'Twas a dreary, rainswept and bitterly cold day, with strong gusts of wind and even an uprooted tree in the square. Nevertheless, those brave enough to venture into Bermondsey to enjoy the day's Halloween activities could be spotted -- children waiting for facepainting opportunities at the reception, audience members listening to ghost stories at W&T, and Victorian-themed performers belting out raucous tunes in the square. Thank you again to Vanessa and Nigel for the creepy Dickens-themed stories and special FX :) For the courageous who would not be thwarted by the weather, it was another fantastic Boo! At Bermondsey celebration.
The not-for-profit indie publisher & Other Stories hosted a line up of exciting talent at W&T on Thursday 23 August 2012 with the likes of British author-playwright-poet Deborah Levy (whose Swimming Home has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), Swiss author Christoph Simon and the Argentinian author Iosi Havilio. Discussions following the reading included the mechanics of publishing translated works, the challenges of indie publishing, and what it takes to be an author. & Other Stories is a unique entity, with many of their translated non-English works cherry-picked through reading groups worldwide. Visit their website if you'd like to get involved in the reading groups or to follow their progress. To help support the work of & Other Stories, you can also subscribe on a once-off or annual basis to receive upcoming publications, so check those options out here. Thank you to everyone from & Other Stories, and the authors and translators, who made the literary evening a very special one. And oh yes, last but not least, the Swiss Embassy for the flow of sparkling wine! (Hic!)
Platform 65, a non-profit cultural arts group by a group of Singaporeans based in London, organised an evening of poetry reading and open-mic poetry at W&T on Thursday 28 June 2012. With the blare of music and sounds of drinking revellers at the StockMKT Bermondsey in the square muffled somewhat by the closed doors and steamy heat in the shop, the event featured special guest and Singaporean poet Alvin Pang, as well as other poets participating in the open-mic session. Alvin is in town representing Singapore as part of the Cultural Olympics festival, the Poetry Parnassus. Alvin's work has been translated into over fifteen languages and featured in anthologies, journals, and publications all over the world. His latest book is When the Barbarians Arrive, a collection of new and selected poems, published by Arc Publications in the UK.
Okay okay I've been slack, I know, I know... BSF 2011 took place on 24 September and here I am, about 3 weeks late in posting a blog entry and photos. Many apologies! To all who came, we hope you enjoyed the festival. And if you didn't manage to make it, do join us next year. There's a dog show, fashion show, lots of food stalls, music, night-time open air film screening at Shortwave Cinema in the square... all manner of fun and exciting activities. So mark your calendars for next year - the annual BSF takes place in September :)
TAI CHI IN THE SQUARE
The day kicked off with Tai Chi In The Square with Lam Tai Chi Association facilitators providing a demonstration of various forms, including sword and stick demos. Thank you Robin, Howard, and all who gave of your time and effort to share. Thank you to the Tai Chi class regulars who participated - everyone looked swell. Check out the video below :)
LIVE BLUES MUSIC WITH HUBERT MURRAY
Irish musician Hugh doing his thang :)
JOURNEYS IN THE BOOKSHOP - READING BY PARTICIPANTS FROM OUR ELDERS WRITING GROUP
Over last year and this year, Maggie Smith facilitated a writing workshop (for mature participants aged 50 and above) aptly named Writing From Your Life. Short stories and poems were selected from the work they produced and published in an anthology called Journeys In The Bookshop. We were honoured to have the group reunite for a reading. Thank you Maggie and to all who came to share.
We knew it was going to be a challenge to garner footfall for our first year celebrations on 10 September 2011; seeing that it coincided with the Thames Festival. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise as regulars dropped by throughout the day to wish us well, write messages on our birthday notice board, and drop off greeting cards. Thank you very much! Jazz guitarist Tomas Ciucelis played a range of soothing original pieces, followed by the 4-piece Lemon And Lime Band. Lead singer Rachel wooed the guests with her sultry, jazzy renditions of hits from the 70s to the 90s. Thank you all for making our first year celebrations a wonderful one and for your the warm wishes for many more to come!
Woke up this morning and had my usual cup of coffee and a smoke (bad, nasty habit I know). Thought to myself, "well that's it, a year has passed" and remembering what it was like this time last year - the frantic unpacking and shelving of books, the nail-biting, hair-tearing suspense when we couldn't get the electricity hooked up (until just the day before the doors officially opened), the half-finished works around the store - cupboards with no doors, displays with no slot walls, the bare walls in the gallery... And yet, the excitement, riding on an effervescent sparkling optimism, fuelled in part by the encouragement and excitement of people in the neighbourhood, who had dropped by throughout the fit-out period, poked their heads around the door, peered at our construction site, wished us well, told us how they were looking forward to when we opened...
Well, a year has indeed passed, and as Shivaun likes to say, We haven't run for the hills yet. We may be a bit ragged and rough round the edges but we're intact. Our passion is intact, our hopefulness is intact, our ethos is intact. We haven't stopped trying; trying to do better events, trying to have a varied program, trying to deliver quality and value in what we do - whether it's cooking and serving simple Asian lunches, hosting an exhibition launch, promoting an author event, cranking up potential ideas to do collaborations with local community groups...
