Vivian Archer was interviewed by Jessica Furseth of Huck magazine, together with managers of other independent bookshops and Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association. They discussed how independent bookshops adjusted to the Covid-19 crisis and responded positively to the delight of their customers. You can read the article here.
Authors Sufiya Ahmed and Mariam Khan will in conversation in an online event in September on Crowdcast. We will provide the date and time when it is confirmed.. Sufiya Ahmed is the author of My Story: Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan, a British-Indian secret agent during World War Two. Mariam Khan is the editor of It’s Not About the Burqa, a collection of essays about Muslim women by Muslim women.
Most businesses were forced to adapt to changing circumstances as non-essential shops were ordered to close on 24 March and lockdown began. One of these small businesses was Newham Bookshop in East London. Situated in East Ham, Newham Bookshop has been there since 1978, providing books and education to local residents. Newham Bookshop plays an essential role in the community, supplying books to schools and local young people. Usually thriving through a range of events, author signings and educational activities, Newham Bookshop was suddenly faced with the possibility of closure and had to learn to adapt.
Manager Vivian Archer explained how the bookshop had adapted throughout the pandemic and remained a vital part of the local community. When the government announced that shops were to shut, many businesses had to adapt their working practices. “Initially, it took me a day to think about what to do and I knew we had to do something. We then began to do lots of online things, lots of tweeting and I dispatched books to customers from my front room,” said Vivian. The bookshop continued to run from the manager’s front room until they opened on 1 July.
Since lockdown has been eased, Vivian said: “It’s been interesting, and it’s been steady. During the lockdown period, we saw a massive number of new customers who are still coming.” An increased online presence is something that many businesses are familiar with throughout the lockdown period. “We’re doing more things online,” Vivian said. “We’ve just had to think about different ways to get out to people, encouraging them to shop independently which is something that more people are aware of and actively doing.” Social media has also provided ample opportunities for businesses to engage with the public. Newham Bookshop uses Twitter to engage with customers and the local community, something that Vivian says has been “amazing” during the last few months. Many local small businesses and independent shops have relied on the support of the local community to survive during this uncertain period. These businesses have also helped to keep local communities afloat.
Newham Bookshop already played a big role in the education and literature curriculum of local children. During lockdown, the shop alongside volunteers supplied and delivered books to 460 pupils at a local school, Earlham Primary School. They also held charity CD auctions to raise money for local food banks and those who needed help in the community. Things aren’t quite back to normal for small businesses like Newham Bookshop. As a place that regularly holds events and book signings, it still seems a long way off until this element of normality is due to return.
While most businesses have likely struggled and been forced to adapt during such difficult circumstances, it is reassuring to hear that local communities have rallied around them and that they’ve given back in such an important way. It seems as though a greater online presence is here to stay and if the pandemic proved anything for small independent businesses – it’s their resilience.
Interested in learning more about Newham Bookshop and some of the people connected with it? We have four lessons for classroom or family use developed from On the Record’s oral history project centered around Newham Bookshop, Writing and Reading Newham. Click here for full details.
We are proud that Newham Bookshop is LoveReading’s Bookshop of the Month. The article features a Q&A with Vivian Archer, which you can read here.