Shop Local: Different lockdown, same message from Newham Bookshop manager Vivian Archer

PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 November 2020

John Newman and Vivian Archer who co-run Newham bookshop. Picture: Cash Boyle

John Newman and Vivian Archer who co-run Newham bookshop. Picture: Cash Boyle


We may be back in lockdown, but the message from Newham Bookshop’s manager remains the same: shop local.

This was Vivian Archer’s message ahead of the first lockdown back in March. It worked then, and she hopes it will work now.

Back then, operations moved from Barking Road to the manager’s Forest Gate home, with a fleet of delivery cyclists coming on board to fulfil orders.

This new system allowed the shop to remain a steady community presence. If anything, the circumstances contrived to create a fresh groundswell of support, and Vivian was busier than ever.

She’s aiming for a repeat this time around.

Pink Floyd musician David Gilmour and novelist Polly Samson sign CDs and books for Newham Bookshop.
Picture: @davidgilmour / TwitterPink Floyd musician David Gilmour and novelist Polly Samson sign CDs and books for Newham Bookshop. Picture: @davidgilmour / Twitter

“The pandemic, the lockdown, has been a real eye-opener for me,” she said. “The cyclists who were delivering books at the beginning of the first lockdown are still doing it.

“Two of our volunteers are ex-headteachers. They say it gets them out. People really do want to give back.”

For many retailers, being closed has shifted the emphasis onto online trading. This is where Vivian has really made it count. The prolific tweeter used social media to great effect during the first lockdown, and expects to do similarly during this period.

She said: “I tweet a lot, and that makes a huge difference. It really went up a lot during the first lockdown, and now we’re getting a lot of new people discovering the shop.”

Interior of Newham bookshop. Picture: Cash BoyleInterior of Newham bookshop. Picture: Cash Boyle

Almost a week into the new restrictions and orders continue to come in at pace. Though ostensibly another lockdown, there are a few differences when compared with March. One is that schools remain open, and Vivian is keen to draw attention to those in the area: “We’ve had the most tremendous support from schools in Newham and Redbridge. People feel that they want to support the community.”

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The relationship is very much a two-way street, with schools also routinely leaning on this community pillar.

Vivian said: “They know we’re here and have the knowledge, particularly me and John (Newman). For example, earlier this year Earlham Primary School asked us to pick 460 books, one for every child in the school. They gave us the ages and sexes, and left us to decide. They were really happy with the choices — it took a lot of cyclists to deliver it!”

This is further evidence, if it was required, that this bookshop doesn’t just sell books — it’s a community asset that can be relied upon. Vivian really understands this, and sees that the bookshop uses its platform to fundraise extensively.

Recent examples include donating the money raised through selling signed copies of Elton’s John book ‘Me’ to the West Ham foodbank, and to Her Story, the charity of East Ham children’s author Onjali Q Raúf.

The bookshop also raised £7,000 during the first lockdown for Stratford charity The Magpie Project, in part thanks to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and his wife Polly Samson.

This is a perfect example of Vivian using the bookshop’s platform to help the community. The philosophy is clear: shop local, support local.

The impact doesn’t go unnoticed — one only has to read the words of The Magpie Project’s CEO Jane Williams: “Newham Bookshop has been a staunch supporter of our charity from the beginning. They have worked really hard to amplify the voices of our families, to raise funds for us through books sales, special events, book signing.

“We could not imagine a more community embedded and generous organisation. Even during what must have been a really difficult time for their business — they were thinking of others, and putting energy, time and creativity into supporting them.”

November 5 was significant for two reasons. Firstly, it was the official start date for lockdown number two.

Secondly, it was the day that Vivian’s hero-status was confirmed, as the Booksellers Association declared her one of this year’s 25 Bookshop Heroes.

Contact Vivian at or via @NewhamBookshop on Twitter for further information.

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