Tag Archives: Durham Cathedral Bookshop

Durham Cathedral Bookshop: One door closes…

Durham Cathedral Shop: Due to some necessary archaeological works, as we explore ways to improve physical access to The Cathedral Shop, this entrance is temporarily closed...

Durham Cathedral Shop - this entrance is temporarily closed...

Phil Groom writes:

One door closes — but will another one open? Christians love to talk about God’s provision and guidance, don’t they? About how one door may close but another one will always open, yadda yadda yadda… but the reality that we must all face is that by and large, God has entrusted that provision to us, his people. It’s God’s people who close doors and it’s God’s people who open them. It’s God’s people who shut people out, let people in or, sometimes, lock people up and forget where they left the key…

This notice, which appeared towards the end of January at the shop entrance in Durham Cathedral, begins:

Due to some necessary archaeological works, as we explore ways to improve physical access to The Cathedral Shop, this entrance is temporarily closed. Entry to The Cathedral Shop is through the easy access off The College which can be found by following the disabled signage…

That’s no bad thing and I’m not for one moment suggesting that it is: improving access to the shop is good news, especially if it means that disabled people don’t have to take that longwinded route to get there. Bravo, those planners! Nor am I suggesting that there are plans afoot to close the shop, although one little bird (not a member of your staff, please note, O Most Venerable Dean, should you happen to read this) tells me that there are plans to reduce the size of the shop, which might well impact upon staffing requirements — and that, given all the uncertainty and door-slamming that the shop staff have faced over the past few years, is most definitely not good news for anyone.

Let’s look back briefly: first the bookshop staff were, not to put too fine a point on it, betrayed by SPCK when the shop was handed over to the Brewers without adequate diligence (please don’t anyone try to tell me that the “due diligence procedure” SPCK went through in that disastrous handover was adequate). Then when it all went pear-shaped what, pray, did the Dean and Chapter do to help and support the staff? Ah yes: they prayed; no doubt about that, I’m sure. Prayed and panicked and prevaricated because God had put the means to answer those prayers in their own hands; but terminating the lease apparently proved too hot a potato: instead, they dropped it, leaving the bookshop staff to resist the bullying and abuse by themselves…

Eventually, of course, the Brewers’ mismanagement backfired as the Charity Commission moved in on the other shops to leave Durham as the last bastion of the Brewers’ bastardised British empire; and finally that, too, came tumbling down…

Enough of the history lesson, however: where are we today? This former SPCK bookshop — once described by no less a scholar than Professor James D G Dunn as “the best theological bookshop in the world” — appears destined to become little more than yet another Cathedral tat and gift shop, books sidelined to leave the City of Durham, home to the world-renowned Shrine of St Cuthbert, without a Christian bookshop worthy of the name. The Cathedral’s own description of the shop seems to say it all:

The Durham Cathedral Shop stocks a range of guide books, gifts and souvenirs, as well as a selection of religious and theological books.

Screenshot, 10/2/2011: The Cathedral Book and Gift Shop: Books sidelined?

The Cathedral Book and Gift Shop: Books sidelined?

And what of the staff? Where does this leave them after the years of abuse and neglect? In today’s world no job is secure, of course, but one would hope that having at last secured the shop for the Cathedral’s own use, the Cathedral authorities would set out to support, reassure and — dare I suggest such a radical idea? — perhaps even reward the staff for their loyalty and commitment to the Cathedral. Because that is assuredly what has kept them there: personal dedication to the cause.

Durham Cathedral Shop staff: I salute you!

May those who have been entrusted with power to open and close doors before you always do so with the fairness, integrity and respect that becomes a renowned Christian institution; may charlatans such as the Brewers never darken your doorways again; and when your closed door reopens, may it open the way to good things and happier times for all.

Durham Cathedral | Durham Cathedral on facebook

Durham Cathedral Staff Tribunal Starts

Our thanks to Valiant For Truth for bringing to our attention that in The Journal Newspaper yesterday there was an article of great import to those who frequent this site,

Durham Cathedral Bookshop Staff Launch Legal Fight

This in many ways marks the official start of Durham Staff in their fight for Justice against the Brewer Brothers and their tactics of playing fast and loose with employment law and the rights of workers to be treated fairly and dismissed in a right way.

However Durham Cathedral itself via their trading arm are also in the dock as it were, again something that may not come as any great surprise to readers of this blog who have at times been dismayed, upset and hurt by some of the Cathedrals inactions and actions throughout the saga.

The article begins by saying:

CATHEDRAL bosses could become embroiled in a complex legal fight after bookshop staff launched tribunal proceedings.

Six workers at Durham Cathedral’s bookshop are seeking compensation after their employment was allegedly terminated when the shop unexpectedly closed on January 22 this year.

But confusion has arisen over who is potentially liable for any payouts and proceedings have been listed against several different companies, including the cathedral’s trading arm, Durham Cathedral Trading Ltd.

