durham are still working to their original SPCK Contracts of Employment, apart from any newer staff. These contracts included memebership of the Church Workers Pension Fund, but I gather that is no longer applicable – breach of contract? Ethical? Yes, a job needs to be done even if ethically you’re very upset about having to lie to customers, and if you’re concerned about all your former colleagues, including your mamager having been thrown on the rubbish heap and trampled under foot. Perhaps a World Heritage Site is more important than the lives of human beings.

  5. On the subject of the Durham shop – who is now handing out invalid SPCK discount cards to theological students??? Has the bookshop management omitted to inform a certain college in the Uni that Durham is no longer an SPCK shop?

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