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:
- Alan Mann, author of A Permanent Becoming: A Contemporary Look at the Fruit of the Spirit
- Professor Walter Moberly from the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University
- Dr Nigel Oakley, World Development Officer for the Diocese of Durham and author of Engaging Politics? The Tensions of Christian Political Involvement (Paternoster, 2007).
- Dr Robin Parry, Editorial Director of Paternoster Publishing
- Revd Charles Read, Vice Principal and Director of Studies, Norwich Diocesan Ministry Course
- Sister Anne Williams, CA, a member of General Synod
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.
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.
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.