Anger in Durham as Dean Snubs Petitioners’ Concerns

Phil Groom writes:

Dean of DurhamPetitioners calling for the Brewers’ business relationship with Durham Cathedral to be terminated have responded angrily to an announcement in last Sunday’s Cathedral Newsletter that the Dean’s new book — somewhat ironically, published by SPCK — is to be officially launched from the Cathedral Shop.

One petitioner has bluntly described the Dean’s decision to host his book launch in the Brewers’ shop as verging on “a deliberate two fingers against those who’ve signed the petition”, whilst another, leaving a message on the petition itself, states equally bluntly, “The fact that this petition still exists displays a singular disrespect for those who have signed it.”

I will trust in you, by Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham

I will trust in you, by the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham

The book, entitled I Will Trust In You: Companion to the Evening Psalms, ISBN 9780281059874, is priced at £9.99 but can be pre-ordered from Amazon for only £6.59, a 34% discount.

In November 2008 the Dean responded to a concerned petitioner by issuing a strong statement distancing the Cathedral authorities from the shop, noting that “the Cathedral Chaper does not manage the shop in its Great Kichen.” [sic] and emphasising that the shop “is NOT managed, is NOT controlled and is NOT run by the Cathedral itself.”

The book’s title, however, seems to beg the question: can the Dean be trusted to maintain that distance? If you share the concerns raised here and by the petitioners, please consider writing to the Dean personally to ask him that question and encourage him to seek an alternative venue: contact details may be found on the Cathedral Who’s Who page.

The date of the proposed launch is uncertain, given in the newsletter as March 31st whilst shop staff have reportedly been told that the event is scheduled for April 7th, during Holy Week. As this report goes live there is no mention of the book launch on the Cathedral website NewsNotices or Services & Events pages.

The petition, calling upon the Dean to take urgent and decisive action to free the Cathedral Shop from the Brewers’ control, was launched in August 2008. It now carries more than 360 signatures and remains open until its objective has been reached. If you have not already signed it, please consider doing so and please spread the word.

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36 responses to “Anger in Durham as Dean Snubs Petitioners’ Concerns

  1. Valiant for Truth

    Book available from Waterstones website for £7.49, so possibly even from the two branches of Waterstones in Durham at that price?

  2. Phelim McIntyre

    Am angry on two counts – firstly with the way the Brewers treated the prvious manager and staff (both previous and ongoing) for the Dean to be having a book launch in the shop is hypocrytical. From one side of the mouth he supports the staff, on the other he supports the Brewers.

    Secondly – WHAT ARE SPCK DOING? Allowing one of their books to be launched in away that shows support for the Brewers? Does this mean they are giving in?

    Of course the bookshop may only be the venue but the Dean and SPCK, along with those still working at Durham, Chichester and the other shops must stop and think about what their actions are saying to people. That the Brewers are winning!!

  3. Phelim, I think Phil G is right to question the Dean about this. Whether or not SPCK reps will be at the launch remains to be seen. The Dean might have his own reasons for choosing the Durham bookshop. Let’s remember that the staff did not go out looking for a book to launch. What is more Brewer will not pay them a penny for the overtime they will have to work at that launch. They should not have been put in this position in the first place.

  4. Just to add. Those Durham booksellers are like “piggy in the middle”. Tell the Dean they can’t do the launch and they’ll be sacked by the Brewers. At the moment they look like canon fodder to me.

  5. The Brewers have been given sanctuary and that is what makes my blood boil.

  6. Phelim McIntyre

    asingleblog – as I said I am angry with the Dean because of his hypocracy. Also, I am aware that some people around the shops (including Durham) want to keep the Brewers!!! Not all of them but some do – and it is to those my last comment was made.

    How did this book launch come about? Did the Cathedral approach the shop wanting to show their support to the staff? If so they didn’t think about the signals sent out about them also supporting the Brewers. Did SPCK approach the shop? If so the same issue stands? If it was the Brewers (even via the people in the shop who support them) then the Dean and SPCK should have said no.

