Monthly Archives: July 2009

Loose Ends and Missing Links

Phil Groom writes:

1. Loose Ends

Sometimes you can’t see the woods for the trees, which is why a while back I started compiling a master index, imaginatively entitled Index of Indexes.

This includes such things as links to all the Bookseller reports tagged SSG and an index of reports in Christian Marketplace magazine, last updated for the July issue. Keep your eyes peeled for the August issue, due to land on doormats any day now: I gather there may be two or three SSG stories coming up. Remember, if you’re a church leader, dead or alive, you can sign up for a year’s free subscription.

2. Missing Links

It’s come to my attention that a couple of blogs we’ve linked to, whose owners were commenting on and following the SPCK/SSG saga, have dropped out of the blogosphere:

  • Doug Chaplin has discontinued ‘MetaCatholic’ (metacatholic.co.uk) to blog as Clayboy instead, clayboy.co.uk.
  • Matt Wills ‘Chinablogger’ (mattwillschinablogger.blogspot.com) has vanished without trace.

Rather than remove the old links, I’ve decided to leave them in place as a matter of historical record: apologies to anyone who’s run into a 404 ‘Page not Found’ as a result. As far as I know there are no C&Ds involved in either case.

3. Tag Cloud

Finally, our tag cloud. “Why?” you ask. Because I felt like it:

Staff Vacancy at BOOKS Plus, Gloucester

Nick Lord writes:

Dear Phil,

I worked at SPCK London for 3 years alongside Mark Spearing. After leaving last year I took up the post of Branch Manager of BOOKS Plus Christian Bookshop in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. I am now leaving this post.

I was wondering if it is possible, through the wonder of facebook, to let any people related to SPCK know that this job is now available. I am sure that there may well be a few ex-staff who might be looking for a job in a Christian Bookshop. I have very much enjoyed my time here and benefitted immensely from all that I learned during my time at SPCK.

If anyone would like any information they are welcome to email me: [email address removed as an anti-spam measure: see the BOOKS Plus website or contact Nick via facebook]

Best Wishes,

Nick Lord

A message to all our supporters

David Keen writes

the following was sent to the 475-odd members of the We Support Dave Walker Facebook group earlier this week:

Subject: 1 year on

Dear all,

This Wednesday, 22nd July, was 1 year to the day since Dave Walker and Phil Groom both recieved their ‘Cease and Desist’ legal threats from Mark Brewer. An awful lot has happened during that time, not least of which has been the support of hundreds of you for Dave, former SPCK bookshop staff, and others who have suffered at the hands of the Brewers.

The good news is that plenty has been achieved.
– Firstly, Mark Brewer failed to get his St. Stephen the Great charity declared bankrupt in the US, a court case in which Dave’s posts were cited as evidence.
– In April this year the UK Charity Commissioners took over the running of the St. Stephen the Great charity, after a formal investigation.
– Even though the Brewers had moved all the bookshops into a new organisation (ENC Shop Management) the CC’s are now taking possession of these shops as St. Stephen assets.
– 30 former staff, whose tribunal against SSG was being heard earlier this year, will now have their cases settled by the Charity Commissioners.
– In the meantime Durham Cathedral has (at last) served notice on the Brewers tenancy of the Cathedral shop.

As you may know, though the SPCK posts remain absent from the Cartoon Blog (see them in full at http://opendebatenotlibelthreats.blogspot.com/), Dave has mentioned the saga a couple of times on his Church Times blog. At no point have any of Mark Brewers threats been acted upon. Instead it’s Mr Brewer himself who has gone very quiet.

Thankyou again for your support of Dave, and for those of you who have blogged, commented and emailed in support. We may be at the beginning of the end – both the end of SSG’s dismal foray into UK bookselling, and the end of the bookshop chain themselves. Any further developments will be reported at https://spckssg.wordpress.com/

Your fellow supporter

Winchester Revisited

Interim Manager's Notice, Winchester

Interim Manager's Notice, Winchester

Phil Groom writes:

On Monday this week I was in Winchester, so decided to pop along to the former SPCK, reputedly trading independently as Winchester Christian Bookshop, to check out the wow factor for myself. Like the others we’ve seen, however, the shop was closed, no entry permitted without the express authority of the Charity Commission’s Interim Manager, Peter Gotham.

