Tag Archives: Former SPCK Bookshops

Durham Cathedral Shop: Official Reopening?

Update 5.50pm, 5/5/2010:
The Cathedral have told me on facebook that the Official Opening ceremony has been cancelled.

Phil Groom writes:

According to the following notice posted on the Durham Cathedral news section on Friday 2nd April 2010, but subsequently taken down, 12 noon tomorrow, Thursday 6th May, should see the Dean and other members of the Cathedral community  — no doubt along with a good number of well-wishers from outside — gathering for the Cathedral Shop’s official opening:

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)

Durham Cathedral Shop: click through for full screenshot

I take this opportunity to congratulate all concerned and wish them every success for the shop’s future under the Cathedral’s more enlightened ownership: may it truly be a resource centre that the Cathedral can be proud of.

With the notice having been taken down and no fresh information posted it’s unclear whether or not the official opening will go ahead as announced. If you’re planning to travel any distance, it may be wise to call ahead: full contact details for all Cathedral departments here.

Please pray:

  • For the shop staff, as they continue to seek justice after several years of bullying and intimidation by the Brewer brothers.
  • For the Cathedral authorities as they come to terms with their responsibilities after several years of evasion.
  • For grace and wisdom for everyone involved as the shop staff and the Cathedral authorities learn to trust one another and work together.
  • For openness and clear channels of communication.

Keep up to date:

And so it ends? SSG “Dissolved 27/04/2010”

Phil Groom writes:

A lot of our traffic these days seems to come from people running searches for the phrase “proposal to strike off” for which we have the dubious honour of occupying Google’s top result slot in recognition of my post SSG at Companies House: “Status: Active – Proposal to Strike off”, posted back in January 2009.

I decided to check where things had got to with that proposal and discovered that the status for Saint Stephen the Great, Company No. 06110519, is now “Dissolved 27/04/2010” — which happens to be in the future as I write: evidently the new Dr Who is more powerful than we thought (aside: can’t help thinking the Brewers and SSG are rather like Dr Who’s Stone Angels: they only move when you blink). Screenshot of the record taken today, 25/04/2010:

Screenshot 25/04/2010: Companies House: Saint Stephen the Great: Dissolved 27/04/2010

Screenshot 25/04/2010, Companies House - Saint Stephen the Great, Status, Dissolved 27/04/2010

Of course, as my question mark in the title implies, the story hasn’t ended yet: the trading company may have been dissolved but SSGCT, the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, still exists under the auspices of the Charity Commission, as per my last post, and there are still plenty of other loose ends and unanswered questions, but I’ll leave those for another post…

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…

Future Secured for Christian Resources (former SPCK), Leicester

Phil Groom writes:

Not sure how this slipped under the radar last year, but it did. Good news, however, for the people of Leicester as the Bishop of Leicester has stepped into the breach following last year’s sad loss of Peter Hebden. The following notice was posted by the Leicester Diocesan news service on 16/12/2009:

CHRISTIAN RESOURCES LEICESTER

Since the recent sad death of Peter Hebden, sole proprietor of Christian Resources Leicester, there has been some uncertainty regarding the future of this popular and successful business.

As a result of conversations with Revd Cynthia Hebden, Peter’s widow, the Bishop of Leicester is now happy to be able to announce the clear intention of the diocese to relocate Christian Resources Leicester within the new Centre to be established in the former grammar school premises next to Leicester Cathedral.

It is hoped that this new Centre will be open during autumn 2010 when, subject to due process, the full transfer of the business will take place.

Some Related Posts (most recent first)

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

Phil Groom writes:

Update, Feb 17, 2010

The original news item this report relates to has vanished from the Cathedral website. Now copied into a comment below for reference.