The article then goes on to say:

Miss Jeram, representing the Trust, (inserted clarification for blog readers – that’s SSGCT) said: “There are a number of uncertainties. There has been a great deal of confusion right from the beginning over their employer.

“The only issues can be who the employer was immediately prior to the closing of the bookshop and who the employer was at any time after that, in the period between January 22 and March 1.

“We’ve got to consider whether the claims should be struck out against the first respondent. At some point after June 2007 and before July 2008 it is my understanding that the Brewers attempted to wind up SSG LLC in Houston. After that time their employer could not have been SSG so it would have become the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company.”

Claims against employers involve redundancy pay, unfair dismissal, breach of contract and unpaid work.

Sara Brody, representing the staff on behalf of shop workers union Usdaw at the hearing, argued the Trust should remain on the list of potential employers.

She said: “The claimants believe the Trust was their employer throughout, so their primary claim is against the Trust.”

Last year Durham cathedral bosses served SSG notice to vacate the shop, the last in the UK to be involved with the Trust, by May of this year.

Again these issues as raised are nothing new to anyone aquainted with this situation, previous tribunal actions and this blog.

So again we would ask that anyone who has any information, paperwork or correspondence of any sort that could help USDAW and the Durham staff to clear up the issue of employers please do get in touch with them directly.  Anything that demonstrates who people believed they were doing business with or indeed were doing business with during the time frames mentioned can all help in proving who the employers were and give credence to the staffs perception of employer, so please do get in touch with USDAW and offer your help to them in making sure justice is again done.

As always our thoughts are with those involved in this action and we hope for a swift and just outcome for the Staff at Durham.

Final Former-SPCK Bookshop Expels Philip Brewer: Durham Cathedral

Matt Wardman writes:

Today we have a victory: the last bookshop in the country to remain in control of J Mark and Philip Brewer, the Shyster-Charlatans who have taken hundreds of thousands of pounds from the chain, while abusing and exploiting staff, has been closed. It was in Durham Cathedral, and will soon be re-opened under proper control.

20100121-durham-cathedral-sanctuary-knocker-flickr-artiii-2557245050 de57bb76db

Durham Cathedral Sanctuary Knocker

Photo credit: Artiii on Flickr

This our most important milestone for some months, and we are pleased that Durham Cathedral have acted. As Dave Walker at the Church Time blog has put it:

The end of St Stephen the Great in the UK

The Durham Cathedral shop was the last remaining former SPCK bookshop run by the St Stephen the Great charity (SSG). SSG were given the bookshops by SPCK in 2006.

This is the full text of the notice at the Durham Cathedral website:

The Cathedral Shop temporary closure

The Shop which was managed by St Stephen the Great is now closed.

A new shop under the management of The Cathedral Chapter will open in due course.

Please check the Cathedral Website for the latest news.

(Posted on Friday 22nd January 2010)

No more comment yet, but we are all allowing oursleves to dance a small jig at this point.

However we are still watching, because there are the interests of the members of staff at stake here, and then there will be the small question of what sort of shop will be reopened.

20100121-durham-cathedral-sanctuary-knocker-flickr-artiii-2557245050 de57bb76db

Durham: watching, waiting…

Phil Groom writes:

I confess that I’ve been rather slow about this, but simply to let all visitors know that the Durham Petition is now formally closed. I have updated the petition text with the following introduction:

Following an announcement made by Durham Cathedral on Friday, May 1st, 2009, that “the current operators and occupiers of Durham Cathedral Shop” — ie, the Brewers — have been given one year’s notice to quit, this petition is now closed.

THANK YOU to everyone who has signed it. The story is far from over, however, and the future of the current bookshop employees remains unclear. Please keep them as well as the Dean and Chapter in your prayers as they seek a way forward that will provide justice for all concerned.

Updates will be posted on the SPCK/SSG Blog as and when new information emerges.

Although officially closed, I am leaving the petition in place as a matter of historical record. In the meantime, we watch, and wait.

To the Durham shop staff: I salute you.


Is this the ‘Best Use of New Media in a Christian Campaign’?

David Keen writes:

The ‘Bloggies’ – Christian Web and New Media awards – are now open for nominations. I’ve taken the liberty of nominating this blog for ‘Best Use of New Media in a Christian Campaign’.

Phil’s blog is very much the hub of the SPCK campaign, but there’s much more going on. Many of us who are involved have never met face to face, but through blogs, email, Facebook, online petitions, Google Groups, and even Twitter we’ve built a network of supporters from several countries, and in the last 2 weeks there has been a mini-avalanche of remarkable results from the pressure that the campaign has brought to bear:

  • Durham Cathedral have served notice on the Brewers to leave the premises
  • The Charity Commissioners have taken control of the assets of the Society of St. Stephen the Great.
  • Following the CC action, an out of court settlement with unfairly dismissed staff may now be possible
  • and Dave Walker is back to blogging about the SPCK story. Mark Brewers initial ICBM (inter-continental bullying manoevre) seems to have backfired spectacularly in the intervening 10 months. Welcome back Dave.

