Phil Groom writes:
Oh what a tangled web we weave
when first we
set outpractise to deceive…
I didn’t know the origins of that little quote but, courtesy those who’ve commented below, I do now: thank you. Corrected, it’s an even better fit for what we find ourselves facing here as the Charity Commission attempts to untangle the mess left strewn across the last two years or so by Messrs J Mark and Phil W Brewer.
Several recent comments have once again started pointing the finger of blame at SPCK and whilst I would not for one moment wish to deny SPCK’s culpability, I’m not convinced that we’ll do anyone any favours by going down that road at this stage. Please allow me to refer back to a couple of posts that addressed this side of things back in August last year:
- Hard Questions for SPCK: Challenging SPCK, 8th August 2008
- Straight Talking from SPCK: Official Statement from SPCK, 12th August 2008
I think Phelim McIntyre’s recent comment sums things up rather well:
SPCK are speaking, and are being sued for this – hence their silence. SPCK were not the only ones taken in by the Brewers – publshers and even some book staff said that it would be ok. When I was assistant manager at Chichester I read the SSG statement of faith on their US site and sent up warning flairs and some staff in shops around the south told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and no one can be that bad. Some even signed change of contracts when they were advised not to as they were illegal. Those who stood up, acted and spoke out to try and prevent the chaos were often in the minority. I often wonder whether I should name and shame some of those who tried to keep quiet but have decided not too as they are now in the same boat as everyone else concerning lack of justice.
Because SPCK acted and are acting about the use of the name the Brewers are attempting to sue SPCK and some of the people there for large amounts of money – we are talkign about six figure sums. Please don’t forget this.
This does not absolve SPCK from acting as much as they can but does mean that we should not get angry when they do not speak out as we would like.
As to the Charities Commission being aware whether SSG and ENC are the same thing – yes they are and unravelling such knots as the Brewers have attempted to make takes time.
So where does this leave us with the shops? Here’s how it looks to me, A-Z by location rather than from North to South or any such because, quite frankly, my geography sucks. In my world, London is South, everywhere else (including Australia) is North (except Leicester, which is Midlands, and I suppose we could make a concession for Wales and say it’s off to the West).
Links for each town are to the UKCBD listings, which I’m aware need updating. Unfortunately I always seem to have more to do than time to do it in *sigh*… other links are to reports of closures, photo-shoots where available or most recent comments, whichever seemed most appropriate whilst compiling the list. If you have more accurate or up to date info, please add it to the comments…
- Birmingham: gone
who knows?reported closed
- Bristol: gone
- Cambridge: gone
- Canterbury: presumed gone: does anyone know? Dave Walker’s reports which mention Canterbury.
- Cardiff: independent: Churches Together Bookshop
- Carlisle: gone: Carlisle News & Star reports
- Chester: reported closed (due to employment agency not being paid?)
- Chichester: still trading apparently, after a fashion…
- Durham: notice to quit issued
- Exeter: gone
- Hereford: purportedly independent, trading as Pilgrim’s Progress Bookshop, believed to be paying ‘rent’ to the Brewers.
presumed goneclosed by SPCK before the SSG debacle
- Leicester: independent: Christian Resources
- Lincoln: gone, but Unicorn Tree Books have filled the gap
- London: gone
- Norwich: independent: Norwich Christian Resource Centre
- Salisbury: closed (due to employment agency not being paid?)
- Sheffield: gone.
- Truro: purportedly independent; restricted opening times reported, believed to be paying ‘rent’ to the Brewers.
- Winchester: reported closed (due to employment agency not being paid?)
- Worcester: sporadic opening reported: ‘Black Bond Enterprises’??
- York: sporadic opening reported: Third Space Books
And to round things off, an excerpt from the January 2009 Retail Research “Who’s Gone Bust?” report (pdf, 144kb), which I discovered whilst compiling this report. A sad, succinct summary:
SPCK, the 23-branch Church of England Bookshops, had been acquired along with the leases at concessionary rents in 2006 by two Texan millionaires (the Brewer Brothers) who trade as SSG, an Orthodox-Church charity. Since then it has been has been rapidly run down, with complaints of staff ill-treatment (staff sacked by email etc) and an illiberal policy about what could be stocked. The owners attempted to close down the UK chain in 2008 by applying for personal bankruptcy in the US courts. Their bankruptcy motion was Dismissed With Prejudice (i.e. it was NBG). It is difficult to know how many stores are still left operating or what is the position regarding liabilities, back pay, legal liabilities, etc. Some SSG stores still trade, but have no connection with SPCK. A poor outcome.