Winchester, once home to one of SPCK’s flagship stores, hub of the company’s secondhand trade, is now home to a whitewashed tomb, all sign of the shop’s former glory and ownership painted over:

Former SPCK Bookshop, Winchester - July 20, 2009

Former SPCK Bookshop, Winchester - July 20, 2009

Inside, as I peered through the darkened doorway, the corpse — for that, sadly, is what I was looking at — looked surprisingly healthy:

Surprisingly well stocked

Surprisingly well stocked

But neglected, unattended, unopened post strewn across the doormat, piling up in the doorway:

Winchester's unopened mail

Winchester's unopened mail

How long? I wondered. The STL Bulletin – top right in the picture – was the giveaway: that’s the July edition, sent out back in May; we’re now into the August issue. That’s at least two months’ mail simply stacking up, probably more — untouched, I suspect, since the Interim Manager’s notice was posted on the door.

Is there no one in Winchester or in the other towns where this is happening — no local church leaders or Christian groups — willing to step into the breach, to approach the Charity Commission and say, “Allow us to take this off your hands…”? Is there no one capable of drawing up a business plan, of envisioning a way forward?

SPCK abdicated their responsibility back in 2006. The Brewers have shown themselves to be incompetent clowns if not outright criminals and have, quite rightly, been disenfranchised. The Charity Commission have seized control but, if this evidence is anything to go by, they don’t appear to have the resources — nor, perhaps, the resolve — to run the show. It’s protective custody rather than proactive concern.

Where do we go from here?

The Day we lost Dave

Phil Groom writes:

Yesterday I backtracked to J Mark Brewer’s attempts to silence my own blogging: Cease and Desist: One Year On

Today, a simple reminder that this is the day we lost Dave Walker from the ‘Save the SPCK’ campaign last year. Here’s Dave’s final SPCK Bookshops post from his Cartoon Church blog:

Tuesday, 22 July 2008
‘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.

LABELS: BLOGGINGSAVE THE SPCK

Then that post disappeared. Then the blogosphere exploded.

As most readers no doubt know, all of Dave’s missing posts have been reinstated (without comments, unfortunately) at opendebatenotlibelthreats.blogspot.com, from where this post has been retrieved.

The rest, as they say, is history…

Cease and Desist: One Year On

Phil Groom writes:

J Mark 'Bully Boy' Brewer

J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer

Where were you on July 21st 2008?

Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a date permanently etched in my memory, it’s a date I certainly won’t forget in a hurry: it’s the date J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer (shown right, screen grab from Fox News), Principal of Texas law firm, attorneys and counselors, Brewer and Pritchard PC,  issued the first of his now notorious ‘Cease and Desist’ messages, threatening me, my friends and my colleagues with legal action if we didn’t stop reporting on his abuse of his staff and his mismanagement of the former SPCK bookshops.

Of course, those weren’t the terms he used: he was — and sadly, still seems to be — a man in denial, a man who wanted to hide the evidence of his misdemeanours and was preparing the way for his equally notorious bankruptcy scam on the Texas courts.

His threats if I failed to comply with his demands were all-embracing:

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

Unfortunately for Mr Brewer but fortunately for me, I was on holiday at the time, without internet access. The first I knew of Brewer breathing threats (if not quite murder) against me was when my friend Clem Jackson, Editor of Christian Marketplace (CM) magazine, left a message on my mobile to tell me that he and Dave Walker had also been threatened. Since there was nothing I could do about it short of abandoning my holiday, which I wasn’t inclined to do, I phoned Clem back and left him a message to suggest that perhaps Mr Brewer needed a holiday too (OK, that’s the response I wish I’d made: honestly can’t remember what I really said).

