“Two years of horror” – the Brewers’ Legacy to Britain

Watch this video at your own risk

Destroying Britains Christian Heritage: Watch this video at your own risk

Phil Groom writes:

Far from “Rescuing Britain’s Christian Heritage”, the Brewers’ legacy to Britain was summed up yesterday in four much shorter words by Valiant for Truth: Two years of horror. And this coming Monday, 20th October 2008, marks exactly two years since SPCK finalised its disastrous decision to hand the bookshops over to the Brewers:

It was on Friday 20 October 2006 that Shop Managers gathered in London to be told the news of the takeover by St Stephen the Great and to meet Mark Brewer for the first time. Two years of horror. Wouldn’t it be nice if on 20 October 2008 we all learnt that we were to be free again, and able to rise like a phoenix as has happened in Norwich, Cardiff, Leicester. Come on Durham and Chichester especially as it’s in your hands.

Compare and Contrast:

Mark Brewer, The Bookseller, 28 August 2008

“[Staff] actively worked to prevent implementation of anything to do with change until the chain’s finances were too far gone for any change to have worked.” 

Raymond Witty, Carlisle Branch Manager, Branch Newsletter, November 2006:

We have news! After some months of uncertainty after the collapse of a planned merger with the Wesley Owen network of bookshops, SPCK has found a new partner in the shape of the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, an Othodox Christian charity who have assumed responsibility for the SPCK Bookshops with effect from the 1st November. SSG was founded in 2004 by Mark Brewer, who heads a law firm in Houston, Texas, with an initial aim of restoring redundant churches as Orthodox places of worship and distributing Orthodox Christian literature. We will continue to trade as “SPCK Bookshops” under licence from the Society, with a strong sense of partnership between the two charities illustrated by Bishop Michael Perham (Chairman of SPCK) and Simon Kingston (Senior Executive) joining the trustees of SSG, and a member of SSG joining SPCK’s Governing Body. This development will strengthen and enhance the Bookshops’ mission of distributing Christian literature, helping to secure the network of shops and the breadth of their stock.

That reads like a genuinely optimistic and enthusiastic welcome to me, not resistance. Sadly, of course, it’s too late for Carlisle now; too late for Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, Lincoln and so many others. But as Valiant for Truth points out, it’s not too late for Durham and Chichester!

Questions about Leases

Most leases contain a break clause: a notice period to terminate the agreement that can be invoked by the landlord. As Valiant for Truth noted back in July, there was certainly a break clause in the lease with SPCK at Durham which came to a close call in 2004 when the Cathedral wanted SPCK out in favour of Jarrolds. It’s hard to believe that the Cathedral authorities would have granted SSG a lease without a similar break clause; so why has it not been invoked? What, exactly, does it take in terms of bringing the Cathedral into disrepute to bring the lease to an end? One of the most recent petitioners, David Baxter, puts it like this:

I think it is astonishing that here should be a business within the cathedral that refuses to pay what it owes to others – staff and businesses – and that letters sent to the cathedral authorities go unanswered. These are not Christian acts.

Once again I call upon anyone reading who has not yet signed the Durham petition to consider doing so; and if you have signed it, please spread the word. And if you have reservations about signing it, please raise them here.

Let’s not allow this two year anniversary to pass in silence.

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29 responses to ““Two years of horror” – the Brewers’ Legacy to Britain

  1. Re: Durham. I’ve a suspicion that the whole lease is due to end soon and that the Cathedral authorities are keeping their heads down until then when they will oust SSG and put their own plans in place for a new shop run by the Cathedral. I believe they have a financial investment in the shop which means that part of the stock, fixtures, etc belongs to them.

  2. I agree, i believe that the Cathedral is firmly against SSG now, but is ‘keeping its head down’ for good reasons. With all the legal things going on e.t.c, it probably is wary of being drawn too much into the saga.

  3. What I don’t understand is, the Brewers have got petitions against them, bad comments on there youtube about them, bad press about them in the papers and radio. They are over lots of blogs on the internet, there up before the courts, everybody is now knoweldgeable about there antics, so why are the Brewers trying to hold on to the shops, they haven’t got a hope in hell, in succeeding in this country now.

  4. Valiant for Truth

    The original SPCK lease with Durham Cathedral expires in April 2010 which is some time away for the shop to go further downhill, the staff to suffer yet more, and for the Cathedral to continue to lose income.

  5. Valiant for Truth

    In yesterday’s “Bookseller” there was an advertisement for the sale of the bookshelves etc from SPCK Exeter. Firstly, I’m interested in that the Brewers didn’t take the fixtures and fittings as they did in other places. Secondly, from whom are the new owners renting the shop? It was one of the ones “given” to the Brewers and which they tried to sell in the summer. Are the Brewers renting out the building or SPCK?

  6. Valiant for Truth

    A year ago Bookshop satff representatives were at ACAS trying to sort out the new Contract of Employment after the failure of the meeting in Poole. A number of staff had already left/been forced out, the Exeter staff left en mass, and others were forced out at the end of the month. Mark Brewer had started his campaign of “Franchises” of shops so the Managers could be “Independent”. Central purchasing was really getting a grip. One year on and where are we?

  7. I was hoping that Phil Groom would find something else to put on this blog. That would mean that I wouldn’t have to say anything.