Following last week’s announcement that the Brewer brothers had pulled out of Durham Cathedral ahead of schedule, the Cathedral have now announced a date, 1st March 2010, for the shop to re-open under its own management: The Cathedral Shop – A New Beginning

Due to problems with the roof of the Great Kitchen, where the former SPCK bookshop was situated, the shop will initially open in the entrance area of the original shop with a “focus on the needs of visitors to the Cathedral”. Those who have raised concerns about the need for a good theological bookshop are offered some reassurance, however, as the announcement continues, “As soon as arrangements can be made, a larger shop will open with a wide range of theology books and church supplies.” The new shop is eventually expected to be located in the Undercroft, opposite the restaurant.

Parts of yesterday’s announcement, however, could almost have been written by Philip W Brewer himself and will no doubt leave creditors scratching their heads in bemusement:

From yesterday’s announcement:

The Cathedral cannot deal with any inquiries relating to the former shop which should be directed to St Stephen the Great Trust. …

Organisations will need to establish new accounts since this is a completely new business…

From Philip W Brewer’s instructions to staff when ‘Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company’ was established in March 2008:

Please work with your suppliers as a new entity. Ignore whatever was and whoever was in the past. We are now a new company, with no relationship to the old going forward. So, contact your suppliers, tell them the drill, that you are a new company and that you would like to begin trading. When and if asked about billing, tell them they should process that at vendor-accounts, as you are not aware of how they are paying old invoices, etc. they will need to chase Saint Stephen the Great Trust as they have been doing.

Last year I and several others contacted Peter Gotham, Interim Manager of the St Stephen the Great Trust, urging him to seize control of the Durham shop as he had with others. He responded by insisting that the Durham shop did not come under his remit and refused to take responsibility or comment further on the matter.

If not the Interim Manager, to whom should those with enquiries about the former shop address those enquiries? Perhaps the Cathedral Chapter, whom one hopes has a little more integrity than Philip W Brewer, will post contact details for the division of the St Stephen the Great Trust towards which they are directing enquirers?

Freeholds For Sale at York and Bradford: Where Next?

York - Freehold For Sale

Former SPCK Bookshop, York - Freehold For Sale

Phil Groom writes:

Thanks to the intrepid asingleblog for these photos of the York shop, now up for sale; and thanks to David Ormondroyd for the original tip off when he spotted the sign going up on Friday October 30th.

Interestingly, the company handling the sale is none other than DTZ, which readers with good memories will remember from the notices posted on the shop doors when the Charity Commission started seizing control: Changing the Locks: Official Notices as seen in Chester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Worcester. At the time of posting, this property does not appear to be listed at www.dtz.com.

Would purchase include fittings, fixtures and stock, I wonder? Judging from the photo below there’s actually quite a bit of stock left.

The other freehold properties are Bradford (For Sale sign spotted by Bradforddian), Canterbury, Exeter, and Truro. Exeter, of course, is history, but all five properties are still, if SPCK have the gumption to enforce it, subject to a seven year covenant — full details here (pdf, 745kb), excerpt below — restricting use of the the premises to trading as Christian bookshops. I wonder if the Interim Manager, having inherited the covenant, will insist upon any subsequent purchaser abiding by it?

Restrictive Usage Covenant

Restrictive Usage Covenant

York - Freehold For Sale

Former SPCK Bookshop, York - Freehold for Sale

Photos taken on Sunday evening, November 1st, 2009.

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.

The SPCK AGM, Unfinished Business and Unanswered Questions

David Keen writes

The SPCK Annual General Meeting is happening this Thursday – 1st October – and the annual report and accounts for 2008-9 are online. There is a passing reference to the former SPCK bookshops:

“SPCK continues to have a number of significant legal issues with Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust in regard to matters connected with the former SPCK Bookshops. The Charity Commission has appointed an Interim Manager for the Trust, and progress is being made.” (page 6)

Others have stronger views than I over how much responsibility SPCK should shoulder for handing over their bookshops (and staff, customers, and suppliers) to a family of charlatans, who have unfairly dismissed over 30 former staff, been censured in the US courts for a fraudulent bankrupcty claim, and finally been booted out by the Charity Commissioners. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Some better news for former staff: the report reveals that their pension scheme, which is managed by the CofE pension folks (as far as I can tell), had a big shortfall as a result of the CofE revaluing its pensions (though it was struggling before this). SPCK has started making additional payments into the fund of £285,000 to top it up. This is going to be paid for the next 15 years, and the whole amount has been put on this years balance sheet – £3,832,000.