Dave’s and CM‘s responses to Brewer’s threats are well documented: Dave took down his Save the SPCK posts, the offending report in CM was removed and my forthcoming column for CM — ironically enough, introducing this blog — was pulled at the last minute (please note that no criticism of either Clem or Dave is implied or intended in that observation). I, on the other hand, had the luxury of my holiday to reflect on what was going on, came back to see the groundswell of support for Dave, and decided — with the encouragement, help and support of friends too numerous to mention — to stand my ground. Two friends in particular stand out, however: David Keen and Matt Wardman — to them I am especially indebted.

I am glad that I did stand my ground and I take this opportunity to thank David, Matt and all my other blogging friends because now, one year later, we see the tables comprehensively turned on J Mark Brewer: the Charity Commission have taken over the St Stephen the Great Trust, have seen through the ‘ENC Shop Management Company’ scam and have seized control of the shops.

Wresting the shops from Brewer’s personal control, however, is but one part of the battle: former employees and many suppliers remain unpaid; and whilst the Charity Commission have seized control of the premises, photos taken in Winchester yesterday (watch this space) testify that they are not quite on top of the company correspondence.

For my own part, then, the fight goes on, for the same reasons I gave to the We Support Dave Walker facebook group back in August last year:

What’s this all about?
To me, the key things are:
• Justice for the (ex-)SPCK/SSG booksellers and unpaid suppliers
• The right to free speech
• Keeping information available

What do I hope to achieve?
• Payment of unpaid wages and invoices
• Honest reporting and open discussion
• Full reinstatement of Dave’s missing posts and comments

To conclude for today, however, a few links, including last year’s C&D discussions here, in date order as I eventually posted them:

The original C&D correspondence, in pdf:

  1. Demand to Cease and Desist 21st July 2008
  2. Second and Final Demand to Cease and Desist 22nd July 2008
  3. Please Remove this Web Page Immediately 22nd July 2008

An excerpt: the so-called ‘Legal Demand’ with the pages/links he wanted me to take down:

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:

  1. https://spckssg.wordpress.com/tag/mark-brewer/
  2. www.unicorntreebooks.blogspot.com/
  3. http://www.christianmarketplace.org.uk/engine.cfm?i=45&cmid=4091 *
  4. http://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/news.htm#ssg060208 (Betrayed by the Brewers: Lies, Damned Lies and St Stephen the Great)
  5. http://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/spckdonate.htm (Support SPCK’s Booksellers, and the Phil Groom administered “fund”)

* Although the CM article was taken offline, it couldn’t be taken out of print: reproduced here: Breaking the Silence

For comparison: Cease and Desist: 6 Months On

Faking it in Canterbury and Google in a Kerfuffle

Phil Groom writes:

Thank you to Richard Long for bringing us this latest picture from Canterbury, showing the former SPCK/SSG all brightly painted and decked out as ‘Canterbury Christian Bookshop’:

Canterbury Christian Bookshop, 05/07/2009

Canterbury Christian Bookshop, July 2009

Richard writes:

I don’t actually know what the current status of the ‘Canterbury Christian Bookshop’ is, but anyone who has been following the saga of the former SPCK shops will not be surprised to learn that it was shut when we visited on a busy Saturday afternoon. Despite the fresh coat of red paint, hand-written signs on the door told a slightly different story. The shop appears to be open about 4 days a week, and was appealing for both volunteer staff and second-hand books.

Somewhat bizarrely, our dear friends at Google seem to have got themselves into a kerfuffle over who owns or operates or does whatever is being done to this particular shop as well: their search results link it to Canterbury City Council:

Google Search Result for 'Canterbury Christian Bookshop'

Google Search Result for 'Canterbury Christian Bookshop'

Maybe Google are right and there’s actually a religious revival going on in Canterbury — it is the seat of Archdruid Rowan, after all — but I suspect genuine confusion is closer to the truth; and if even Google are getting themselves so kerfuffulated, what chance is there for the rest of us?

