Durham: Cathedral Shop Reopens

Phil Groom writes:

Given that Durham Cathedral’s web droids took down the last couple of notices about the bookshop, I did wonder if this would actually happen — but it did: the Durham Cathedral Shop has now officially reopened, as of Monday, March 1st 2010. In view of the propensity of Cathedral notices to vanish without notice, here’s a screenshot and a transcript:

Durham: The Cathedral Shop is now open - we value your support

The Cathedral Shop is now open - we value your support

The Cathedral Shop is now open – we value your support

Durham Cathedral’s shop reopened on 1st March 2010 in a temporary space just off the Cathedral Cloisters. It is now managed and staffed directly by the Cathedral and is a new venture.

The arrangements from 1st March are short term as the Cathedral looks to open a larger shop in due course. A feasibility study has just been commissioned by the Cathedral, Durham University and Durham City Vision, to determine best use of the assets on the Durham World Heritage Site. Provision of retail is part of this study and recommendations will be made regarding the best location for a permanent shop.

The shop stocks a selection of gifts, books and church supplies.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2010: The Big Swap

Fairtrade Fortnight 2010: The Big Swap

One hopes that having opened in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight, said selection includes a good range of fairtrade products — and that the staff can expect a fairer deal from their big swap in employers.

Not sure when I’ll be up there next myself, so if anyone would like to provide a photo of the new shop, please, I’ll gladly post it here. At this stage, however, whilst I wholeheartedly applaud the shop’s reopening, I have to confess my congratulations are a tad muted as we wait to see what the “provision of retail” in the Cathedral finally proves to be…

Praying HandsFinally, for those who haven’t cottoned on yet (that’s fairtrade cotton, of course), please make a note of Friday March 26th in your diary: it’s been designated as a Day of Prayer for the Christian book trade — for the whole of the Christian retail trade — here in the UK. There are meetings planned all over the country: from as far afield as Motherwell up in North Lanarkshire to Battle down in East Sussex, from Belfast in the West to London in the South East. If you plan to take part, please feel free to leave a note on the Day of Prayer page saying where and when, and hopefully someone else will turn up to join you.

It’s also hoped that churches will catch the vision and pray with us and for us on Palm Sunday, March 28th: if you’re a churchgoer, please badger and bother your church leaders until they too catch the vision and flag it up in church magazines and online on church blogs, facebook pages, twitter streams and websites; because the simple fact is that we’re all in this together, churches and bookshops/retailers. They’re even beginning to catch on over in the USA…

26 responses to “Durham: Cathedral Shop Reopens

  1. Congratulations, we are very pleased to have a shop back in the Cathedral. If we can be of assistance, contact us. One of our staff, has already been in to say hello, and we look forward to working with you, in serving the Christian Church in the NE.
    FOOTPRINTS Christian Shops, Bishop Auckland, Darlington & Middlesbrough

  2. Valiant for Truth

    It’s a delight to have the shop re-opened and now the prayer must be that a long tradition of theological and Christian bookselling in Durham can soon also be re-established. Another concern is the position of the staff in relation to their recent departure from the Brewer empire. It is understood that the payments made to other former SPCK Bookshops staff came via the Interim Managers and their handling of financial assets. However, they made it quite clear that the Durham shop was not their concern. Therefore, how are the Durham staff to get the wages and redundancy paid? The Brewers will not cough up directly and if the Interim Managers will not be involved, will the staff lose out?

  3. There is no need for your congratulations to be muted Phil.

    The WHS feasibility study commissioned by the Cathedral, University and Durham City Vision, and whose terms are a matter of public record since the study was out to open tender, includes the requirement to look at retail across the whole World Heritage Site, which is wider than just the Cathedral. The results of the study are due in August or September.

    The Chapter doesn’t want to pre-empt its findings in terms of the best locations. On the other hand we also don’t want hang about and wait to get the shop going again until we have the study’s findings and recommendations.

    Hence the plan – already happening – to reopen what we can while the Great Kitchen roof is repaired, and then move back in to the Kitchen in order to run a proper bookshop once again.

    As our press release says, the Study will make recommendations regarding the best location for a permanent shop. So it is the location which is as yet uncertain, not the principle.

    So, the message is this: the shop is open, it is selling gifts, books and church supplies; it can also order books, theological and otherwise. Please encourage anyone and everyone to support the staff and the Cathedral, and to use it. And soon it will be bigger and better.

