Category Archives: Looking Back

2010: SPCK/SSG Blog Overview

Phil Groom writes:

THANK YOU to the stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com for the following snapshot summary of how this blog did in 2010; but EVEN BIGGER THANKS to you, its readers, without whose involvement it would all be dust and ashes. I guess the good news is that those money-grubbing scoundrels, Messrs Phil Brewer and J Mark Brewer, no longer have their snouts in the trough since it all turned to dust and ashes in their mouths, although Phil Brewer still has the audacity to brag about his involvement in the whole sorry story as if it were some sort of success. Nuff said: here’s the breakdown from 2010:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy Numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 17 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 278 posts. There were 17 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 22nd with 418 views. The most popular post that day was Removals Fairies Strike at former SPCK Bookshop, Chester.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were christianbookshops.org.uk, christianbookshopsblog.org.uk, facebook.com, mattwardman.com, and twitter.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for proposal to strike off, spck ssg, spck, active – proposal to strike off, and gemstar exeter.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Removals Fairies Strike at former SPCK Bookshop, Chester January 2010
28 comments

2

SSG at Companies House: “Status: Active – Proposal to Strike off” January 2009
14 comments

3

Final Former-SPCK Bookshop Expels Philip Brewer: Durham Cathedral January 2010
37 comments

4

Durham: Cathedral Shop Reopens March 2010
24 comments

5

A Tangled Web for Creditors as Durham Cathedral announces plans to Re-Open Shop under its own Management February 2010
36 comments

Former SPCK Bookshops Four Years On: watching, waiting, wondering: it isn’t over yet

The Watcher writes:

The photograph below, sent in by a concerned individual, of the former SPCK Bookshop in Worcester, looking empty and neglected, is symptomatic of the present state of play regarding the former SPCK Bookshops four years after they were handed over to the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust aka Messrs Mark and Phil Brewer on 31st October 2006.

Former SPCK Bookshop, Worcester, 26 Oct 2010

Former SPCK Bookshop, Worcester, 26 Oct 2010

As well as handing over more than 200 staff, and we’ve seen the tale of pain and destruction which has taken place regarding that event, SPCK also handed over valuable freehold shop premises.

Five shops – Bradford, Canterbury, Exeter, Truro and York – were handed over immediately. Exeter was sold in 2008 and York is in the process of being converted into a restaurant. No doubt we shall have news of other sales in due course.

However, six shops – Chester, Hereford, Newcastle, Salisbury, Winchester and Worcester – were destined to be handed over fully to SSGCT in 2013 if they were still being used as Christian bookshops. Obviously none of them are, as the photograph demonstrates, so a logical thinker would say that ownership was still with SPCK who could do as they liked with the buildings as the Brewers had reneged on their part of the deal. [1] If only life were that easy when the Brewers are around! They fight for their rights (and they’re always right) regardless, and now the Charity Commission and their Interim Managers are also involved.

As so many legalities are involved, no one outside of the situation can be exactly sure what is happening, but it would appear that although the Interim Managers had stated they could only be involved in SSGCT affairs because that was a charity, not in any of the later organisations set up by the Brewers because they were companies, they are still working with SPCK but it could take until 2013 for any resolution.

In the meantime shops stand empty in prime high street locations and suppliers who were not paid by the Brewers from mid 2007 through to the end of 2009, are still owed money at a time when trading conditions are difficult. It is sad that they would have to take the time, trouble and expense to chase up what they are owed because of the “technicality” of the Brewers trying to separate Charity and Company. The former SPCK shops existed because of the support of thousands of ordinary Christians. Some shops had their opening funded by local Christians raising the money to enable SPCK to purchase retail premises. All shops continued to stay open over many years because customers shopped there. So, what is the answer? Can anyone ignore what is happening and think the story is over?


[1] Excerpts from SPCK’s 2007 Annual Report

 

From p.6:

On 31 October 2006, all our bookshops and their staff were transferred to St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust. The Society will retain six freeholds for a period of seven years, when (subject to agreed conditions) they will also be transferred.

From p.20:

On 30 October 2006, SPCK entered into an agreement with St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSGCT), a registered charity no: 1109008, for the creation of a new Christian Resources Group including the SPCK Bookshops open at that date. Under the terms of the agreement and in furtherance of its charitable purposes, SPCK transferred its Bookshops activities to SSGCT on 31 October 2006 including the transfer of certain freehold and leasehold properties, fixtures fittings and stock. SPCK also agreed to grant leases to SSGCT, at peppercorn rents, on certain other freehold properties for a period of seven years, after which time they will be transferred to SSGCT if the SPCK Bookshops Group remains in operation on an agreed basis.

Trick or Treat? Three Years Today

Phil Groom writes:

Came across this whilst revisiting last year’s Trustees Report & Accounts from SPCK (pdf – p.20, under ‘Exceptional Items’; scroll down to p. 22 in Google’s cached version), figured we shouldn’t let this third anniversary go by without marking it. Hadn’t thought much about it being Halloween before: trick or treat, anyone?

Transfer of Bookshops
On 30 October 2006, SPCK entered into an agreement with Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSGCT), a registered charity (no. 1109008), for the creation of a new Christian Resources Group including the SPCK Bookshops in operation at that date. Under the terms of the agreement and in furtherance of its charitable purposes, SPCK transferred its Bookshops activities to SSGCT on 31 October 2006, including the transfer of certain freehold and leasehold properties, fixtures and fittings and stock. SPCK also agreed to grant leases to SSGCT, at peppercorn rents, on certain other freehold properties for a period of seven years, after which time they would be transferred to SSGCT if the SPCK Bookshops Group remained in operation on an agreed basis. From the date of completion, SSGCT became responsible for the trading activities of all bookshops continuing to trade under the ‘SPCK Bookshops’ name, which it had been agreed could be used by SSGCT under an annually renewable licence. The licence was withdrawn in November 2007 in view of their failure to abide by the terms of the agreement.

Third Space Books: A Visual History of Time

Phil Groom writes:

Like so many of the Brewers’ bizarre business dealings, Third Space Books were first brought to our attention by Dave Walker: Third Space Books – the new name for SSG?

I’ve been visiting the site every so often taking screenshots. Here they are in date order. Ignore any dates in the screenshots: the dates I’ve given are the dates on which the shots were taken — even as I write the date displayed on the welcome page is Wednesday, 30 January 2008 and the welcome message is “Wishing you a Blessed Lent and Easter”. Enough said: a picture paints a thousand words and it’s time to let them speak…

June 2008 – Spell check, anyone?

Leichester, 16/06/2008

Leichester, 16/06/2008

November 2008 – Any new messages?

Gmail Login, 21/11/2008

Gmail Login Page, 21/11/2008

December 2008 – Another spell check, anyone?

Worchester, 07/12/2008

Worchester, 07/12/2008

February 2009 – Let’s pretend. Not a screenshot this time, just our heroes faking it in Durham:

As advertised in the Middlesborough Diocesan Year Book 2009

As advertised in the Middlesborough Diocesan Year Book 2009

Looks like someone popped in for a tidy up but had problems with the calendar:

Shop Locations as at 10/02/2009

Shop Locations claimed as at 10/02/2009

August 2009 – the FAQ department seems to sum things up rather well, methinks:

There are no items to display - 08/08/2009

There are no items to display - 08/08/2009

OK, maybe two items. Backwards in time too. Have a blessed Lent and Easter, y’all!

And then there were two...

And then there were two. 09/08/2009 (h/t asingleblog)

Hmmm. Is that blending of the Stars and Stripes with the Union Jack allowed under international law? I guess it must be, knowing the Brewer’s legal team…

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

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