Monthly Archives: January 2009

100,000 Pageviews… and Still Counting!

Phil Groom writes:

100,022 pageviews... and counting!

100,022 pageviews... and counting!

On Thursday 29th January 2009, one of you splendid people out there had the awesome privilege of experiencing our 100,000th pageview. Was it you? Did you capture that magic moment? I captured our 100,022nd as per the screenshot, right (though I was not actually the 100,022nd pageviewer: WordPress doesn’t count my visits).

This blog was launched on 26th June 2008, just over seven months ago: that’s 100,000 pageviews in 218 days, an average of almost 459 pageviews per day… just shy of one pageview every 3 minutes.

So, for the statisticians and the incurably  curious, I take this opportunity to present some more facts and figures:

All Time Top 10 Posts & Pages
(View Count as at 9pm, 30/01/2009)

 Durham  2,726 
 Steve Jeynes, RIP  2,258 
 About  1,170 
 “SSG tribunal claims mount”  1,065 
 Joy Jeynes: Please continue to pray for God’s work in Worcester  1,003 
 Rescuing Britain’s Christian Heritage: Durham Cathedral Bookshop   991 
 A Letter to Mark Brewer  989 
 Mark Brewer says, “Remove this page. Immediately.”  984 
 Philip Brewer says, “Immediately post this…”  899 
 SPCK/SSG: My Story, by Phil Groom  872 


The Upsy-Downsy Chart for the last few days

Pageviews 16.01.2009 - 30.01.2009

Pageviews 16.01.2009 - 30.01.2009

Busiest Ever…

Where Next? All Time Top 5 Destinations on Leaving This Site
(Click Count as at 9pm, 30/01/2009) Durham Cathedral Bookshop  1,113 
 Asingleblog  511 Durham Cathedral Bookshop: Signatures p.1   341 
 Matt Wills China Blogger  181 Chichester Christian Bookshop  180 


There are lots more stats available, of course: feel free to ask if you’d like more details on any particular page or post. Scroll down the sidebar for live updated lists of the current top posts and pages, pageviews and departure destinations.

Now, changing the subject entirely: let’s plan ahead for February. Who’d like to design a couple of Valentine’s Day Cards for J Mark and Philip ‘Dubya’ Brewer? Let’s show them some true blogger love and appreciation.

Shopping in Chester

Phil Groom writes:

Chester Till Receipt and Bag, January 2009

Chester Till Receipt and Bag, January 2009

Merely an oversight, I’m sure…

I understand that Trading Standards have given the shop until 5th Feb to set the record straight and provide a notice identifying the current owners along with their contact details.

I’ll say no more: don’t want to go down in history as a nit picker 😉

Thank you to our intrepid photographer: you know who you are.

SSG at Companies House: “Status: Active – Proposal to Strike off”

Phil Groom writes:

SSG’s status at Companies House has been flagged as “Active – Proposal to Strike off”:

Status Active - Proposal to Strike off (Screenshot taken 23.01.2009)

Status Active - Proposal to Strike off (Screenshot taken 23.01.2009)

If allowed to go through this means that the company will cease to exist, and whilst in many ways that would qualify as the Event of the Decade, what it means in practice is that anyone with outstanding legal claims against the company will be unable to pursue them unless they are prepared to pay to have the company restored.

If that’s you, whether as an unpaid employee, unpaid supplier or in any other capacity, I suggest that you contact Companies House sharpish to advise them of your concerns. I’ve already emailed them an outline of the current situation and Matt Wardman has a concise list of points available that should make the Registrar sit up and take notice.  Please ask if you’d like a copy of either of these, either via the comments section on this page or privately.

St Osmond’s Hall, the company’s registered address, may be contacted here: 

More info about what’s involved and what it means for a company to be struck off the register of companies may be found in the Companies House FAQs and About Us sections:

My thanks to those who helped with tracking down this information: you know who you are. 