As I recall from comments on this blog, there is some question about whether the Brewers have kept up with pension payments to the staff they inherited from SPCK. Whose job is it to retrieve those: SPCK? Charity Commissioners? Church of England Pensions Board? What happens if they aren’t paid? Maybe this is a question which needs to be asked at the AGM.

Though the pension fund has imploded, SPCK are at least doing their bit to support former bookshop staff on this front. But we’re not out of the woods by any means.

Couple of other things:
– SPCK have nearly £300k in a restricted fund for Newcastle Bible House, which seems to be for the purpose of Christian retailing in Newcastle. This is listed in the accounts. What’s going to happen to this?

– Do the premises of former bookshops still belong to SPCK, or were they completely made over to the Brewers? The shops, as I understand, were given over with restrictive covenant, and at least one has been sold on by the Brewers for another use. I’m not sure what the legal situation is here, whether the shops revert to SPCK if the covenant has been transgressed.

There are other questions which need asking at the AGM, so if any readers of this blog are planning to be there, here is your mission, if you choose to accept it…..

Official Usdaw Press Release: Victory for workers sacked by email

Download Full Press Release (pdf, 224kb)

Download Full Press Release (pdf, 224kb)

Phil Groom writes:

Usdaw released the Press Release (html | pdf, 224kb) copied below today, Wednesday 19 August 2009. The Notes to Editors appended to the press release give a superb summary of the whole Brewer debacle to date, so be sure to click through to read that; and don’t miss this BBC report: Sacked bookshop staff win payout!

The story is, of course, far from over yet, with Philip W ‘Slippery Fingers’ Brewer apparently still in personal control of the Chichester and Durham shops. Reports emerging indicate that the Charity Commission are closing in, however…

Victory for workers sacked by email

32 sacked Christian bookshop workers have finally won a substantial payout with the help of shopworkers’ union Usdaw.

The workers were employed by the long-established SPCK chain of Christian bookshops until they were transferred to a charity called Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSG) in November 2006, controlled by two American brothers, Mark and Philip Brewer.

The Brewers tried to force the staff to sign new contracts which gave them longer hours, fewer holidays and poorer pension rights.

Between February and June 2008 the 32 workers were sacked by the Brewer brothers, with many getting the news by e-mail, breaking UK employment law.

Usdaw launched a legal fight to help the workers get justice and the money they were owed when they were sacked, lodging claims in the Employment Tribunal.

Heather Leather, one of the sacked workers, said:

“We were so pleased to have Usdaw behind us when all this happened. At the shop where I worked the staff had a total of more than 100 years’ service between us. We simply didn’t know what was happening when the Brewers started all this, and we never expected to be treated this way, when we had done nothing wrong. But Usdaw was behind us from the start and guided us round all the legal hurdles the Brewers tried to put in our way.”

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, added:

“We are delighted that these long-serving and dedicated members have finally won the compensation they deserve. We believe they have been treated appallingly, with no regard for British law or for the loyalty of the staff.

“Usdaw’s Legal Department has worked hard to ensure that justice was achieved for these workers. Because the case was so complex, affecting people in shops across the country, they would never have been able to get such a great result without the backing of a union, and Usdaw is proud to have been able to help them.”

Newcastle: Access Made Easy

Phil Groom writes:

Thanks to David Scott-King, who took these photos on August 10, 2009. Sorry, I know it’s more tragedy than irony, but I had to laugh…

Newcastle Christian Bookshop

Newcastle Christian Bookshop

Interim Manager's Notice

Interim Manager's Notice: Access Restricted

Unopened post ... but what's that I see??

Unopened post ... but what's that I see??

Access Made Easy

Access Made Easy