I have the feeling that I will refer to Dylan Moran’s creation Bernard Black many, many times over the coming months. In the first instance it is to tell you all that I have created an award for the ‘Least like Black Books bookshop’ and have awarded it to The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. I fully accept that the first week of a blog may not be the *best* time for handing out awards, but what are the chances that any of my other visits will be punctuated by a sweet old lady bestowing a lovingly hand knitted woolly hat on the owner?
The Big Green Bookshop belongs to Simon and Tim. The pair decided to take it upon themselves to ensure the people of Wood Green still had a dedicated bookshop when, on one fateful day in 2007, they were told the Waterstone’s store they managed was due to close. Eight months and a little bit of making it up as they went along later, they opened their brightly coloured shop to the world. Despite the name, you won’t find a huge range of books about climate change here, but if you want an eclectic mix of literary and genre fiction, as well as graphic novels or children’s books, they are the place to go.
What makes the Big Green Bookshop stand out is the sense of inclusion, every person who walks through the door is treated like an old friend and you’d have to be quite the grump to not be cheered up by Simon’s enthusiasm for books and the business of selling them. One thing that is really obvious is how much effort the Big Green Bookshop has put in to becoming part of the community, and by doing so has really been embraced by people of Wood Green. By describing his customers as extraordinary and staggeringly loyal, Simon is not engaging in meaningless hyperbole; I witnessed more good will in the hour I spent at the shop than I did in four years working at my branch of Waterstone’s. One wonders if, rather than looking to James Daunt to save them, Waterstone’s would have been better off visiting the Big Green Bookshop and seeing what true local engagement means.
The Big Green Bookshop doesn’t just hold author talks and signings (although they do have plenty of those too), but engages the community through an exhaustive list of activities that includes a graphic novel and a children’s reading group, book quiz, a knitting circle, children’s storytelling, a local market, board games and a comedy night (the next one is on Friday and sounds amazing). Simon also told me about plans for transatlantic author events conducted through the medium of Skype; they are a bookshop that understands how important it is to be inventive and think big to get attention.The Big Green Bookshop have their own blog ‘Open a Bookshop, what could possibly go wrong?’ which will keep you up to date with all the events and other goings on at the shop. You can also stay in touch on Twitter and Facebook. But if I were you I’d pay them a visit in person, and if you are heading to their Comedy Night, I’ll see you there!