Category Archives: Cardiff

One Year On: Bristol, Cardiff and Carlisle

Phil Groom writes:

Today, March 27th 2009, marks exactly one year on from the day Dave Walker posted about the closure of the former SPCK bookshops in Bristol, Cardiff and Carlisle, courtesy of J Mark Brewer. I hear the sound of one hand clapping: J Mark Brewer, we applaud you; but we’ll leave it to your brother Phil to affirm you.

Of those three shops, only Cardiff has been saved, and that no thanks to Mr Brewer.

Dave’s full post reposted below, retrieved from ‘Cease and Desist‘:

Bristol, Cardiff and Carlisle SSG / SPCK shops to close
Several people have posted in the comment thread below about the closure of the Bristol and Cardiff SSG (former SPCK) bookshops.

This from Richard:

SPCK Bristol has closed for good. I walked past the shop this lunch time, went up to the door to read the sign and saw Mr Phil Brewer peering out at me. He waved heartily, I waved heartily and then I moved on. Rapidly. No point in having a conversation. Nothing really to say. Well, not that would be constructive. The shop was being packed up and that’s an end to it all in Bristol.

The keys were left with Wesley Owen over the weekend and when Mr Brewer went to pick them up I gather he mentioned that there was no intention to open up in Bristol again. That may or may not be true.

What a sad end to nearly 200 years of Christian bookselling by SPCK in Bristol.

I am told that the Cardiff shop is to close on Monday. Cardiff was the only SSG shop in Wales.

Update (Thursday 27th 9.30am) : The forthcoming closure of the Carlisle shop on Monday the 31st March has also been confirmed.

Update (Monday 31st) : News and Star: Cathedral bookshop to close

Good News from Cardiff

Phil Groom writes:

Just discovered this news report in the United Reformed Church of Wales News section. It’s undated, so not sure exactly when it was published, but fairly recent…

A new Christian bookshop is born

A new Christian bookshop has opened at City United Reformed Church in Cardiff. Readers of Reform might know that two years ago Britain’s oldest Christian bookseller, SPCK, turned over its chain of shops to a pair of American brothers who formed St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust to use the shops as a means of promoting the Orthodox communion here in Britain. The agenda failed to impress SPCK’s traditional customers. The religious press joined a community of bloggers in reporting staff reductions and shop closures toward the end of 2007. At the end of March SSG closed its Cardiff shop, located at City URC. In June they declared themselves bankrupt.

Churches Together BookshopCustomers and City Church members joined church leaders across Wales in expressing their concern over the loss of a shop like SPCK, the only Christian bookshop in Wales catering to broad, mainstream ecumenical interests. As City Church had originally taken in the SPCK shop fifteen years before, when they were no longer able to afford rising city centre rents, the church saw the shop as one of its mission responsibilities. The elders appointed the minister and church secretary to explore a way forward for keeping a resource like this available for the churches.

That exploration bore fruit with Churches Together Bookshop opening in late July, and on the first Saturday of September holding its “Grand Opening” celebration with a service of dedication.

Read the full report
Visit the Shop

Comments from Cardiff

Congratulations to Tom Arthur, Ruth Dickinson and Terry Cox on getting the new Churches Together Bookshop in Cardiff up and running. In the midst of all the chaos and bad vibes caused by Mark Brewer’s ‘Cease and Desist’ notices, it’s great to be able to report some good news. Somewhat ironically, the day the shop opened, July 22nd, was the same day Dave Walker had to pull the plug on his ‘Save the SPCK’ pages — the day the blogosphere exploded in Mark Brewer’s face. Little did you realise how much support there was out there for you, Dave: here’s to the day you get those posts back online!

Tom Arthur relates how things in Cardiff all fell apart then were pulled back together here:

[Editor’s note: I’ve taken the liberty of adding some links, correcting a couple of typos and inserting some extra paragraph breaks… hope you’ll forgive me for that, Tom. Original posted here, July 23rd.]

Picking up on Phil Groom’s query, we have Ruth Dickinson as manager at the Cardiff shop full time with Terry Cox assisting. Both had been working for SSG when SSG closed the Cardiff shop. We opened yesterday, 22 July. It has been quite a journey.

About fifteen years ago we took in SPCK when they were no longer able to afford city centre rents, so there has been a book shop at City United Reformed Church for quite a while. When SSG took over we began hearing customers’ concerns at the same time as we were following the background drama on the Cartoon Blog and listening to Ruth and Terry’s experience of Brewer bullying.

At one point Mark Brewer sent me an email asking us to take over the shop as a franchise (with a contract almost ridiculously slanted in his favour) and he wanted it signed and returned by that Friday. If it wasn’t so sad this Brewer episode in the life of the British book trade would be laughable. The short story is that when they closed the shop here at the end of March the elders appointed me and our church secretary, Patrick Hickey, to explore a way forward, which we did, and I am now chair of a board of directors of which Patrick is secretary.

The Brewers wanted £5,000 for the fittings and fixtures. We locked them out and said nothing was moving until the last quarter of rent was paid. So we got the fittings and fixtures and the safe and etc and so on. With backing from the national ecumenical organisation for Wales we named the new shop Churches Together Bookshop, and we got financial backing from City Church, the URC’s National Synod of Wales and the Church in Wales (Anglican).

SPCK’s Simon Kingston has been particularly helpful as we were putting together a business plan, as has been Margaret Leaming of Edinburgh’s Cornerstone Bookshop (which went independent of SPCK about a dozen years ago). I find this whole thing rather scarey. As a scholar and a cleric I am singularly unprepared to launch a new career in business. But this is something that simply had to be done for the sake of Welsh churches. There was no other mainstream-to-liberal Christian bookshop in the whole principality.

We are planning a Grand Opening the first week in September and want to invite everyone who is anyone to celebrate this adventure. I’m hoping this can be a gathering at which some of the major concerns can be addressed that have been floating around on the blogs over the last several months. The issues are not just for the book trade, for for the health of a battered church.

Terry and Ruth posted this brief note here on July 23rd:

Just to let you know Phil that we are up and running, as from Tuesday 22nd July, and that business is going well.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and best wishes

Terry Cox & Ruth Dickinson

Later that evening, Ruth wrote:

On behalf of Churches Together Bookshop, Cardiff, thank you for your good wishes, prayers and support over the last few months. We opened our doors on the 22nd and have been delighted to see so many people, visiting and buying! A grander re-opening/blessing is planned for early September.

Judith, we look forward to catching up with you. If you go to the website and click on “opening hours ” you’ll hopefully see the inside of the shop, with some prominently displayed books by Dave.

Hope anyone visiting Cardiff will take time to pop in and see us.