Not Just Books: The South-East London Bookshops That Offer More
By Marcela Ferreira
Though Amazon continues to grow and expand into new territory, thankfully, browsing bookshelves and exploring local bookstores is still very much a thing.
Shop Local + Support Local campaigns have sprung up everywhere, and some independent bookstores in South East London responded to loyalty with great aplomb.
Author visits, book clubs, children’s workshops, competitions, art exhibitions, story time, coffee, tea and cake have all been added to their offering – as well as a great selection of books of course.
In return, South East London has managed to support a high number of independent book stores, and I know of at least one new venue opening its doors in April 2018.
These bookshops know their customers and have diversified to add value and strengthen the loyalty they continue to enjoy. It’s hard work, but they make it look easy.
Here are some of my favourites;
Exceptional buying and excellent recommendations helped Rye Books stand out as soon as it opened its doors seven years ago. Strong community ties have resulted in events with local authors like Coralie Bickford-Smith, Richard Ayoade and the Scummy Mummies.
Further author visits, Q&As and exhibitions are regularly scheduled throughout the year as well as children’s events, readings, craft workshops and competitions. There are weekly Story Time and Bea’s Baby Bop sessions for pre-schoolers plus annual film nights hosted as part of the Free Film Festival.
A children’s book shop that shies away from paperbacks, Small Print Books chose instead to focus on ‘captivating storytelling, awe-inspiring imagery and interactive books for babes and pre-schoolers’. As well as stocking beautiful books, Small Print Books also has Sensory Classes, Travelling Tales sessions, ukulele classes and Baby Nimble Tales (musical storytelling).
They also have a brilliant Instagram page where owner Jenny uses stories to showcase her favourite books. Brilliant when you need inspiration for the next book to buy.
Voted UK’s best Independent Bookshop in 2014, Dulwich Books has established itself as a favourite in West Dulwich. It has a large variety of genres, and an excellent children’s section at the back. It runs Story Time sessions every Thursday and Saturday as well as other regular author events in the evenings. Dulwich Books also organises two Literary Annual Festivals in Dulwich and Balham, hosting additional talks, Q&As and author visits throughout the year.
Ottie and the Bea offer a curated selection of children’s toys, books and gifts. They run a Book Club for children in school Years 4 to 8 where members get a chance to ask authors questions directly (in person or via Skype) as well as have access to other special events during the year. Book signings and workshops are also arranged throughout the year.
Probably one of the oldest independent bookshops in South East London, it’s no surprise that Kirkdale Bookshop is a focal point in the community. Kirkdale organises local artist’s exhibitions, book signings, children’s events as well as a Book Group that meet every other week.
A much loved award-winning local bookstore, Village Books hosts a number of author events, and has secured visits from high profile authors such as Judith Kerr, Yotam Ottolenghi and Phillip Pullman!
Another well-established local independent bookstore with plenty to offer, Book Seller Crow have regular author events as well as comedy evenings. Its Book Group has been active for nine years and meets once a month at the shop.
A children’s bookshop for over 13 years, Tales on Moon Lane has been responsible for author visits from the likes of Jim Field, Jason Ford, Katherine Rundell, and Alex T Smith amongst many others. Tales also run weekly Story Time and Jolly Phonics sessions - as well as much needed children’s activities during February and October Half Term school holidays.
Review added additional extras to its classic book offering such as moleskin journals, smelly candles, board games and canvas bags. It’s big on dogs too (books and real ones) inviting owners to send a pic of their dogs for the website. Review also hosts monthly book groups and the annual Peckham Literary Festival – where authors visit the shop to talk about their books.
This little gem of a bookshop stocks mainly second-hand books, vintage postcards and maps, original film posters, and photographic stills. There is also a growing antiquarian collection with books dating back to 1660s! Though they lack an events calendar they make up with an impressive collection of vintage children’s books. Take the kids and introduce them to what vintage really means.
If you want to find out more about any of these fab independent bookstore, my advice is to go online, and see what’s on. You can sign up for newsletter updates or follow them on social media – just keep an eye on the great activities our local bookstores keep coming up for us.