Sunday 7 January 2018

Much ado about social enterprise

There are so many bookshops and so little time, so I tend to only write about each bookshop once. Unless it features in a bookshop crawl or undergoes some kind of transformation since the first visit.

In the case of Much Ado Books in Alfriston both boxes have been ticked: this visit was part of a bookshop crawl, the bookshop has been remodelled since my first visit, and another transformation is due any day now.

At the time of my original visit this bookshop was beautiful, and by this visit it continued to be so on a larger scale because a private area of the upstairs had been opened up to the public. This was a welcome addition to the shelf space and allowed for an even greater variety of secondhand books and beautiful things. However a chat with the booksellers and an invitation to a party they were holding involved a loud and proud announcement of their plans for the future.

As you can see from the date of my last blog, I've spent some time agonising about the best way to explain the future of Much Ado Books to you. So instead I've decided to share the bookshop's own words instead:

"We're dedicating Much Ado as a new Social Enterprise, hoping to encourage a love of books and reading and supporting people who currently cannot access all the pleasures books can provide.

"And we're launching a new, experimental space named Prospero's Project – part bookshop, part gallery, part social club, part workshop space... A place unlike anywhere else.

"Much Ado itself will move into our yard and barn – a new home with the same wonderful range of books." [Walk through this picture to reach both.] 

They continue to admit Prospero's Project will be: "a bit experimental, perhaps a bit surprising, and it will no doubt change over time". 

To explain in more detail: "You may already be aware that for decades we have raised funds for causes that support a love of reading. Our new social enterprise will build on this work.

"We have recently piloted a project providing high-quality new books for clients of local Trussell Trust foodbanks. The feedback has been very positive, and suggests the project might grow and bring books to many more people who need a little kindness.

"We are also exploring ways to support a local academy, which is working its way out of special measures. Recent improvements are more than heartening, but budgetary limitations continue to affect the school's library.

"Other projects will no doubt present themselves. We hope Prospero's Project will grow in unexpected ways, letting us share the love of reading that first led us into this business."

Having first met Cate and Nash many years ago I'm in no doubt that they'll put their hearts and souls into this project to make it a success. It sounds like something wonderful – how many of us are both willing and able to do as much as we'd like to help others? The Trussell Trust is an organisation I'm particularly supportive of so I do hope this part of the project can grow.

I'm not telling you much about the bookshop during my visit (when I came away with The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell and The Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer) because in early 2018 it's due to temporarily close ready to make way for Prospero's Project, but if the new incarnation is anything like the current one, Much Ado Books is bound to live up to its hope: 

"We envision a wonderful book-lover's haven; a place to lose yourself and to discover something wonderful to read."

Much Ado Books
8 West Street, Alfriston, East Sussex, BN26 5UX
Tel: 01323 871222

PS. Another highlight of the party announcing this news, I accidentally met author Claire Fuller. This was my first proper, face-to-face conversation with a long-standing author, so it was a real treat that she's one who I respect and admire. What a relief to discover you're friendly, ordinary human beings like the rest of us.


  1. What an impressive project, here's hoping it's a huge success...

    1. Indeed, I'm looking forward to finding out.


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