Download this post as a PDF

Download this post as a PDF

Supporting Gaza

Phil Groom writes:

Hope you’ll forgive me going off-topic today: I’m kinda angry with the BBC and their so-called “impartiality” in refusing to broadcast the DEC Appeal for Gaza. Puts our gripes about them dropping us from the Sunday Programme into perspective, though, I think. I’ve gone on about it more here: Supporting Gaza. Please do. Support Gaza, I mean; and yes, of course Hamas launching missiles in Israel was wrong, but that doesn’t make Israel’s brutal retaliation right.

Here’s the appeal the BBC wouldn’t show:

Breaking the Silence

Two Brewers - but watch out, there may be more...

Two Brewers - but watch out, there may be more...

Phil Groom writes:

Have been rummaging through my backcopies of Christian Marketplace and found the article J Mark Brewer had them take down from their website, from the July 2008 issue, Industry News, p.6. Reproduced below for those who missed it; and if that’s you, good news: if you’re involved in Christian retail, a church leader or responsible for a church bookstall, you need never miss another issue — head on over to the UKCBD Blog to find out how to pick up a FREE subscription: Keeping Up to Date, Getting Up to Speed.

Reading through the article, I can’t see anything that’s even remotely sanctionable let alone libellous. This is straightforward, factual reporting. But I can see plenty of reasons why dear old Marky warky, bless his devious little cotton socks, would have wanted to suppress it. 

Finally, a reminder for anyone pursuing the Brewers/SSG for debts: neither the St Stephen the Great trading company nor the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust is in fact bankrupt. They have not gone into administration; they have not been legally declared insolvent. The USA bankruptcy filing was thrown out as an attempted fraud on the courts. Don’t let them fob you off with false claims of bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy, closures, sackings…
From bad to worse at SSG

The SSG Bookshops story took a dramatic twist last month when it emerged that the company which owns the shops, St Stephen the Great – Limited Liability Company (SSG – LLC) had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. Chapter 11 is a form of bankruptcy that allows a business to continue trading and pay creditors over time.

Mark Brewer informed all staff by email on 6th June that on 6th June that “SSG has been terminated as the trading company to operate the bookshops formerly known as SPCK bookshops” and that “SSG-LLC has been placed into reorganisation in U.S. Bankruptcy Court”.

The email also advised staff that, “The bookshops will now be operated by ENC Management Company. Former employees of SSG-LLC are invited to apply for a position with ENC Management Company. If you wish to apply, please reply to this email so indicating.”

The directors of ENC, which was registered at Companies House on 11th March 2008, are listed as Sandra K Brewer, Mark J Brewer and Philip W Brewer and its registered office is listed as the address of the Chester shop.

Staff in the Chester shop received an email on 2nd June from Philip Brewer advising them of the “change in ownership/management to ENC Management Company with effect from 1st June.” The email also advised staff that they could continue “employment at the Chester bookshop … by applying for a position with the new company” (ENC) and that this was “not a transfer of your employment under TUPE.”

USDAW, the shop staffs Trade Union, who have been advising staff over recent months, expressed concerns at the latest developments. Christine Peacock, Senior Legal Assistant at USDAW, told Christian Marketplace, “We are currently investigating what effect, if any, SSG’s filing for bankruptcy will have in the UK.”

Peacock confirmed that there are fifteen claims lodged in preparation for Industrial Tribunals. The first of these (Alison Speddings vs Mark Brewer) which was due to be heard from Monday 9th June at the Sheffield Employment Tribunal, was adjourned because of the ‘bankruptcy’ situation and neither Mark nor Phil Brewer were in attendance.

She also said that USDAW were aware that ENC Management Company is also owned by the Brewer brothers and were “currently taking advice on the validity of these actions. We are concerned that they will have the effect of moving the assets to a place which means that there are no assets available to settle the claims.”

The Charity Commission are also to undertake an investigation into SSG; a spokesman confirmed that they are “currently considering whether this raises any issues for the Charity Commission to take forward.”

At the time of writing it appears that thirteen of the 24 shops originally passed onto SSG are now closed. A number have closed since the bankruptcy announcement, including Chester, Newcastle, Norwich and Worcester. A further three are independently open with doubts about the status on another four.

Currently there are three companies running the remaining bookshops. In addition to ENC there is Durham Shop Management Co. and Chichester Shop Management Co. and the listed directors are the same for all three.

Mark Brewer has again been asked to comment on the current developments but has not responded to any request.

