Wivenhoe Bookshop Magazine & Newsletter | Tuesday 16 July 2024

Bookshop Heroes of 2021

Wivenhoe Bookshop proprietor Sue Finn was recently named as one of 22 ‘Bookshop Heroes of 2021’.

The Bookseller’s Bookshop Heroes is a listing of some of the best individual booksellers in the UK and Ireland, and salutes the inspirational managers, superstar hand-sellers, innovative events g⁠urus and canny buyers who are the heart and soul of British and Irish bookselling.

The Bookshop Heroes are supported by the Booksellers Association.

Check out all of the ‘Bookshop Heroes of 2021’ here.

All About Sue

From an early age, eyes down, head in a book has been my happy place. I migrated South from Lancashire to Essex, where I studied Literature, and went on to work in charity administration and housing. My reading has always been broad and eclectic, ranging from world fiction to politics, sociology, poetry and beyond. I’m also lured by the esoteric, including folklore and mythology, particularly recent retellings. Shelf space at home is always a challenge, and I have difficulty exiting my side of the bed due to teetering mass of my latest finds.

Sue Finn

I leapt at the chance to join the Wivenhoe Bookshop team back in 1993. The retirement of a colleague in 2014 gave me the opportunity to buy the business – by that stage, you couldn’t tell where I ended and the bookshop began! The bookshop had become such a part of my life that it was the only conceivable way forward. Over the years I’ve expanded the programme of events, courses, and groups at the bookshop and worked on our presence online and social media.

All About the Bookshop

The shop itself occupies the ground floor handsome 17th century building on the High Street of a small waterside town in Essex, where our 6 fantastic booksellers each bring diverse skills and a unique voice to the team.

When my partner and I took on the shop we undertook a major refurb, thanks to a James Patterson grant, which enormously improved our accessibility and space. We continue to run our groups, the Saturday Philosophy Breakfast, Woolly Thoughts knit and natter group, our dining reading group, author events, art exhibitions and book launches. We also have regular fundraisers and book donations to the local Food Bank, Refugee groups and other charities.

How the Bookshop’s Getting Through the Pandemic

During the pandemic we’ve had some tough times, but we’ve learned a lot and been tremendously buoyed by the support for the shop.

Joining the Bookshop.org website was a lifeline, and we’ve learned to work in new ways online, with great Zoom events and maintaining communication and conversation through social media. Most importantly our customer loyalty has been fantastic! Our readers are committed to the survival of the business and it’s cultural contribution to Wivenhoe. We’re indebted to them for such incredible support.

What we Love About Bookselling

We are sustained by daily conversations with our customers, exploring and delving into authors, genres and their own personal stories. It’s always a delight to find something that you know will enthuse or intrigue your readers, whether it’s a bestseller, a prizewinner or something that is perfect for just one, particular customer. We are often complimented on our curation, which in fact represents the loves of our booksellers and a symbiosis with our customers’ likes, passions and politics. Over the decades our stock has become a reflection the identity and views of ourselves, our customers and locality, and their intellectual curiosity, humanity, compassion and kindness. Our customers spiritedly defend these values.

Conversation, with customers, book suppliers and reps, the Booksellers Association, and communication and solidarity with other indies is invaluable to our business. Loving books and people is what we open up for every day.

Plans for the future

Wivenhoe Bookshop has always brought a distinctive character and voice to the community, and this is more important than ever as we all try to navigate a changing world.

We are looking forward to getting more sociable and lively in 2022, reviving events and groups as we hopefully come out of the pandemic. Further on, we look forward to celebrating our 50th Anniversary in 2026!

We’re very optimistic for the future of indie bookselling. We’ve come full circle over the last 30 years, surviving the abolition of the Net Book Agreement, the consequent rise of discounted book sales online and in supermarkets, and the peak years of the E-reader. Indie bookshops have sustained their businesses with remarkable creativity.

There’s a renewed appreciation of Indie businesses who make a unique cultural and economic contribution to High Streets, and legislative changes are required to ensuring a level playing field for indie bookshops. The calculation and levying of business rates needs reforming, and online booksellers should be contributing corporation taxes and ensuring appropriate pay and conditions for their workforce as we do.