And this morning, even as I sip my coffee, I reflect on what has kept us going. It's cliched but it's the truth - it's the customers. Those who drop by with a print out of an Amazon page to order a book ("because I'd rather get it from you"); who make a point to tell us they appreciate when we try (like the lady yesterday who dropped by, having tried our Asian lunch a few days ago, just to give us feedback - "it was lovely! and the lemon drizzle cake was wonderful!" before nicking back to work); who have told us how much they like our selection of books ("real care must have gone into curating this collection"; and in one case, when I said, well we have to be selective because we don't have that much shelf space, she said "yes, but you have the ones that matter"); and who let us know we are on the right track ("everything you do is quality," from a customer after an event). What can I say? As I reminisce over these precious nuggets of compliments, which I store in my memory for retrieval during times I need them most, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation.
A regular customer came in a week ago and asked how things were? (A question we get quite often by the way; it always fills me with an inexplicable tenderness to know the shop matters to some people). I knew she meant financially; in this age of doom and gloom, the senselessness of the London riots but a short while ago, small businesses going bust... the economic landscape is littered with the corpses of hopefuls. I was honest, Well if you mean are we paying the bills yet? The answer is no, I told her, but as Shivaun keeps saying, We are not running for the hills yet. Thank you to all W&T customers for your support - and even more than that, thank you for letting us know we matter in your lives.
With warmest wishes from the W&T team
There are several things which get us down over at W&T... Here are some of my main pet peeves:
1) Someone asking if our shop is a library
2) BT phone line - no dial tone
3) BT internet - no connection
4) Till system crashes or freezes
5) Stock system crashes or freezes
Notice how 4 out of 5 of the above are IT-related or ICT-related?
See this despondent bookseller on the left? She has lost the will to live. Why has she lost the will to live? The BT phone line died, the internet died in sympathy, and one of our counters was not in operation because the till system and the stock system also threw themselves off a cliff. Now you know why this bookseller sees no reason to go on living. And this lasted for two whole, very loooong days....
PS. Thank you Cui for catching this candid moment and Alexandra for letting me post this - LOL!
The opening day was an amazing experience! I expected people to trickle in when we opened the doors and maybe this would grow into a bit of a swell by midday, but at 10.30am, there were people outside the doors waiting to get in! We were still scrambling about getting stuff ready and were to open at 11am. I was feeling a bit jittery, butterflies in stomach and all that, and when I looked about, I think the team was buzzing too, Anna showed me her hands and they were shaking some :)
From the moment we unlocked the doors at 10 past 11, people filtered in. This soon grew to be a throng, which lasted until about 4pm before it smoothed out a little. What an amazing response, I recognised many local people who had, over the few days leading up to the opening, dropped by and chatted to us at the doors.
Also, because of the Thames Festival, we didn't really know how many people would come by, including some local representatives we had invited. So imagine my surprise when Simon Hughes MP showed up with local councillor Tim McNally! I think I was a little shellshocked and started blabbering; saved by my having to go make them lattes! They gave a lovely speech, especially Simon, who rounded off his speech with "SE1 is the best postcode!" to resounding claps and cheers from those assembled. Local councillor Val Shawcross showed up not too long after to say 'hello' despite having had a full day officiating at the festival. Thank you!
Okay, so not everything was perfect and we still aren't completely done with our renovations, but everyone was very forgiving, never mind the masking tape over an unfinished crack in the WC door frame, half a plastic sheeting on the air flow over the door, and two non-functioning air conds!
Edwina Hayes played two sets to an enraptured crowd while kids were enthralled with balloons, balloons everywhere which Rabbie Kadhim liberally dispensed. Del Aziz kept the drinks and food flowing - thank you Suna and your amazing team! Sixwineseight kept the proseccos coming. By the time we closed our doors at 6pm, the team were elated, tired but beaming from ear to ear. Thank you everyone for making it such a special day!
It's time to party again! Mark the date down in your calendar. The Bermondsey Street Festival will take place Saturday, 18th Sept 2010. Woolfson & Tay, in conjunction with Bermondsey Square, is offering 5 x £10 vouchers and 1 x Grand Prize of £50. So join in the festivities, tell your friends, and head on down to Bermondsey, London SE1!
For more info, visit BSF 2010 website.
Okay, so how bizarre is this? Shivaun's sister drops by for a visit and we decide to bring her to Del Aziz for brekky and to show her the retail unit premises. Shivaun goes in to the reception office at Bermondsey Square to get the key to open up and there's mail for us!
It's a really weird yet cool feeling to get this letter. It's addressed to Woolfson & Tay and someone has written 'Bookshop' across the top of it. God bless the folks at the management office; they now know us on sight. Whoever wrote 'Bookshop' across the top of this envelope certainly knows about our plans.
I open it. Secretly, I almost wish it is from someone in the area, I don't know why. But it's from the bank. Sigh.... I remember telling the nice lady we opened our new business account with that our correspondence address for now should not be at the square as we have yet to do our fit-out and move in, but whadd'ya know - typical!
Nevertheless, I get a tingly sensation - a mixture of excitement and anticipation. Feels like a milestone. Like I should pinch myself. This is happening. It's real. We're on our way. Slowly but surely. It feels as if we have been roaming the streets around Bermondsey for too long now, looking in from the periphery. This innocuous letter signals somehow that we have staked our claim and announced our arrival. Or maybe I'm just too melodramatic for my own good. Maybe I'm just tired; it's been a loooooong week. - Fran