When my bookshop opened, almost exactly two years ago, we decided that we wanted to be more than a retail outlet. We were situated in a town that didn't have a thriving arts scene, but did have a number of talented people who wanted to display their work and stage events.
We decided to try and make ourselves a hub for the local community by turning our shop into a mini arts centre and in additional to the usual author signings and talks, we displayed the work of local artists and set-up reading groups. But our most radical move was a foray into the world of fringe theatre.
Last night we staged our fifth theatrical event, a performance of David Mamet's Duck Variations by two drama graduates, one of whom happened to be the manager of another branch. It was almost closed down by a funny little man from the Council who saw the posters for the show and decided that we were probably violating an obscure by-law. However, we managed to obtain a licence in the nick of time.
We held the play here:
But it's amazing what you can do with a bit of black cloth and a studio light:
And here is a photo from the performance:
Hey presto! A simple bookshop becomes a theatrical venue. When I tell people about our dramatic evenings some think it's a brilliant idea and others look at me as if I'm mad. I'm convinced that in an age in which an increasing number of readers are buying their books from Amazon and Tesco, booksellers have to do more to exploit their greatest asset - the physical space of a bookshop. People still love bookshops and it is up to booksellers to provide the magic.