The shop has certainly changed since the last photo we had back in February 2008 when Dave Walker posted about it. Dave’s original post isn’t available, of course, since Mr J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer huffed and puffed in his ultimately futile attempt to blow the evidence away this time last year, but here’s a screenshot from the archives at Cease & Desist:

In Canterbury - Dave Walker, 12 Feb 2008

In Canterbury - Dave Walker, 12 Feb 2008

The question now is who is responsible for this shop? If either Peter Gotham or Fergus Jack should happen to read this, I’d urge you, gentlemen: please get over there now and take control of the premises before there are any further unauthorised auctions, rebranding exercises or asset shuffling. Please don’t let Canterbury go the way of Exeter.

Thank you.

Ask, sheep, knock …

Matt Wardman writes:

I am just coming up to my first anniversary as a contributor to the scrutiny of the rundown of the former-SPCK bookshops by Messers Brewer, Shyster and Brewer.

For a long time a lot of people felt like this:

Gerald the Sheep - Lost and Found

Gerald the Sheep - Lost and Found

Followers of this blog will know that things have moved forward in the last several months in some aspects, and we are now in this sort of position, attempting to untangle a gooey mess with prickles:

120709-gerald-the-sheep-sticky-toffee-pudding

Hopefully certain people will end up feeling like this:

120709-gerald-the-sheep-expenses-account

Now off to do some work.

(And I hear that Geraldthesheep.com is on its way.)

Recent Reports Roundup: Thank you all

Phil Groom writes:

Thought it would be good to have a roundup of recent reports: thank you to all those who have blogged, commented and posted during the last month or so; all posts that I’m aware of have now been added to the News Index.

Any I’ve missed, please accept my apologies, leave details via the comments below and I’ll update the list.

In date order, most recent first:

Now please show these folks some blogger love by clicking through and leaving some comments 🙂

Changing the Locks: Official Notices as seen in Chester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Worcester

Phil Groom writes:

  • Updated July 11, 2009

Thanks to our intrepid photographers in Chester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Worcester for these snapshots of the official ‘Changing the Locks’ notices (see previous post). Transcripts below the photos.

1. Chester

The locks on this property have been changed...

The locks on this property have been changed...

Notice:
The locks on this property have been changed under the authority of the Interim Manager of Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (1119839-1) who was appointed by Order of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, made under S. 18(1)(VII) of the Charities Act 1993 as amended by the Charities Act 2006, on 28 April 2009.

If access is required to the premises please contact Fergus Jack at DTZ on 0207 643 6579

Fergus Jack

DTZ
48 Warwick Street, London W1B 5NL
Tel: +44 (0)20 3296 4494

2. Newcastle-upon-Tyne

… and thanks to yet another intrepid photographer in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Again, transcript below the picture.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Keep Out, by Order of the Interim Manager

Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Keep Out, by Order of the Interim Manager

NOTICE

St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust
(Registered no 1119839-1)

8 Ridley Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8JW

Take notice that I, Peter Gotham, was appointed Interim Manager of the Business and Assets of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust by the Charity Commission under case no. 685451 on 28 April 2009.

No entry to this building is permitted without my express authority.

Any enquiries regarding access should be addressed during office hours to:

Fergus Jack

Telephone: 0207 643 6579

P Gotham
Interim Manager
St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust

… and if anyone’s wondering, there is still some stock in the Newcastle shop:

Newcastle Shop, July 2009

Newcastle Shop, July 2009

3. Worcester

Courtesy of Doug Chaplin, aka Clayboy:

Worcester - No entry to this building is permitted...

Worcester - No entry to this building is permitted...

NOTICE

St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust
(Registered no 1119839-1)

105 High Street, Worcester, WR1 2HS

Take notice that I, Peter Gotham, was appointed Interim Manager of the Business and Assets of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust by the Charity Commission under case no. 685451 on 28 April 2009.

No entry to this building is permitted without my express authority.

Any enquiries regarding access should be addressed during office hours to:

Fergus Jack

Telephone: 0207 643 6579

P Gotham
Interim Manager
St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust