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LoveReading Bookshop of the Month: Newham Bookshop (London)

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 20th July 2020

We are shouting about Newham Bookshop in Barking Road, London this month. It was a regional winner of the British Book Awards 2019 Independent Bookshop of the Year. We absolutely love how it started, it was founded by the community as part of the Newham Parents’ Centre and has since established itself as a thriving bookshop. Bernardine Evaristo, joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize has said that Newham Bookshop is her favourite! We asked Vivian from the shop some questions about all things books and you can see she has a wealth of experience in the book industry. If you check out their website, they are open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 - 3 with distancing measures in place which allow 2 people in at a time with masks and will still take book orders by email. A great bookshop is always at the heart of the community, and that is more than obviously the case here.

When was your bookshop born and how did that come about?

The bookshop was set up in 1978 by a group of parents who felt the need to promote reading in the very diverse and poor area that is Newham. It was founded as a community bookshop where everyone would feel comfortable in, we have customers with very different needs. 

Tell us about the journey and the changes you have seen over the years.

I have been in the shop for 32 years and in other independent shops before that so I remember the Net Book Agreement (sorely missed) and lots pre computer. I have seen many changes with the changing population. This is still an area with much poverty and we need to make sure we stock books for all our readers. We always stand up for libraries and will encourage all to use them.

Describe your shop in three words.

Vibrant, Diverse, Welcoming.

Has the rise of digital retailers affected your bookshop, what were your first thoughts about ebooks and do you feel the same now? 

Amazon, without a doubt has been the biggest challenge, but interestingly the pandemic has made more people aware of supporting local shops. I never saw e-books as a great threat and still feel the same.

What is important in a great bookshop, tell us what sets you apart and makes you special.

A bookshop needs to be welcoming to everyone in its community and the books stocked must reflect that. We listen to our customers and recognise the diversity of our community and the many languages spoken. We have always had very large offerings of books from diverse voices and welcomed the huge interest that Black Lives Matter brought to these books. We are so committed to a love of reading from the very youngest and engage in many author sessions in schools and libraries. We have been part of World Book Day from the very start and see it as an opportunity to get books to every young reader. For some children it is the very first book they have owned. Our work with schools is absolutely crucial and rewarding. One school in the lockdown asked us to choose one book for every pupil (460 in total) and we then got volunteers to cycle and walk them to their homes.

Tell us about the books you love to recommend.

We love to recommend local authors of whom we are very proud Vaseem Khan, Irenosen Okojie, Onjali Rauf, Luan Goldie. Also Bernardine Evaristo, Benjamin Zephaniah and Michael Rosen have been good friends of the shop for many years.

What is your favourite part of your bookshop?

I love our local history section, East London has a very rich history, and poetry and drama, which is a particular favourite of mine.

What else do our members need to know about you?

We have a fantastic, dedicated staff team who are also part of the local community. John Newman is in charge of the children’s shop and there is not much he doesn’t know about children’s books. We are lucky to have always put on great events and are the bookseller for many different Organisations. We have also had great support during lockdown and have been able to raise money through signed CDs (David Gilmour) for local charities.

Keep up to date with Newham Books

Website: www.newhambooks.co.uk

Email for book orders: info@newhambooks.co.uk

Twitter: @NewhamBookshop

If you enjoyed this, click here to read more of our Bookshop of the Month features.

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