Wednesday 29 October 2014

Part of my community, and yours

There are lots of reasons to want to meet a bookshop – the need for a book, location, looking for a friendly chat, a recommendation... I'm not going to try to list them all here, but my reason for wanting to visit my next destination was Twitter.

One of the (admittedly many) places that had inspired me to write this blog, Kirkdale Bookshop is simply a very entertaining read on the social media site, which is why I was very excited when I realised I could make it the second stop on my 2014 Books are my bag bookshop crawl

After all, I wanted to find out if the bookshop was as great a character as its Twitter presence.

I wasn't disappointed.

Walking up the road from a bus stop in Sydenham, Kirkdale Bookshop was hard to miss as its warm red front and lush green 'grass' brightened up a grey London street. Throw in orange and white balloons and a window celebrating its 48th birthday and I imagine all passers-by must be encouraged to smile (and pop in instead of passing by).

Stepping inside, the initial feeling is of entering a bright and cosy boutique bookshop, but passing beyond the central till and large selection of new books you discover an equally welcoming children's section and stairs leading down to the secondhand section. There's a lot more to this bookshop than you'd first expect.

My arrival coincided with children's story time and it was hard not to stop and make the most of the opportunity of being read to in such a bright and welcoming bookshop. However, time was not on my side and so instead I (only semi-reluctantly) made my way downstairs to the secondhand area.

Still a spacious place to explore, this section contrasts nicely with the new books upstairs as browsers are invited to wander through a small maze of tall bookshelves. Hours could easily be lost here but I was on a mission: I wanted to meet the bookshop Twitterer.

Breaking the ice with the request of a book recommendation and pointing to a title I've often wondered about reading, I got into discussion with a friendly bookseller who talked me through the book I'd named (I'll save that title for another time) and made some more appropriate suggestions. More conversation ensued, followed by a chat with the bookshop's Twitter king during which I had to stop myself from sounding like a crazy bookshop groupie and just repeating 'you're great/funny/highly entertaining'.

Retreating with my craziness and some helpful directions to my next bus, I eventually left, clutching the bookseller's recommendation of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (which I'd purchased at 10 per cent off thanks to their birthday celebrations).

With a reading group, events, gallery space, lots of lovely books and a cheery and welcoming atmosphere, it's easy to see how Kirkdale Bookshop has successfully reached its 48th birthday. It may only be a part of my Twitter community, but in the real world the bookshop is very much a part of the local community. Which is exactly where it should be.

Kirkdale Bookshop
272 Kirkdale, Sydenham, London, SE26 4RS
Tel: 020 8778 4701

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