Back the bookshops now they are open

As a former bookseller I’m delighted that some bookshops have been able to re-open despite the massive constraints they find themselves under. Heaven knows how they are going to manage with social distancing, hand sanitisers, masks and having to quarantine books every time they are touched. Like many browsers I spend time leafing through books, putting them back, sorting through shelves and, in quite a few cases, coming away having not made a decision – and NO it isn’t so I can find it cheaper on line!

In a Guardian article on Sunday 14 June (‘Now wash your hands: Ripon’s indie shops brace for the big reopening’), Donna Ferguson featured an Indie bookshop in the town coincidentally called The Ripon Bookshop. Owner Gill Edwards has been keeping going offering free deliveries of books to local customers and hosting book club meetings via Zoom. Obviously sales are down, but she’s confident they can still make a huge difference locally, even though they are fighting the big online sellers.

So support the open bookshops – they deserve it.

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LBF 2020 Cancelled!

After monitoring the situation carefully, Reed Exhibitions announced today that The London Book Fair 2020, scheduled to take place next week, has been cancelled following the escalation of COVID-19 Coronavirus. By today several of the large exhibitors including Hachette, HarperCollins, PanMac, Penguin and Amazon had already pulled out of the show. Reed’s press statement reads:

‘The effects, actual and projected, of Coronavirus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives here in the UK and across the world, with many of our participants facing travel restrictions. We have been following UK government guidelines and working with the rolling advice from the public health authorities and other organisations, and so it is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event.

We recognise that business has to continue. With this in mind, we will of course support and collaborate with exhibitors and visitors to keep our world moving during this difficult period. We thank all those from the UK and a multitude of other countries who have prepared over the last year to deliver what promised to be a wonderful book fair showcasing, as ever, the exciting best of the global book industry. The London Book Fair will return, better than ever, in 2021.’

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Rudi Holzapfel 1938-2005 – Poet, Mentor, Scholar & Bookseller

This week I’m celebrating, for the 15th year, the life and work of my friend and mentor Rudi Holzapfel.

Rudi died of cancer on 6 February 2005 and it seems the time has passed so quickly. He was a wonderful, caring and talented man. I first met him when we worked together in a bookshop – me because I was just starting my career, Rudi because he needed to work while preparing his PhD on the works of James Clarence Mangan.

At the time I had never met anyone who said they were a poet. I came to know him very well both at work and outside when we were able to escape the draconian clutches of the shop owners. I was fascinated by how and what he wrote and was fortunate to witness his work first hand when he wrote a poem ‘The Employee’ based on my work in the store. I still have the original written on a sheet of brown wrapping paper. It was published in the The Penguin Book of Irish Verse (1970) and has even been set to music – how and to what end escapes me.

He mentored me, critique my writing and pushed me to that goal. As I browse through my collection of his published works I’m saddened that such a great talent has gone for good. But he leaves behind a wealth of wonderful material. Books and audio readings by Rudi can be found at

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