    About the lease, there is a six month get out clause. The Dean and Chapter know exactly what that lease is all about. We do not need to lecture them about it. They are fully informed about what is happening in the shop. It’s all up to them.

    For anybody who wonders why the Brewers are quiet, they are not. They are causing nightmares in all the shops – vat and accounting is a problem.

    Monday 20th October will resonate with many. Two years of horror. I prefer to remember October 31st 2007 when the real Halloween hit the Durham shop. That’s when they fired Carole Burrows.

  8. For the moment, I’m content to let this page with its grim headline stand as our front page, as a testimony against these wicked men.

    The Dean and Chapter evidently have something up their sleeves for the future of trading in the Cathedral: Durham Cathedral Trading Ltd was established by the Chapter in September 2007…

  9. I’m bemused. Bookseller got a C&D and then got an advert for shelves from Exeter. I’m not going to risk an ASBO but I will risk wtf. WHAT IS HAPPENING IN EXETER.

  10. Sorry didn’t want to divert anybody.

  11. Exeter’s being refitted as a jewellers, apparently. I think I already said that somewhere.

    What’s with the Bookseller getting a C&D? I must’ve missed something somewhere along the line…

  12. Sorry, it was Marketplace. How can Exeter be refitted as a jewellers when it should be a Christian Bookshop. Is that not what SPCK , via Simon, said when the Brewers first tried to sell the property.

  13. justflyingkites

    Sharks, crooks, whatever. Bet is that jewellery has found its way into all the shops. What a way to make a buck.

  14. A lot of Christian retailers sell a range of themed jewellery: there’s nothing crooked about that; on the contrary, there’s some excellent product available.

    The crime at Exeter is twofold:
    1. The shop will no longer be a Christian presence there;
    2. The terrible way in which this has happened.

    A Google search for SPCK Exeter is very informative: top of the search results we have David Ching’s old SPCK Exeter home page, then the rest of this sorry saga unfolds…

    My favourite page on David’s old site: The Gumphus. It’s the story of a bad smell. I feel a new headline coming on: “The Brewers Brought Back the Gumphus…”

  15. The Brewers brought back the gumphus indeed. Even before the jewellery shop has opened. Which company will this shop be registered as? Who will buy its stock? Who will work in it? Who will keep track of its VAT? Where does this fit into their remit of Christian Bookselling? SPCK have a job to do here. The Brewers keep living by their wits.

  16. OK, have I missed some blog where the current Exeter shop story is being told?
    Is you or is you not saying:
    Exeter shop stripped;
    Exeter shop fixtures for sale via Bookseller;
    Exeter shop being refitted as jewellers;
    Said jewellers are Brewers in disguise (Extremely Nasty Crooks or some such)
    OR
    Said jewellers are independent but subletting (illegally?) from the Brewers?
    OR
    SPCK has allowed the property to be let?
    Enlightenment, please!

  17. Pax, Yes to all your questions. Unless SPCK wants to say otherwise.

  18. The Exeter story seems to be coming through piecemeal… the refit as a jewellers comes from some private correspondence I received: a friend popped her head in on the way past and asked what was happening – the shopfitter said it was becoming a jewellers.

    I think we need to be very careful about alleging impropriety unless we have clear evidence to support it: to my knowledge there is no basis for any suggestion that the jewellers are subletting from the Brewers/SPCK or doing anything untoward; my working assumption is therefore that the lease or freehold, as the case may be, has been sold and that’s the end of the story as far as the Brewer/SPCK connection is concerned. Of course, I could be wrong

    The nearest thing we have to a dedicated blog is Neil Denham’s exeblog: here are his SPCK related posts.

    Anyone up for a trawl through the blogs etc to pull it all together for a definitive article?

  19. I’ll have a go if you like Phil, but will need some time.

  20. Thanks, Matt. Time is the problem, isn’t it? But if you can squeeze it in, I reckon it might be a useful exercise and a useful resource for future reference. And being a history buff, you might even enjoy it!

  21. Matt you could start with the Dave Walker downloads. The Brewer’s tried to sell this shop before.

  22. Is it really only 2 years since the Brewer’s took the shops over ? It feels like a lot longer !!

  23. Pingback: Warning to SPCK/SSG Bookshop Customers and Staff: Your Personal Data is At Risk « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  24. Phelim McIntyre

    To misquote Churchill – never in the course of human history has so much been destroyed in such a short time by so few.

  25. Just to confirm – the Bookseller has never received any cease and desist notice from the Brewers regarding our St Stephen the Great coverage.

  26. Thanks for that, Graeme — and I hope if ever you did, there’d be a robust response!

  27. Valiant for Truth

    Must be Recession time when the need for income over rides ethhical and long term considerations, otherwise why should suppliers still be supplying the former SPCK shops? Sometimes the longer term goal, in this case removing the Brewers from control of any shop in the UK, merits short term suffering ie. a ban by all suppliers re any trade of any kind, pro-forma or whatever, with the shops to ensure a speedy exit and then an opportunity for resurrection.

  28. It`s not just suppliers who aren`t being paid. Apparently, in one shop, BT has not been paid either – but they aren`t as caring as cheated suppliers, so staff are attempting to locate books without the help of computers.

  29. Pingback: Exeter: The Inside (Incomplete) Story: Part 2 « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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