In this series, conducted in partnership with the Melbourne City of Literature Office, we discover some of the bookstores of the UNESCO Cities of Literature network. Meet the community social enterprise Crediton Community Bookshop in Exeter, UK.
âCrediton Community Bookshop in Devon, UK is no ordinary bookstore,â says Exeter City of Literature. âNot only does she sell books like any traditional bookstore, but she offers activities and projects that serve their local community. This includes events for children and youth, training, working with isolated communities and inspiring projects with food banks. ‘
It is a place for the community, by the community. âThe town bookstore was closing, so a group of local people explored whether it was possible to keep a bookstore in the town by making it community property,â says Dee Lalljee, CEO of the bookstore. âCrediton Bookshop became community property in 2013 when more than 300 shareholders came together to create a social enterprise to maintain an independent bookstore in the city and launch programs to support literacy, welfare community and access to cultural opportunities. “
Originally, the store was located in a smaller space on the outskirts of Crediton, England, “a market town close to the city of Exeter” with a population of around 7,000. “According to the Index. Multiple deprivation 2019 from the UK government, Crediton is one of the top 20% of the nation’s most deprived areas for education, skills and training, but the city is blessed with a variety of independent traders and a wit resilient community, âsays Lalljee.
In 2016, after raising the necessary funds, the store moved to a new, much larger location downtown. The increased space allows for a wide range of activities, workshops, author events and outreach work, held both at the bookstore and in other locations in the community. Then, in 2018, says Lalljee, they secured funding to renovate a vacant building behind the bookstore into a work center, community, and event space for the creative industries.
âWe stock approximately 4,500 titles ranging from new publications to local interest and an eclectic mix that we hope will surprise and delight our customers,â says Lalljee.
that of the bookstore the value in the community cannot be overstated. In addition to the books it offers, customers highlight how the Crediton Community Bookstore makes a significant contribution to the social and economic life of the city. In particular, they highlight the work of liaison with the schools of the store: âTo celebrate World Book Day in March, the team goes to around thirty local schools to organize free and live reading workshops. for over 2,000 children, âsaid one customer. âJust google ‘East Worlington Primary School’ to see an example of a very small rural school that no other bookstore would ever reach! “
“Their dedication to helping children learn to love literature keeps me from touching the Amazon buy button, and my nephew’s visit isn’t complete until we buy him something new. and exciting to read, âsays another. âI just love this wonderful community store in the heart of our small town. “
The store itself isn’t designed just for people to walk in, buy a book, and then leave. The furniture and displays are designed to be rearranged to create event and activity spaces for up to 50 people. There are spaces designed for people to stay for a while, including a children’s area with a sofa. This is Lalljee’s favorite part of the store: âIt’s cozy, cozy and invites you to stop and spend some leisurely browsing time.
Over the past eight years, the store has also implemented the aforementioned schools outreach program which serves schools in Crediton, Exeter and Devon with author visits. In 2017, this work was recognized with a Prince of Wales Award. The program is run by volunteers, primarily retired teachers with the goal of promoting fun reading. “We are passionate about the importance of children’s literacy and recognize the value of reading for fun for both academic success and emotional well-being,” says Lalljee. âMany children, especially in our most disadvantaged areas, own very few books and teachers tell us that meeting an author in person and taking home a copy of their book is often the catalyst for a child to read. . In response, the store organized a sponsorship to fund books for children attending the events to take home.
The store is constantly on the lookout for new ways to help and work with the community. In addition to the events and school outreach, high school students volunteer as readers at the local memory cafÃ© suitable for people with dementia, Lalljee explains. More recently, “In partnership with the city’s wellness team, we are piloting a book friendship project to support people who suffer from loneliness due to the restrictions created by the pandemic.”
There is no slowdown anytime soon. âAs an independent, non-profit bookstore, our mission is to create an environment for enterprising, resilient and creative communities inspired by books and stories so that we can thrive through interaction with our community. “
Key words: The bookstores of the CitÃ© des Lits