Stratford bookshop volunteers ‘devastated’ by shock closure

The free bookshop in the Stratford Centre is due to close down due to the head charity going into ad

The free bookshop in the Stratford Centre is due to close down due to the head charity going into administration Lead volunteer John Drummond with Jordan Ephraim, Shelby Wade-Gudgin, Adrian Super and Daniel Kovacs - Credit: Archant

There will be no fairytale ending for one book store after volunteers were told they have just one week to shut up shop.

On Friday, the 12-strong team at Books for Free in Stratford Centre will wave goodbye to the shop which takes in thousands of unwanted books and then gives them for free to grateful readers.

John Drummond, who co-ordinates volunteers at the South Mall store, said they only learnt about the closure on Wednesday, when new owners turned up to take measurements and told volunteers they would be moving in.

But when John made inquiries to Healthy Planet, the charity which runs Books for Free, he found it had ceased operating – without giving any written notice.

“The move comes after a year of investigations into claims of fraud and heavy financial losses which were a direct result of CEO Francesca Polini and the current trustees blowing the whistle on a number of financial irregularities,” reads a statement on Healthy Planet’s website.

“It is really heartbreaking when we consider the impact it will have on all our volunteers who have done so much good work for us, particularly in our Books For Free shops where they really made an impact on, often disadvantaged, communities.”

John, 69, said the volunteers were “devastated and forlorn, a cross between despondent and depressed”.

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The Stratford store was one of more than 30 across the country set up by Healthy Planet to give back unwanted literature to the public, by renting shop spaces and organising regular deliveries of books which would otherwise end up as landfill.

At the 11th hour, there was some crumb of comfort as C-Books in Suffolk offered to take the books and save them from landfill.

“It now feels we’ll be having a party on Friday, rather than a wake,” added John.