Silence is golden, but my eyes still see…

Phil Groom writes:

Today, 6 months on from Dave Walker’s announcement of his Cease and Desist letter from J Mark Brewer, we mourn Dave’s silence; but whilst that silence may be golden to J Mark Brewer and his cronies, our eyes still see. 

Fun to Shop at the SPCK

It was fun to shop at the SPCK ... until J Mark and Philip W Brewer wrecked it.

Here’s how Dave told what happened, courtesy of Stephen at Cease and Desist:

‘Cease and desist’ demand from Mark Brewer
This morning I was sent a ‘cease and desist’ demand from Mark Brewer relating to the posts I have made about the former SPCK bookshops. The demand says ‘Confidential – not to be redistributed or posted’, so I am not posting the text.

The demand says that if I do not remove all SSG-related material by noon today, July 22, 2008, an injunction will be sought against me and legal action taken for damages for libel.

I have therefore removed all of the SPCK/SSG posts on this blog, as, although I believe I have not done anything wrong I do not have the money to face a legal battle. The removal of these posts is in no way an admission of guilt.

To say I am not happy about the decision I have been forced to take here is an understatement. I feel as if I have let many people down who have relied on this site over the last year or more.

I am not allowing comments on this post, though I can be contacted as usual. I cannot of course stop you writing about this elsewhere.

And we did.

(Thanks to the Tremeloes for this post’s title)

Cease and Desist: 6 Months On

Phil Groom writes:

Today, January 21st 2009, marks exactly 6 months to the day from when J Mark Brewer sent out his first Cease and Desist message in an attempt to silence the bloggers before his spurious bankruptcy filing was raked over in the Texas courts.

Fortunately for me but unfortunately for him, I was on holiday at the time, cruising the Thames on a narrowboat: the first I heard of it was when Clem Jackson, my Editor at Christian Marketplace, left a message on my mobile to tell me that the Bruisers, sorry, Brewers (never could spell), were getting uppity and threatening him, Dave Walker and myself with libel action unless we took down certain pages from our respective websites.

With no internet access there was nothing I could do anyway and I wasn’t inclined to cut my holiday short simply to respond to Mark Brewer’s attempts at intimidation — but I’ve told the story up to that point before so rather than retell it here, I thought I’d simply repost his first Cease and Desist letter here, in full, to allow us to compare what he wanted with what we’ve delivered:

Subject: Demand to Cease and Desist
Date: 21 July 2008 18:04:17 BDT
To:   Phil Groom, Clem Jackson


I just visited your site dedicated to the destruction of my personal reputation and that of Saint Stephen the Great/Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust.  I am absolutely appalled and devastated by what you have written as well as by what you have encouraged and allowed to be posted on your various sites – especially after your last written communication to me, below which ended “Assuring you of my prayers.”

You have successfully blocked my efforts to get my and SSG’s side of the story out.  You have done this with your sites and Mr. Walker’s with whom you obviously collaborate.  No matter what I say or do not say, the three of you continue your relentless attacks on me and the charities.  You have now broadened your attacks to include my wife, my daughter and my religion.  You will obviously stop at nothing.  You must, therefore, be stopped.

When I do not respond to your vile and defamatory words, you pretend that you are such an important person that ‘how dare anyone not answer you.’  When I do respond, you hold me up to even greater ridicule and invite others to do the same.  I am dumfounded that any Christian ethos purportedly allows one to do that.

You now are doing your best to interfere with the Charitable Trust’s efforts to salvage what remains of the business of the bookshops, scornfully mocking these efforts at every turn.

This is not right and you have gone way too far.

Your statements are false and I categorically deny them – both for me, my family and SSG/SSGCT.  Nearly all of them are defamatory per se.

I therefore am going to say this as clearly as I can:  I am a private individual and I value my privacy.  I am not a public figure such that you have the right to drag my name and my family’s names through the mire.  I do not consent to you contacting me about your alleged enquiries.  I do not consent and object to you maintaining websites about me, SSG, SSGCT, ENC Management, my brother, my wife, or my daughter.  I do not consent to you posting blogs on the internet.  I do not consent to you defaming me to any other party or person by “sharing” your false allegations.

