About the project
Bookbuster is an independent bookshop in Hastings, East Sussex. It sells bargain books, secondhand books, and a selection of brand new titles of local and/or of topical interest. It also sells records and CDs, and local artists greetings cards and postcards. The business has been slow to build, and a few things are urgent to boost sales – and to give more entertainment to our customers!
The most immediate need is too refit the children’s section, to build a new till-point, and open up a stage for performances. There will be further plans (though they will have to wait): we need to redo the signage outside, to fit new shelving throughout, and to get the place fit for a small cafe space too!
If we are successful in raising funds for refitting the back section of the shop, it will give our children’s area a serious boost, and at the same time enable bigger instore events.
We have already started a monthly poetry night, Sheer Poetry (every third Thursday), and host regular music performances – including, for example, Otti Albeitz, Thad Skews, Rufus Stone, Eleanor Lynn, No Middle Man, Oudolin, Zeug!, and others. We have had book events for local authors – including, for example, Bronwen Griffiths, Kim Stallwood, K D Faerydae, and Paul Dayrell. We have had readings by local poets, and hosted plays too. But all on the smallest scale possible, as the ‘stage’ doesn’t really exist!
We also plan to run kids’ events instore, and the ‘stage area’ will facilitate that too – if we can raise the monies needed!
Thank you to all those who are contributing gifts for pledges! These will be added as they arrive! 🙂
Friend and colleague Kay Green, of Earlyworks Press, has contributed the following about Bookbuster, for which I am most grateful:
Tim’s bookstall was a regular at Hastings, and other, street markets and events for a long time. The range of books he found by exploring different wholesalers and specialist presses always made a refreshing change from the very predictable stock of a small branch of a corporate bookshop that was our only other option in Hastings towncentre.
It was a brave decision, to take the step up to running a shop. Hastings isn’t a big-spending town and this is hardly an encouraging time to start an expensive, high risk business but with considerable ingenuity, a lot of hard work and a team of willing volunteers, he got it up and running.
Necessity is the mother of invention they say, but a wicked sense of humour helps, too. Shop signs are expensive. So why not take over the old Blockbuster store, get someone to take their tool kit to the lettering and call the place BOOKBUSTER? That’s just one of the million ways the task was achieved.
There was going to be a full refit, a coffee corner and all manner of other swanky things once things settled down but so far, it’s been all hands on deck just to keep going. The vital point here is that Bookbuster isn’t struggling because it lacks supporters. The money that goes into the till every day from the booklovers of Hastings is going on bills, bills bills. Some towns have negligible rent and/or business rates encourage independent small shop keepers to set up. Hastings is not generous or supportive of such schemes. As well as water, electricity, rent and business rates, Hastings shopkeepers have to, for example, pay the council a fiver a day if they need to park their vans anywhere near the shops, which doesn’t sound a lot, but adds up and for marginal businesses is a killer.
In spite of this, Booksbuster has survived for over a year. We have had the pleasure of an ever-changing stock of new, secondhand and remainder books, with special attention given to interesting small presses and local authors and publishers, as well as a regular menu of events such as live music and poetry slams, talks and signings by authors, and the odd art exhibition.
The shop is also an outlet for local record and CD traders and creators of craft items such as jewellery and greetings cards. We have an owner-manager who is a mine of local information, always willing to research, find and discuss books on all kinds of subjects and is attentive enough to get to know, and come up with appropriate recommendations for, regular customers.
It generally takes a year or two for independent shops to build a customer-base. That’s a long time to go on working extended days on a barely subsistence income. Having done that, shopkeepers then need to do extensive financial acrobatics to get into their stride before they can start investing at a new level.
Bookbuster hasn’t seen its refit or its coffee corner yet and the bills are not getting any smaller. That’s why Jamie Tarrant had the fantastic idea of running the marathon in aid of Bookbuster. He did, and he raised several hundred pounds – but really, Bookbuster could do with around £1500 to be sure of its future. That’s why we’re asking you, now, to chip in a few quid – not out of charity, but out of a community effort to help Hastings keep the shop that author R J Dent recently called ‘a cultural oasis’, home of Sheer Poetry, book readings, and regular music performances.