    Finally a plea: the “web droids” to whom you refer in your posting are real people with real feelings too. There might have been a kinder way of saying this: we are not the enemy you know.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Adrian, and my apologies for any hurt feelings: the term “web droids” is not intended to be derogatory — I use it of myself often enough, expresses the way I feel much of time…

      I am truly delighted that the shop has re-opened and that the Cathedral is committed to excellence in its retail operations. What saddens me, however, is that decisive action wasn’t taken sooner, that those in authority allowed the Brewers to parasitise the Cathedral and trample the staff (and many others) underfoot for so long — because they are real people too.

      I think there’s been a serious failure in pastoral oversight and whilst it would be easy for me, as an outside observer, to say that’s all in the past now, it’s surely going to take time to rebuild the trust of those who’ve been scarred by this situation. As you say, the Chapter and those working with and for the Chapter are not the enemy; but nor have you exactly covered yourselves in glory as an effective resistance to the enemy.

      Peace to you: I look forward to seeing what emerges in due course. If you or another member of the planning group would like to contribute a guest post (for both this site and the UKCBD blog) outlining what you have in mind in more detail, that would be very welcome.

      Why were the previous reports taken down, please?

    • While Adrian`s opinions are valid and it is good that the shop has re-opened, he appears not to have addressed the qustions expressed in Valiant for Truth`s comment – just before his own.
      Perhaps he could talk to the staff now they are returned and answer those questions regarding a months missing pay and contributions, which also remdered them ineligible for benefits while they were left in limbo.

  4. Valiant for Truth

    I agree about the unecessary delay in removing the Brewers which brought about pain not only to staff, but also to customers and suppliers (many suppliers are Christain), and caused massive lack of income to the Cathedral. The lack of pastoral care can be emphasised by a shop staff member commenting on the delight of a prayer from a publisher representative very recently which was felt to be more caring than anything offered locally.

  5. Well said Phil Groom. The Landlord and Tenants Act states that notice to vacate could be as short as six months. Why were the Brewers given a year? Anybody know how much Brewer owes the Cathedral?

  6. Valiant for Truth

    The announcement about SSG taking over the SPCK Bookshops was made on 20th October 2006 and Durham Cathedral were informed on that day. The following day they were given further information which gave large clues as to the type of organisation SSG was. Individuals in Durham made transatlantic phone calls the following week and discovered some disturbing facts. The lease between the Cathedral and the shop had a clause which enabled the Cathedral to give six months notice on 31 October. Very many people believe that the Cathedral should have given that notice in October 2006 so that all the pain and financial loss could have been avoided. Don’t know a definitive amount but I’ve heard it said that unpaid rent from the Brewers could be over £100,000.

  7. Pingback: Shop Openings by the busload – and Day of Prayer gathers momentum « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  8. Valiant for Truth

    I thank Adrian for stating that the Cathedral favour the idea of a Christian bookshop, but as he also stated, the World Heritage Site extension and the Working Party considering the best way to promote visitor facilities in the area, as the site is not just the Cathedral and religious buildings, may feel that a retail outlet may be better placed elsewhere and that Christian books should not have a place in the shop. Would the Cathedral, therefore, be able to make space for a Christian bookshop if gifts were to be sold somewhere else?

  9. I have to confess I don’t see an awful lot of point in sticking a head above the parapet to clarify the odd thing, to the extent that it is reasonable for me to do so, if the prevailing view seems to be that the Cathedral is not going to be true to its word. The single contribution I have made to this thread has been treated with such a degree of scepticism and deconstruction that I am not sure I want to do this again.

    I was an officer of a Students’ Union once. We were accountable in all things to the Union General Meeting, and absolutely anything was open to question by the members – except staff terms and conditions. It was universally accepted and respected that this was between the staff and the officers of the Union.

    So were I involved with negotiations with staff, which I am not, I would certainly not discuss them in a public space. And since staff are, as I know you know, intimately bound up in the all the history of the SSG’s management of the shop, it would be completely improper for me to say anything about that.

    So: once again. Small shop now due to dodgy roof. Bigger, better shop once roof mended. Commitment to selling Christian books – yes.

    • The single contribution I have made to this thread has been treated with such a degree of scepticism and deconstruction that I am not sure I want to do this again.

      I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that, Adrian: you’ve said bigger and better and you’ve assured us of a commitment to Christian books, and I welcome that and appreciate it — hence my invitation to contribute a guest post remains open, to you or any of the Cathedral staff.

      Under the circumstances, yes, trust is difficult: the Cathedral has failed in its responsibilities and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise; but my invitation is a genuine offer that gives you (or whoever the Chapter wishes to nominate) an opportunity to set the record straight and outline more of the Cathedral’s vision for the shop.