 Legal Demand
I hereby demand that you cease and desist from doing any of these things any more.  I specifically demand that you deactivate your webpages, websites and/or blogsites devoted to me, my brother, my family, SSG and/or SSGCT IMMEDIATELY.  These include:

  4. (Betrayed by the Brewers: Lies, Damned Lies and St Stephen the Great)
  5. (Support SPCK’s Booksellers, and the Phil Groom administered “fund”)

If you do not do so; i.e., remove your websites by noon GMT July 22, 2008, I will seek an injunction against you, your colleagues, associates and companies.  I also will take legal action against each of you for damages for libel.  In that event, I will also subpoena all records relating to the persons whom you have allowed to post defamatory material on your website in order to add them as defendants.

Mark Brewer

You’ll find my original responses to Mark’s allegations and demands in the following series of posts:

It’s interesting looking back: up to this point, I hadn’t been collaborating with anyone. But I am now — not with Dave Walker, sadly, but with dozens of other bloggers; and whilst I was reporting relatively light-heartedly before, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve become relentless since: both the very opposite to what Mark wanted.

As for Mark’s wife and daughter, up to this point I hadn’t even been aware of their involvement; but I am now — and I can find no words adequate to describe my feelings about the kind of man who drags his own wife and daughter into the sort of double-dealings and dishonesty we’ve now witnessed.

Meanwhile, of course:

  1. We have more pages than ever tagged “Mark Brewer”;
  2. The Unicorn Tree Books Blog is still going strong;
  3. Whilst the specific Christian Marketplace report Mark took exception to has gone, there are plenty of others still there;
  4. My report Betrayed by the Brewers: Lies, Damned Lies and St Stephen the Great is still there — with a follow up;
  5. And the Support SPCK’s Booksellers page and fund remain open…

All in all, it strikes me as a fairly spectacular own goal for Mr Brewer. So I’ll say it again: if you’re reading this, Mark, and you’d like me to Cease and Desist, there are three initial steps you need to take:

  1. Pay your former employees
  2. Pay your suppliers
  3. Withdraw your threats of legal action

But now there are some further steps:

4. Give your ill-begotten gains from the sale of the Exeter shop to SPCK;
5. Cease and Desist from your plundering of the former SPCK bookshops;
6. Give (as in freely, without expecting any sort of remuneration) the shops to people who, unlike yourself, can be trusted to run them with honesty and integrity according to a Christian ethos.

Six steps for six months: seems reasonable to me; and then there’s the small matter of making a donation to the Save the SPCK Booksellers fund yourself, Mark, by way of reparation for demanding its removal… 

Orthodox Liars to the Glory of God

Phil Groom writes:

Recently, a friend suggested that I might be able to find better things to do with my time than keep blogging the Brewers, and I have to agree: there are many things that I’d rather be doing — so many books to read, for instance! So why do I carry on? Is it just mindless bleating, like a sheep caught in a briar patch? Or is there something more to it?

My friend also thought that the shops were closing down as a result of the recession. I explained:

…the closure of the SPCK bookshops has very little to do with the recession: they’ve been run into the ground by their unscrupulous new owners, who accepted them as a gift from SPCK on trust that they would invest in them and their staff and maintain them as Christian bookshops.

Instead, however, they attempted to foist illegal contracts upon the staff and drove them to despair with their reprehensible behaviour (most walked out in disgust; one had a nervous breakdown; another committed suicide), then proceeded to close shops down, clearing out the stock without paying the suppliers; they attempted a spurious bankruptcy filing in the USA, changed their trading identities here in the UK and continued trading in the stock they’d acquired from the shops they’d closed — all supposedly in the name of “Orthodox mission”. In September they sold the Exeter branch for £507,000 and — in direct breach of a legally undertaken covenant — have allowed it to become a jewellery store.

In the meantime, the staff they drove out have not received their wages and the suppliers whose stock they took have not been paid.

So for me, the online campaign to expose these evil men and, yes, to bring them down, remains a truly worthwhile use of my time and energy.