I have a slight quibble about the Bloggies, in that anyone using new media effectively will, hopefully, be using more than one website to do it. The online SPCK campaign – which effectively began as Dave Walker’s ‘Save the SPCK’ campaign on The Cartoon Blog – has diversified into several ‘new media’ as it has evolved. Any campaign simply using one platform probably shouldn’t get past first base!

If you’d like to nominate the SPCK/SSG campaign too, please do! Here’s what I put in the ‘additional information’ box:

A campaign to scrutinise and hold to account the new owners of SPCK bookshops, which recently resulted in decisive action by both the Charity Commissioners and Durham Cathedral. The campaign provides a discussion space, as well as a focus for scrutiny and lobbying.      

Use of new media includes

– Several blogs, of which the named blog is the key one. With the censorship of Dave Walkers blog, it’s been important to have several blogs reporting the story, so that ‘divide and rule’ through legal threats won’t work.  The reposting on over 70 blogs of material which the new SPCK owners attempted to censor was vital both in building a public profile, and in demonstrating support for those victimised by the new owners.
– Online petitions
– Facebook: there are two related groups on Facebook, which give the campaign an online mailing list of around 600 people, as well as a forum for spreading information.
– Google groups, as a forum for the leaders of the campaign to communicate and share information.
– more recently, Twitter.

Many of those involved in the campaign haven’t met face to face, but new media has enabled us to network, co-ordinate our efforts, and spread information to a wide group of people.

David Keen blogs at St. Aidan to Abbey Manor, and has just joined the team on SPCK/SSG News, Notes and Info.

Northern Echo on Durham Cathedral Bookshop: Brothers are ordered to leave cathedral shop

Northern Echo - Brothers are ordered to leave cathedral shop

Northern Echo - Brothers are ordered to leave cathedral shop

Phil Groom writes:

Thanks to Mark Tallentire of the Northern Echo for following up on his previous report on this story:

TWO brothers at the centre of an unholy row over the running of a cathedral bookshop have been told to leave within a year.

Critics said Phil and Mark Brewer ravaged the Durham Cathedral bookshop, once described as the best theological bookshop in the world, leaving it a shadow of its former self.

Hundreds signed a petition calling on the Cathedral Chapter to rescue the shop from the US pair, invoking the Biblical story of Jesus going into the temple to throw out the money-lenders to support their case.

Now, in a statement released to The Northern Echo, the chapter has announced it has served notice on the Brewers’ Saint Stephen the Great Trust, requiring it to vacate the premises by April 30, 2010…

Kudos to Matt Wardman for drawing the story to Mark’s attention.

Durham Cathedral Bookshop: Cause to Celebrate, Cause for Concern

Phil Groom writes:

As most readers of this blog will be aware by now, on Friday, May 1st, 2009, the Chapter of Durham Cathedral issued the following statement:

Statement by the Chapter of Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral has today served notice under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 on the current operators and occupiers of Durham Cathedral Shop requiring them to vacate the premises on 30th April 2010. A new Cathedral Shop under the Cathedral’s management will open on 1st May 2010 opposite the Undercroft Restaurant where, with the restaurant, it will provide a focus for visitor facilities.

To enable the necessary work for the relocation of the shop, the exhibition in the Treasures will close at the end of 2009. A new exhibition will reopen in the Claustral buildings at a date to be announced.

1st May 2009
(Posted on Friday 1st May 2009)

The statement has been widely welcomed and hailed as a major step forward in the ongoing battle against the Brewer brothers and their depredations of the former SPCK bookshops.

Unfortunately I was offline when the news broke, hence the silence on this blog. I’d therefore like to place on record my personal thanks to David Keen and Matt Wardman for running with the story, as well as to those who twittered the news:

David Keen:

Matt Wardman: 

Twitter Search:

The fact that the boot has at last been firmly applied to the Brewers’ backside is definitely cause for celebration, but — as per the response issued by Matt — many concerns remain.

In particular, a massive question mark now hangs over the current Durham Cathedral shop staff. Whilst it appears that the Chapter may have no legal obligation to offer the shop staff continued employment, one would hope that they, as a Christian organisation, recognise a duty of care and pastoral responsibility for all who work in the Cathedral precincts, irrespective of whether or not they are employed directly by the Chapter.

Whatever happens, we can be sure that the new Chapter Clerk, Mr Philip Davis, won’t miss a trick: as the Dean himself has said,

A good Chapter Clerk is the key to the Cathedral’s efficiency, professionalism and financial stability.  It is conceivable that something might happen in the Cathedral without the Chapter Clerk’s knowledge, but I rather doubt it.

I take this opportunity to wish Mr Davis well in his new role and to encourage him to ensure that proper pastoral care for the Cathedral Shop staff is placed high up on the Cathedral’s list of priorities during the next twelve months — and beyond.

Finally, I would also like to thank all those who signed the Durham petition calling for this action. The petition will now be formally closed and over the next few days all signatories will be notified of this development.