This month we talk to Kate Claughan, the owner of The Book Case in Hebden Bridge and The Book Corner at The Piece Hall in Halifax about the advantages of being an independent bookshop, chat to artist Sue Cordingley about her work that has included the illustrations for the children’s book The Dragons Of Wainhouse Tower(as featured in last month’s podcast) and, to coincide with the start of a new series of Ackley Bridge on Channel 4 and the recent filming of series 2 of Gentleman Jack in The Piece Hall, we revisit our report about ‘Hollyfax’. And, of course, our regular band of film reviewers – which this month has expanded slightly from a threesome to a foursome – cast their eyes over Oscar-nominated Sound of Metal, the Icelandic film A White, White Day, time-bending Palm Springs and the wonder that is Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar.
Introduction to the Kate Claughan interview
After initially working with only the children’s books, Kate Claughan describes taking on the ownership of The Bookcase in Hebden Bridge as quite a risky endeavour. Faced with the joint threats of Amazon and ebooks, the future of independent bookshops was looking dark. ‘It was a very steep learning curve,’ says Kate. Obviously relishing a challenge, she went on to open The Book Corner in Piece Hall three years ago. She now has a very established clientele in Hebden Bridge, with many customer orders, whereas the Halifax shop attracts a wider range of shoppers, including coach parties of grandparents buying ‘posh children’s books’.
The recent lockdowns have added to her challenges. It was difficult to keep up with what was happening in the book trade, and not easy to feed off customers’ interests, when the shops were closed. Kate found herself ‘a bit untethered’. She feels sorry for the authors who brought out books at that time, as their sales possibly suffered. She tried to second guess what the customers would want when the shop doors reopened. Gardening and nature books have been selling well, but fiction has also had a boost. ‘People are looking for a bit of escapism. They definitely don’t want to read about Covid,’ says Kate.
‘A brilliant source of income’ for her over the past year has been Bookshop.org, which enables local bookshops to sell books online through its storefront. Nevertheless she feels that real live bookshops continue to have their advantages in offering ‘a little bit of headspace’ for customers who have no compulsion to buy but can benefit from the sellers’ informed advice and perhaps find something they never imagined they wanted.
Children’s reading has experienced an upsurge during lockdown too. Long series of books have offered an ideal escape, including Michelle Paver’s ‘Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’; Jessica Townsend’s ‘Nevermoor’ books; Cressida Cowell’s ‘How to train you Dragon’ and ‘The Wizards of Once’ series; and the graphic ‘Dogman’ novels of Dav Pilkey. As for adult fiction, Kate says that Bernadine Evaristo and Delia Owens have been popular authors. Among her predicted future bestsellers are ‘Male Tears’ by Benjamin Myers; ‘The First Woman’ by Jennifer Nansubuya Makumbi; and the paperback editions of Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘Hamnet’, Douglas Stuart’s ‘Shuggie Bain’, Monique Roffey’s ‘The Mermaid of Black Conch’ and Richard Osman’s ‘The Thursday Murder Club’. So support your local bookshop now!
To listen to the podcast, visit halifaxpodcast.com