In some ways it’s rather like having a toothache: something you can’t ignore until the rotten tooth has been pulled; or even more bluntly, it’s as if the Brewers are a boil on the backside of British bookselling. Until that boil’s been lanced, I, as a British bookseller — and more to the point, as a Christian bookseller — simply can’t sit comfortably.

It’s about justice and truth versus injustice and lies; about treating other people with respect rather than contempt; about honesty and integrity, concepts that J Mark and Philip W Brewer seem to know nothing about.

As for the title of this piece, “orthodox liars for the glory of God” — that’s from one of my all time favourite writers, Geoffrey A Studdert Kennedy, otherwise known as Woodbine Willie: After War, Is Faith Possible? (reprinted by Lutterworth Press 2008, p.68 ). I’m using it completely out of context, of course: it’s from a piece he wrote back in 1919 entitled “Why does God permit war?” — but even so, even from ninety years ago, I find Studdert Kennedy still speaks to our situation:

Christian preaching has very often consisted in pious attempts to make evil good in order to save God’s face. We have suffered from what Hilary of Poitiers called irreligiosa sollicitudo pro Deo, and have become orthodox liars to the glory of God. Passive resignation to evil as though it were God’s will has been exalted into a virtue, and consequently the Christianity which should have turned the world upside down has been turned into a method of keeping it as it is and meekly accepting its wrong-side-upness as the discipline of Almighty God. The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman.

That’s just a very short snippet of Studdert Kennedy’s writing, enough, I hope, to whet your appetite for more; but more to the point, to emphasise that walking away or doing nothing in the face of evil is not the way of Christ. Christ does not call us to be doormats to be trampled underfoot by the likes of the Brewers; Christ does not call us to accept wickedness as a mysterious part of God’s will in the hope that all will be well in the end because God is ultimately in control, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. No! God calls us to follow Christ, to call whitewashed tombs what they are, to expose hypocrisy, to be light in the darkness — because our God, the God revealed in Jesus, is not some remote deity who will put everything right at some dim and distant point in the future: our God is here and now, hands on through you and me. We are his hands and feet.

And that’s a call to live dangerously: because Christ’s hands and feet get nails smashed through them. If we raise our heads above the parapet for the cause of Christ, for justice, truth and love, we’ll find ourselves, like Christ, wearing a crown of thorns. Blood will flow and it will be ours, and our enemies will treat us with contempt and wash their hands of us and ask, “What is truth?”

My point, gentle reader, is this: if you are one of the employees or suppliers whom the Brewers have not paid, and if you have decided not to fight for what they owe you because you believe that such fighting is somehow unChristian, that as a follower of Christ you are called to set aside your rights to reparation because it’s all in God’s Almighty hands and he will see it right in the end — then I urge you to think again. Your rights, my friend, are indeed in God’s hands: and God’s hands on earth are your hands and mine, joining hands with our oppressed and dispossessed brothers and sisters to become a joint responsibility to stand together against injustice, lies and dishonest business practices as together we work to fulfil Christ’s call for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven.

God’s kingdom is not some distant never-never land of pie in the sky when we die (although yes, we have that hope) — it’s about how we live now, about turning the world with its twisted values on its head. That’s why, although there are many things I’d rather be doing, I’m still here blogging the story of the Brewers and their rundown of the former SPCK Bookshops.

Getting Involved in 2009

And finally, for any members of the UK’s (or even the wider) Orthodox community who may be reading: most of us here, I think, are well aware that the Brewers are mavericks who do not represent you or your faith; but any formal measures or statements that you may be willing to take or make to emphasise that distance would be warmly appreciated by us and should, I hope, help the Brewers to recognise their increasing isolation. Thank you.


Matt Wardman writes:

q-logo-eccrOne of the organisations we have spoken to while pursuing the SPCK/SSG story has been the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, a research and campaigning organisation started within the Industrial Chaplaincy movement that is now almost 20 years old. I first met them when they were developing a set of Environmental Benchmarks as far back as 1993 in partnership with organisations in the USA and Canada, and applying them to a large British Company. Miles Litvinoff has kindly supplied this article to bring their story up to date.

ECCR typically do long term work in partnership with groups such as Trade Unions and voluntary groups, and (in my view anyway) have demonstrated a great capability to engage in work for corporate responsibility at an institutional level.

The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) is a coalition of the British and Irish churches and others working for economic justice, environmental stewardship, and corporate and investor responsibility. It undertakes research, advocacy and dialogue with companies and investors and seeks to influence company policy and practice and to raise awareness among the churches, the investor community and the general public. ECCR member organisations control and influence more than £10 billion of invested assets.

ECCR was founded in 1989 following a meeting between British industrial chaplains and visiting Philippine trade unionists concerned about impacts of the operations of UK sugar transnational Tate & Lyle on communities in the Philippines. Responding to local concerns regarding operations of British business overseas has remained central to ECCR’s mission.

Church connections alerted ECCR in the 1990s to social conflict and human rights abuses linked to the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. After initial dialogue with the Shell Group, ECCR brought a ground-breaking shareholder resolution to Shell’s 1996 AGM. There had been few civil society shareholder resolutions in the UK before, and this helped bring about a major response on the part of Shell in of addressing corporate responsibility issues and relations with Niger Delta communities.

ECCR developed links with the Centre for Social and Corporate Responsibility (CSCR), a non-governmental organisation founded in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, in 2001. Since then we have maintained a joint dialogue with Shell directors in Nigeria and Europe to articulate the rights of people living in the Delta.

In 2006 ECCR brought a second shareholder resolution to Shell’s AGM, focused on the company’s social and environmental performance not only in Nigeria but also in Ireland (the Corrib gas project, County Mayo) and Russia (Sakhalin II oil and gas project). Some 17% of shareholders voted against or abstained from voting with the company on this resolution, a similar proportion as in 1996.

CSCR has provided ECCR with regular reports on the Niger Delta based on its participatory work with communities. This knowledge sharing informs ECCR’s and its members’ engagement with the company and brings considerable credibility to CSCR in Nigeria.

In 2007 ECCR and CSCR met in London with Wim Kok, former Dutch Prime Minister and chair of Shell’s Social Responsibility Committee, to discuss problems arising from poor implementation in Nigeria of its global operational standards. The meeting led to Shell’s Nigeria management participating in a multistakeholder forum with Delta communities co-organised by CSCR. And following concerted pressure involving ECCR and faith-based investors in the USA, CSCR has recently reported successful rehabilitation of neighbourhood water boreholes by Shell Nigeria. Admittedly, many severe oil-industry-related problems remain for Delta communities that ECCR, CSCR and other civil society organisations must still tackle.

Other recent work by ECCR includes researching and reporting on the worldwide operations of mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, co-founding the Working Group on Mining in the Philippines (chaired by former UK development secretary Clare Short MP), pioneering analysis on the global `water footprint’ of British and Irish food and drinks transnationals, and work-in-progress on vulnerable migrant workers in the British and Irish economies.

Shareholder engagement shows growing potential in the movement for greater corporate accountability in relation to human rights and the sustainable development agenda. The approach is in the main non-confrontational, mobilising institutional investors and civil society to press for constructive change on the part of companies. Although reforming corporate policies may be more easily achieved than changing practice on the ground, ECCR’s experience with Shell – and work by other coalitions such as on the cost of AIDS drugs, corporate lobbying, environmental standards and labour conditions in retail supply chains – shows that real change can be achieved.

Miles Litvinoff

ECCR Co-ordinator

Co-ordinator, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR)
PO Box 500, Oxford OX1 1ZL, UK
tel. +44 (0)20 8965 9682

mobile +44 (0)7984 720103

(ECCR is a company limited by guarantee in England & Wales (No. 2764183) and a Body in Association with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.)

Helping new people get to grips with the SPCK/SSG Story: Blog Button

Matt Wardman writes:

We are in a slight posting hiatus this week (more from me on Friday), with lots going on in the background.

Scrutinising the rundown of the former-SPCK Bookshops

So, following on from the article a few days ago aiming to help new people get to grips with the SPCK/SSG saga, here is a 125×125 blog button that you can put onto your web page to link back to the article.

<a href=""><img
alt="Scrutinising the rundown of the former-SPCK Bookshops"></a>

This code should work on any site, and will include the image automatically.