      Peace to you: it’s your call: thank you for taking part thus far. I look forward, in hope, to hearing more from you.

  10. Valiant for Truth

    I’m pleased that Adrian has mentioned the staff and terms and conditions of service, as I hope that means the Cathedral will support them in their fight for back pay, redundancy pay etc, together with pension contributions and AVC’s not paid to the C of E Pensions Board. One major concern is taht for some unknown reason the Durham shop was the only one not handled by the Interim Managers so there could be doubts on whether a Tribunal could claim for the Durham staff from the assets released by the Interim Managers.

  11. Malcolm Brown

    I welcome Mr Beney’s comments. For a while there I thought that the bookshop would be outside of the cloister. Somewhere in a restuarant on Palace Green. Not a good retail idea.

    I also think that Mr Beney has to be thanked for sticking his head above the parapet. That must not have been easy.

  12. >So: once again. Small shop now due to dodgy roof. Bigger, better shop once roof mended. Commitment to selling Christian books – yes.

    I’m delighted to hear that Adrian. I’m really pleased that the shop has reopened, and I really do look forward to visiting the new premises.

    I’ve been very critical of the way Durham Cathedral Dean and Chapter handled the Brewer lease, as I think have all of us here. I would argue that that was for good reasons, and leaves us with a “watching brief” – to take an interest in future developments – at least for a period of months.

    When the dust has settled, and remaining issues for SPCK staff and creditors resolved as far as will ever happen, and (I hope) the Messrs Brewer have been held (somehow) financially accountable for their actions in Durham and elsewhere, there’ll be some lessons drawn from all of this for all of us.

    I think that means that there are now five or six independent bookshops occupying the market “slots” where there used to be SPCKs.

    Rest assured that we will continue to encourage everyone on our network to support the new shop, while also encouraging the creation of the best possible shop at the cathedral.

  13. Valiant for Truth

    Absolutely, Matt – just a pity that the shop couldn’t have been an immediate re-open to safeguard staff terms and conditions. I hope also that no-one forgets that booksellers are trained professionals (Booksellers Association reckons on two years training to become a competent bookseller) and that they are treated accordingly. The eyes of the world are on this shop and we want it to be a proud representation of the best in Christian bookselling.

  14. You may be interested to see that recently the Charity Commissioners were asked to discharge or vary the orders they had made concerning SSG last year, and refused to do so:


    Also, if you look up SSG on the Charity Commission’s website, SSG’s address is now given as that of a leading firm of charity solicitors in the City of London.

  15. Cathedral News posted today — emphasis appears to be on giftware:

    The Cathedral Shop

    We are delighted that the shop re-opened under Cathedral management on 1st March and moves back into The Great Kitchen during April when the bookshop will join the current gift shop. The official opening by the Dean is on 6th May at 12.00 and all members of the Cathedral community are welcome to celebrate this occasion. The shop has a much wider range of postcards and note cards of the Cathedral than in the past as well as different ranges of gift items, so if you are looking for gifts that support the Cathedral do call in.

    (Posted on Friday 2nd April 2010)

    Source: Durham Cathedral Shop


  16. Staff vacancy advertised on facebook: Job Opportunity

  17. Phelim McIntyre

    What is going on?! Have our friends up North been able to take their old jobs back? Please could someone report.

  18. Valiant for Truth

    As far as I can ascertain, all of the old suspects are back in the shop, and also seem to be appearing, in turn, at the back of the Church looking after the till there as well. One member of staff came back but is moving on hence the vacancy. The Great Kitchen re-opens as a bookshop in May.

  19. Valiant for Truth

    I heard yesterday that, sadly, although much work has been done to the roof of the Great Kitchen, and the bookshop is to re-open next month, chunks of mortar are still falling down. Rather dangerous, I would think. Come on English Heritage or someone, hand out some cash! Forget about the Olympics and divert some funds to heritage.

  20. Maybe those in authority could send someone to the 5th June Training Day for care of Historical Buildings – currently being advertised on the Diocesan Forum??

  21. Pingback: 2010: SPCK/SSG Blog Overview | SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  22. Looks like I was right to preserve that Cathedral notice as it has now vanished; but a new one has appeared, announcing plans to relocate the shop to a new “retail space full of character and beauty in its own right” – expected opening late summer this year: Open Treasure: a major development at Durham Cathedral (notice dated 9/5/2012). Let’s hope & pray it works well. h/t Valiant for Truth

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