  7. I guess that principles fly out the window when money is to be made…I feel so sorry for the staff
    Let’s hope that if enough pressure is put on the dean he will do the honourable thing and withdraw the launch……but I doubt it

  8. I`m probably not going to be very popular with anyone. However I do ask myself – for how many weeks now has the Durham shop being selling the new Diocesan directory? I believe the sale of tourist guide books there is on-going.
    The Dean appears to be being made into a scapegoat when he is only following the lead of his Diocese.

    • The Dean is certainly in a difficult position and I have some degree of sympathy with him: I certainly have no intention of turning him into a scapegoat for the Brewers’ misdemeanours.

      To say that “he is only following the lead of his Diocese” will not do, however: as Dean of Durham he is a diocesan leader. He has the responsibility to keep the whole Cathedral running on behalf of the Diocese:

      The Dean is the principal dignitary, after the Bishop, of the Cathedral and, on behalf of the Cathedral Chapter, directs the life and work of the place.

      The shop is, of course, but one part of the much bigger picture — but unfortunately, under the Brewers’ ownership (I was about to type ‘management’ but you can’t call what the Brewers do management), it is also a massive blemish: the wart on the nose that no matter how much you want to ignore it, you inevitably end up staring at.

      The Dean has a very real choice about whether he feeds the trolls lurking in his Great Kitchen, starves them or actively chases them out. He has the legitimate authority to terminate the lease: he could have given them the statutory 6 months notice that is in the lease agreement novated to SSG by SPCK; he could have stopped that novation when the business transferred to ‘Durham Cathedral Shop Management Co’ — if indeed any legitimate transfer of business did in fact take place, plenty of questions to be asked there.

      He has witnessed the appalling treatment of staff under his very nose; he knows full well about the Brewers’ mishandling of pension contributions; he knows that employment tribunals are in progress; he knows that J Mark Brewer faked a bankruptcy in order to evade his creditors; he knows that suppliers have not been paid, that the shop is effectively trading in stolen property; he knows that extremely dubious transfers of stock have been carried out to keep the shelves in the Durham shop looking fuller than they would otherwise be; he knows that the Durham shop is used as a central clearing house to buy in stock for other shops because suppliers are unwilling to supply them direct.

      He has, in short, more than sufficient grounds to simply call time on the Brewers for bringing the Cathedral and the Diocese into disrepute.

      Instead, however, he appears to have chosen to work with them, and it is not unreasonable to challenge him about that — in fact, I’d say it would be irresponsible not to!

      The ball is very much in the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove’s court!

  9. Annie I wouldn’t bet on the Dean withdrawing the launch. That Durham shituation is a real mess as Ezra has pointed out. I’m with Phil Groom on this one though. I refuse to believe that the Dean is uninformed about what is happening on his patch. Ezra, I recognize that the Dean has many things on his plate. He probably doesn’t like what he has been served when it comes to his bookshop. This is his patch and he needs to sort it.

  10. Phelim I accept that not enough thinking was done.

  11. Valiant for Truth

    The last Tom Wright book related event in January was staged at Cranmer Hall and the books were sold by Waterstones University Bookshop.

  12. Phil Groom I consider your last comment the best ever made.

  13. VFT – Are Waterstones also selling the Diocesan Directory, then? Or the new guide book? Moreover, Tom Wright only wrote the preface of the book for the January launch, and it was more connected with St John`s than with the Cathedral/Diocese.
    ASBO is right about it being a complicated situation. I don`t think Phelim has any idea how complicated.
    Phil: I think the title of `Anger` is misleading. It generally ranges among despair, confusion and exasperation.

  14. Have just sent a message via twitter to +John Sentamu, Archbishop of York:

    @JohnSentamu What are your thoughts, please, on the Brewers running the shop in Durham Cathedral? http://tiny.cc/angerindurham Please help!

    There are now seven Twishops (Twittering Bishops) out there: here’s my Twishop Index. If you’re not on twitter, it’s well worth thinking about joining; and if you’re wondering what the point of it is, two words: twitter connects. I’ve blabbed on a bit more about it here: Phil’s Twitterguide.

  15. Phelim McIntyre

    Firstly I apologise for any sense of blaming those brave staff members who are still in the thick of it.

    Ezra – as the ex-assistant manager at Chichester with contacts across the exSPCK staff members and current staff I have a better idea than you may think, but there is a lot I can not say because of what is going on legally. Of course not being involved with the goings on at Durham about the book launch and the Cathedral’s negotiations with the Brewers about the launch there will be somethings I do not know – but I do know more than you think.

    Also Ezra – due to the publishing methods of a diocesan directory and Waterstone’s central buying policy the Waterstone’s shops in Durham probably do not have the power to purchase the diocesan directory to sell. The Diocese would have to negotiate a central contract with Waterstones HQ. As an outlet where people involved with the cathedral/diocese may want to go and as a small retailer the shop at Durham Cathedral has a freedom to sell small run books like the directory that Waterstone’s does not. So Waterstones not selling the Directory and the bookshop selling the directory is not actually a reasonable issue to compare the launch of a book from a major publisher. (I have worked both for Waterstones and in publishing so know how complicated this is.)

    Also, the Diocese and the Cathedral are two seperate bodies. As such what the diocese chooses to do and what the Dean/SPCK chooses to do are two seperate issues.

    As I have said my concern is the message this is sending out about the Brewers behaviour. The book is published by SPCK, the Dean has written distancing the Cathedral from the Brewers so a book launch involving SPCK/the Dean in a shop owned by the Brewers sends out very mixed messages.

  16. The twits are twittering!

  17. The Cathedral bookshop is not the only place where small print runs are accepted. Ecumenically, the Diocese works closely with Ushaw College, using its premises for many Anglican meetings and workshops. Ushaw College has its own small bookshop.
    If the Diocese was vetoing the Brewers, it could also have sold the Diocesan Directory direct from Auckland Castle.
    The fact that it has not done so may suggest that it is looking towards a resurrection for the bookshop in the face of – hopefully – the death of its Brewer-run manifestation.
    Also, money spent on the Dean`s book is, thus, not being frittered away on SSGtat.
    And while the Brewers own the shop franchise, and use illegal methods to run it, the premises are owned by the Cathedral`s D&C, who also have pastoral oversight to those employed there – including a future hope.

  18. That post about the twits was supposed to appear before Phelim’s. The Dean is a twit.

    • You can reply to a specific comment by hitting the ‘Reply’ link just after the date of that comment rather than using the main comment box; and whilst the Dean of Durham may be all sorts of things, I don’t think he’s twittering with us yet…

  19. Phelim McIntyre

    asingleblog – I am so thankful that you were not refering to me 😉

    Ezra – I hope your prognosis of a post-Brewer shop is the right one. Here’s to a future hope for all shops!

    • John Gaines, who runs the Footprints bookshops in Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Middlesbrough, has left a note on the petition (Signature #351) offering his services to the Cathedral:

      As owner of 3 Christian shops in the NE, I am appalled to se the sad demise, of these shops. I urge that control be taken away from the Brewers, & offer my help, in setting up an indiependant, quality Christian shop in the Cathedral.

  20. Valiant for Truth

    I have been reliably assured that SPCK knew nothing of this book launch until this blog appeared and they are not supplying stock for it. With regard to stocking the Cathedral Guide Book, published by Jarrolds, the book can be stocked by any retailer and has been stocked by Waterstones University Bookshop and by the Durham TIC at the Gala Theatre. On the theme of which emotion, anger is stiil the paramount one for me in view of that fact that none of this should have happened if better decisions had been made back in 2001. Also, in Durham it has been pain since 2004 when it looked like Jarrolds were to take over the Durham Cathedral shop, but the protests were so great that the idea was dropped.

  21. Valiant for Truth

    A posting on the Durham Cathedral website on 18th March, under news, that the Book Launch is on 7 April at 6.30.

  22. The Cathedral celebrated St Cuthbert’s Day today. One poster loomed large. “your Cathedral” it said. If it’s my cathedral why are there crooks in it. I hope there is method in your madness Dean.

  23. Ohh I Know, maybe it’s a huge publicity stunt??

    Most book launches tend to have at least one table all set up with the authors books on it, right? and then seats for the people attending??

    So maybe on the night he (Mr Dean, Michael Sadgrove) will come storming in and with righteous indignation he will grab the table and overturn it and then toss the seats around in imitation of Matthew 21:12, stating very loudly,
    ”My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’

    Ohh yes, maybe that’s it??
    so come on then hands up who thinks that’s the plan?

  24. Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Hark the glad sound of spring in Durham Cathedral…

  25. Squiggle, that’s Fred’s job. Fred is the bookshop ghost. Phil you sound like “The Sound of Music”. Wouldn’t it be nice to sing “to say goodbye to youooo”?

  26. Sorry Squiggle, but there is only one rickety stool and one office chair to overturn in the shop. So it would not be a bang but a whimper!
    Sorry, Sal, but I think Fred is working for the Cathedral and wants the Brewers out.
    And I`m sorry for the Dean, who having been referred to as St Michael is now being vilified by a mob reminiscent of the Good Friday one.
    Roll on bookshop Easter.

  27. For the avoidance of doubt, my impersonation of a cuckoo is a specific reference to the Brewer brothers, not to the Dean.

    The Brewers are parasites nesting in the Cathedral’s Great Kitchen. The Dean is like a cuckolded mother bird feeding a brood parasite’s offspring. The difference is that the Dean should know better: he is no brain-deficient bird without the wit or wisdom to see that the chick he’s feeding is not his own.

    Good article about brood parasites in Wikipedia – the “Mafia Hypothesis” seems to sum the Durham Shop situation rather well:

    It has often been a question as to why the majority of the hosts of brood parasites care for the nestlings of their parasites. Not only do these brood parasites usually differ significantly in size and appearance, but it is highly probable that they reduce the reproductive success of their hosts. So what possible benefits are gained from providing this parental care? Through studies in an attempt to answer this question evolved the “Mafia hypothesis”. This hypothesis revolves around host manipulations induced by behaviors of the brood parasite. Upon the detection and rejection of a brood parasite’s egg, the host’s nest is depredated upon, its nest destroyed and nestlings injured or killed. This threatening response is indirectly enhancing selective pressures favoring aggressive parasite behavior that may result in positive feedback between Mafia-like parasite and compliant host behaviors.

    The Dean could evict the Brewers, but he’s afraid of the possible kickback; so instead of evicting them, he panders to them.

  28. Ezra I do not want to be seen as part of a baying mob calling for the Dean to be crucified. In this instance the Dean must be called to account. As PhilG says it would be irresponsible not to do so. I hope that the Dean is in the process of evicting the Brewers. I really do.

    When we get to Good Friday – might I remind you that the Brewers owe loads for Palm Crosses. That was just one charity left stranded. I hope that the Dean is aware of that. As much as I have tried I cannot condone the launch of that book. Sorry.

  29. We were brought together by the bullying tactics of the Brewers.
    I am hoping here that the abused are not becoming the abusers.
    Just look at yourselves!

  30. Phelim McIntyre

    Ezra – While often the abused can become abusers I will continue to raise questions about the Brewers and speak out about injustice because that is what we are called to do as Christians. This was the mandate Jesus gave himself when he said the words of Isaiah were fulfilled in him, and as followers of Christ that is what we are called to do. But I agree that in speaking out we must not create a witch hunt

    As for the Dean situation, there are legitimate questions that need to be answered. I hope I have erred on caution and not fueled a witch hunt with my comments, but while you write them in a certain spirit that does not mean people will read them as you meant them too – just look at how the Brewers twist things.

  31. Valiant for Truth

    The staff of the Durham Cathedral Shop were together for over 50 years helping to promote Christian knowledge and to be part of the visitor welcome and hospitality. It is during the past couple of years that it has been impossible to properly fulfill such a function.

  32. I hope that there will be a Durham Bookshop Easter but I’m not counting my chickens.

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