In 2018, the owners of the much-loved second-hand George Street Bookshop in Glossop, Derbyshire, retired. Luckily, a group of residents decided to take the bookshop into community ownership and continue to provide much-valued access to books and literature for local people. They did a quick Crowdfunder campaign, raising £2,000 to cover start-up costs and begin business planning. They also ran public meetings to gauge the level of interest from the community and found overwhelming support for an extensive and literary resource.
The group became a community benefit society and decided to raise more funds to develop the bookshop’s potential. Anyone can become a member of a community benefit society for £1, and each member has one vote in business decisions, putting community need and accountability at the heart of the business. And this legal structure allows you to raise fund through community shares, which they decided to do. A development grant from the Community Shares Booster Programme helped them prepare their share offer and be awarded the Community Shares Standard Mark.
The George Street Community Bookshop then ran a community share offer from November to December 2018, to raise money for the lease and to re-design the shop to be more accessible for people with mobility problems. They raised £25,150 from 126 investors from the local community, including loyal customers, and beyond. Power to Change matched this pound for pound through the Community Shares Booster programme, allowing the group to raise a total of £50,000, their maximum target. The finance raised will help the society create a new entrance to the shop with no steps so those less mobile or with wheelchairs or prams can access the shop. A new and accessible toilet will be provided downstairs along with a dedicated family/child-friendly corner. More book browsing space upstairs will be created with new shelves, so more local people will be able to buy books on all sorts of topics at affordable prices. In addition, a new book club is soon to start along with other events to ignite people’s imagination, learn new things and help build community connections.
The group are also looking at starting an online bookshop to generate more income. Profits from the bookshop will be reinvested to support community events and activities, support and train volunteers, and become a place for local artists, authors and creative practitioners to showcase and sell their work and will play an integral role as part of Glossop’s wider cultural and creative sector. As a community benefit society, they encourage volunteers and members to organise individually and collectively, book clubs, reading groups, visiting speakers, poets, musicians and other events of cultural interest. The bookshop will also improve access to knowledge, learning and local cultural heritage to the people of Glossopdale and visitors to the area.
George Street Community Bookshop is owned by 126 members who have all invested to save and grow the bookshop as a local community asset. Members have influenced the running of the community business via meetings (e.g. meeting with the architect on the re-design and new layout of the bookshop) and are kept up to date via regular newsletters, social media and by calling into the shop to say hello.