Independent Bookshop Week: Community pillar Newham Bookshop continues to thrive during lockdown

Newham Bookshop has continued to operate during the lockdown from the home of manager Vivian Archer,

Newham Bookshop has continued to operate during the lockdown from the home of manager Vivian Archer, who has praised the support the shop has received. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Ahead of Independent Bookshop Week, the Recorder caught up with Newham Bookshop manager Vivian Archer to see how the shop has been faring.

Interior of Newham bookshop. Picture: Cash Boyle

Interior of Newham bookshop. Picture: Cash Boyle - Credit: Archant

Since our last visit in March, days before lockdown was announced, operations have moved from the bookshop to Vivian’s Forest Gate home.

On that day, with doors already closed to the public, Vivian could scarcely believe the ongoing demand and number of willing delivery cyclists.

Fast forward three months, and she feels similarly: “It has been a real eye-opener, an incredible display of community spirit. People are starting to see that if they don’t support local and independent businesses, they’ll lose them. They’re really taking pride in our shop.”

An expanded fleet of delivery cyclists work with Vivian to coordinate deliveries, with the group setting a new daily record of 160 packages last Friday, June 18.

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The bookshop has also received support from local schools; one — who Vivian wishes not to name — has ordered 500 books to be delivered next week, with extra volunteers on board to help with the mammoth order.

A crowdfunder, set up to fund the giveaway of Angela Saini’s Superior and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, has smashed its £10,000 target.

Angela Saini’s publishers 4th Estate donated 1,000 copies to help this along, with Vivian full of praise for publishers who have played their part by “really backing us”.

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The bookshop, ever mindful of its role in the community, has also helped fundraise for external causes.

A signed copy of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon album fetched £2,000 at virtual auction, with the proceeds split between INQUEST and Newham-based campaigners Netpol, who defend people’s right to protest against unjust policing.

As the shop tentatively plans to reopen from July 1, Vivian reflects positively on this experience.

Not only has it proven the strength of community spirit, the manager believes it has both sparked, and reignited, a love of reading.

Despite the adverse circumstances, Vivian has rarely felt more invigorated during her 30-plus years at Newham Bookshop.

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