Archive for the ‘Shops’ Category


It’s the cherry on top of one of Bristol’s most spirited spots – where jolly, jeering street drinkers rock beneath crumbling walls sporting Banksy originals; afternoon gig-goers spill out onto pavements from cafes-cum-gig venues to puff on their rollies; the spitting hiss of vats and vats of boiling oil sizzles from rows of red-topped takeaways to mingle with wheeze of rattling spray paint cans over the engine growls and scooter-horn squeals of the humming Gloucester Road. Ahh… Stokes Croft – the Here Gallery and Bookshop.

Since its doors were opened by siblings Ben and Kate O’Leary in 2003, not-for-profit creative cooperative Here has been bringing art books, small-press publications, comics and a whole host of crafty cuts to the folks of Bristol and beyond. And that’s not all; the shop sits above Here’s gallery space, which is currently exhibiting The Joyful Bewilderment from The Outcrowd Collective.
 Outcrowd Collective poster
Here Bookshelf

You are Here: Ben

You are Here: Ben

And 2008 saw the Here family branching out there and everywhere – well Falmouth, to be precise. “As well as providing a welcoming atmosphere, and a meeting place for like minded individuals, Here and Now [showcases] new artwork from local students and established artists,” says Kate O’Leary, who’s at the helm in Falmouth while Ben steers the good ship Here back in Bristol. Wish you were here? Check out the Flickr feed for a guided tour.

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Richard of The Mighty Miniature fame was last week kind enough to point me in the direction of his friend Jason. Jason runs Bloom & Curll.

And look at it. Just look at it.

 Want to go in? Me too.

Jason's desk


And Bloom & Curll is more than just new and second-hand books, plates of cake and Jason: “If you want to display fine art, discuss politics, poetry, Kafka,” says the Bloom & Curll flyer, “or have a cup of tea, play chess and plan the next revolution, we are available as a free space for discussion groups, clubs, workshops, rehearsals or a place to simply sit, read and think.” Add to that the writers in residencecosy gigs (and readings) and a beautiful upcoming zine chronicling new writing and bookish happenings around and about the South West, and you have heaven in an ironmonger’s (at 74 Colston Street, Bristol.)


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Found: brilliant little book stall pushing brilliant little books, from processions of spotless old Penguins to stacks of sparkling modern hardbacks. Saturdays on Bristol’s Wine Street and Sundays at the Tobacco Factory Market.



Lost: £4.50 on this perfect 1962 Pelican first-edition of William Morris’s writing and designs. Oh, and a stinker of a hangover. Mighty indeed.


Footnotes: The Mighty Miniature is captained by Richard. Richard likes sperm whales and stamping inky images of birds onto brown paper bags to give away with his books.

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Mr Bs Frontage

Bath’s Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights – this week’s jackpot – sets The Bind’s detector beeping not only on account of its fantastic moniker; its 2008 Independent Bookshop of the Year accolade; its ‘bibliotherapy’ room, replete with battered, comfy armchairs and help-yourself coffee; the Tintin cartoon strip wallpaper sidling up to the staircase… 

Mr Bs Chairs

Mr Bs Bibliotherapy

Mr Bs Bath

Mr Bs Stairs

Mr Bs Window Display

… and its loyalty cards; the brilliant author events and book groups; the chatty Mr B’s folks, who’ll order any book you like to land on Mr B’s doormat in just a couple of days; their lists (and I do love a good list)…

Mr Bs Lists

Mr Bs Mugs

… and their sock monkeys…

Mr Bs Monkey

… oh no. The true feather in Mr B’s cap is Vlashka, who, when not providing her unique brand of tail-waggingly attentive customer service in the shop (as, unfortunately, she wasn’t on the day of The Bind’s visit) is updating her Vanity Page or trying to fit in meet-and-greets with her celebrity fans between dog biscuits. Watch this space for future Vlashka book signing announcements.

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Just when it seemed that folks with an appetite for a good yarn were doomed to wonder the World Wide Web with nothing juicier than the amateur book reviews of romance novel aficionados to wrap our slobbery chops around, I am pointed in the direction of Untitled Books (thanks, TJ) – online bookshop, literary magazine and news feed… in short, a reader’s web dream.


Undercover mission: Untitled Books provides insight into the working lives and methods of today's greatest writers

But that’s not the best of it: not only do we get to bolster our voyeuristic leanings with features like the How I Write series (two things I have learnt today: Julian Barnes’ pile of unpaid bills serves as a makeshift coaster and Ali Smith would, in an alternate universe, be raiding orchards) but we can chortle at the highly entertaining and brilliantly written Literary Lonely Hearts section, my current favourite loner being the “Good looking undiscovered treasure trove of writing talent, male, 26,” who “seeks older lady in the publishing industry. Age and looks not important. Must wield reasonable level of power.”

