Founded by one man’s passion for improving his community, and now managed by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers in his memory, The Book Stop is bringing hope back to its high street.
Like many places across the Liverpool City Region, St Helens has seen its town centre change dramatically over the last ten years. But, when its only independent and much-loved bookshop announced its closure back in 2019 after nearly 40 years of trading, it inspired one local man to bring back the books.
“Brian Leyland was the driving force behind The Book Stop,” says Trustee, Mike Webster. “His love of St Helens, its people – and of course its rugby team – played a major part in his life. As a published author himself, he was frustrated by the lack of a book shop in the town centre, so took on the challenge of leading a crowdfunding campaign that saw the community raise a staggering £45,000 backing the business.”
“The funds raised locally were then matched by the Community Shares Booster Programme and added to even further thanks to the Steve Morgan Foundation,” continues Mike. “This allowed us, with assistance from St Helens Council, to invest in a prominent but vacant unit on Bridge Street and enabled us to open for business in November 2021 before Brian sadly passed away the following February.”
The loss of Brian, the Covid pandemic and then the cost-of-living crisis that followed has not made life easy for The Book Stop, which is run as a charitable community benefit society. But it has not stopped it honouring its commitment to creating a socially inclusive and welcoming environment for the residents of St Helens and the surrounding areas.
Stocking 5,000 titles (and able to order in most books within 24 hours for their customers, whether that’s an individual, school or library), The Book Stop also runs a wide range of events. Its adult and children’s reading groups, book clubs and author signings are all aimed at improving access to books and enhancing reading and literacy opportunities in the town.
“Our bookshop is owned by the community, and most importantly exists for the benefit of the community,” says manager, Nik Lowe. “Any profits we make are always reinvested back into new books, events and workshops everyone can enjoy.”
An integral part of continuing to develop this much-needed outreach work has been Kindred’s support. This investment is now enabling this unique bookshop to transform its empty first floor into a new fully accessible events space.
Nik concludes, “We recently won the National Book Tokens ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award which we couldn’t have achieved without the generosity of everyone who has supported us this far. Now, thanks to Kindred, we can continue sharing the magic of reading and the power of books with even more members of our valued community.”
With work due to start in February 2024, we look forward to sharing more about the exciting opportunities local families, school children, charities and organisations can experience and benefit from at The Book Stop.