Thursday 5 September 2013

The Ibis needs you

When I started this blog I had an idea of a couple of bookshops I wanted to visit but not nearly enough to keep me writing for any length of time. Which means I’m heavily reliant on either the internet or recommendations/invitations to help me on my way.

Given that I’m about as internet savvy as my cat (possibly less so), it’s the latter that’s proving to be the most useful.

And so, one sunny Saturday morning, I found myself on the trail of one of the first places to invite me along for a visit: The Ibis Bookshop in Banstead, Surrey.

Located in Green Belt land roughly ten miles inside the M25, my drive took me through some beautiful countryside, to an equally lovely town centre that really felt more like a large village, such was the community feel and selection of interesting independent shops.

Not that any of this beauty helped to settle my nerves – which had become increasingly jittery with every minute on the road. This was the first time I’d told a bookshop I’d be popping in to say hello, and as I’m still new to my blogging I’m not sure how I feel about admitting I’ll be visiting. It feels a little like I’m demanding attention, rather than the reality, which is simply that I’m a girl looking for a book.

Thankfully, my fears were unfounded and my visit couldn't have been easier. I found the High Street without getting lost (a minor miracle given my sense of direction), nabbed a parking space almost exactly across the road from my destination and happily remained unrecognised as I entered the bright and welcoming shop.

I was greeted with a friendly hello before the booksellers returned to their conversation with another customer, leaving me to browse at my leisure. As a naturally chatty person I found it difficult not to occasionally contribute to the shop conversation, but everyone was so friendly that the comments of a stranger seemed to be welcomed. However as the shop stocks a good selection I was soon too absorbed in the books to notice the buzz of conversation and customers popping in and out, being only momentarily distracted by the cheerfully decorated children's section that I'd've loved to settle down in when a few years younger - who am I kidding, I'd've loved to settle down there now if someone else hadn't beaten me to it.

Anyway, eventually finding myself at the classics I soon chose a rather attractive copy of The Great Gatsby, a novel which I’d previously been resisting buying since I’d only managed to find it with covers linked to the film, and I hate to jump on bandwagons. 

Plucking up the courage to properly say hello and introduce myself as that girl from Twitter (previous readers will know how wary I am of that), I turned to the till.

Linda Jones, the shop’s owner, was so welcoming and friendly that I found myself wondering why I’d ever let myself be nervous. In short, she was as friendly and bookishly knowledgeable as any good bookseller should be.

However, while Linda was welcoming and cheery, the subject of our conversation was not, because having served the community of Banstead in Surrey for some 75 years - making it the county's oldest bookshop - The Ibis is now facing the very real prospect of closure.

Like many other independent bookshops, The Ibis finds itself struggling to compete with internet sales and unless £400,000 can be found before the winter this beautiful bookshop will become a clothes shop. Not only would this be a tragedy for The Ibis, but also for the town, as it would mean the loss of its only dedicated new bookshop.

Fortunately, Linda’s not one to give up easily and a crowdfunding campaign has been launched, with more than £150,000 having been pledged at the time of my visit. But the bookshop still very much needs the support of the community, bookshop lovers everywhere, and preferably a generous benefactor, to meet this daunting target.

Now I'm not going to start begging you to hand over all your savings (although I'd very much like the campaign to succeed and I'm sure Linda would be grateful if you did call her) but if everyone could find the time to take even just one book out of their virtual basket and buy it in the real world think what a difference it would make. Please think before you click.

The Ibis Bookshop
109 High Street, Banstead, Surrey, SM7 2NJ
Tel: 01737 353260

UPDATE: The Ibis Bookshop has now closed.

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