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The Murder One plaque: whodunnit?

The Murder One plaque: whodunnit?



One of Charing Cross’s past crime novel hubs finds itself embroiled in its very own mystery. Murder One, which saw its last spy thriller creep out of its doors back in January after 20 years of touting furtive thrills, and its Charing Cross companion Shipley, a specialist in art books that has also permanently shut up shop, have been gifted cultural landmark status by a clandestine crusader.

Past master: Shipley's blue plaque

Past master: Shipley's blue plaque

Shelved: The bowels of the Shipley

Shelved: The bowels of the Shipley

The plaques – which resemble the official blue plaques bestowed on sites of significant cultural heritage across a number of UK cities – that have appeared to mark the shell-like site of each shop were spotted by staff of other local bookshops as they rolled up to work last week. According to Time Out’s blog, a bookseller at Charing Cross art bookshop Keonig Books put the plaques puzzle down to “probably just some bullshit art students” (hmm… a faint whiff of culpability…?).

Shipley: Now you see it…

Shipley: Now you see it…

… now you don't

… now you don't

Well, be they presently whitewashed like lazy graffiti or allowed to remain as poignant, mysterious markers, the blue plaques are a fitting salute to this pair of lost literary luminaries.

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My addiction to the musty whiff of a well-loved book and the hiss of a turning page means that I detest – de-test – being sensually swindled by having to read more than about 250 words through a screen. If you’re anything like me, you’ll share my horror at this downright catastrophe:


The iLiad: The literary equivalent of a microwave burger

The iLiad: The microwave burger of the book world

50 pre-programmed ‘books’, A5(ish) format, at £399 – behold the (*ahem*) iLiad Electronic Reader. So many questions: can I get it in paperback? Can I offer it up for BookCrossing? When I’m shipwrecked on a desert island, can I read/build a fire with/eat my 50 books? These, of course, are the everyday concerns of your average dog-earing culprit. And the answer to each is a pixelated NO. What a letdown. And it appears that the customers of Borders feel the same, according to The Independent.

Round 1 to the paper pushers, then. Round 2 – the struggle to save the nation’s libraries, as reported in The Guardian – is currently being hard-fought in the modern-day trenches that masquerade as library isles and local government corridors, most publicly by journalist Rachel Cooke, who wrote a great article for yesterday’s Observer. A damn good read, even if it does clock in on the wrong side of 250 words for my screenphobic peepers to contend with. Best get practising my library card quick-draw, then…

(Word count: 234. Phew)

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Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig and stitching crafts in one YouTube video? I thought the day would never come. The incredible Black Books gets the amateur animation treatment, replete with cardboard box shop, drugs and grapes. Great stuff(ing.)

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Conservative types may claim that nothing particularly noteworthy has sprung up in Bath in the past 50 years. I beg to differ (see exhibit 1, above.)


Topping & Company is the best thing to happen to the old roman city since hot water. The first time I set foot on one of its creaking floorboards and was hit by the avalanche of coffee wafts, Yann Tiersen tunes and row after row after row of cellophane-wrapped signed first editions, I could barely contain myself.

I still can’t stay in there for more than 20 minutes without breaking into a sweat.


So, I certainly don’t need any coffee when I’m in there, but the lovely Topping & Co folks offer great pots of the stuff – in polka-dot cups cups, no less – as well as reading groups (fuelled by a healthy amount of red wine), author talks and good chat, as provided by Saber and Mark who very kindly let me get under their feet to take some photos. For not a second longer than 20 minutes, mind.

Saber, Mark and a pot of Topping's finest

Saber, Mark and a pot of Topping's finest


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LA's comics fans head to Secret HQ for a night on the strip

LA's comics fans head to Secret HQ for a night on the strip

It being the first day of the week might make my lauding of LA’s Secret Headquarters seem a tad premature, but you’ll understand my near-feverish fervour to spill the Secret HQ beans as soon as you check this comic book culture haven out.


Pushing “a sophisticated take on the traditional comic book store”, Secret Headquarters looks like the bookshop Tim Burton might open were he to turn an old Victorian pharmacy into a graphic novel store after watching Mary Poppins on repeat: one part quaint comfort to one part brooding somberness, with a spoonful of eccentricity thrown in. While the Secret HQ team give their website a refurb, their MySpace page is on hand for news of author events and special titles coming their way.

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