1. The Lake District has inspired writers for generations – including Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. Do you find that your customers are particularly keen on these locally grown works?
Yes, there is a strong interest in Cumbrian authors from both local people and visitors to the area. Visitors are particularly interested in the iconic Lakes literary figures such as Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth and Arthur Ransome and many make a point of reading their books or biographies as part of their holiday. Other Cumbrian novelists such as Melvyn Bragg, Margaret Forster and Sarah Hall are also very popular, especially with local people who have followed their career. We also find that our customers are very supportive of emerging local authors, especially those who set novels in the Lake District, and we always highlight these books for people. I think people enjoy reading a book set in the area they are visiting. There seem to be a lot of crime novels set in the Lakes and I think the idyllic setting provides a stark contrast to a grisly plot.
2. Due to your location, do you find that your customers are from a diverse range of countries?
Yes, there is a lot of diversity and last year there was a marked increase in international visitors which we think was predominantly due to the weak pound encouraging people to visit the UK while the exchange rate was low. Meeting people from different countries is one of the special aspects of working in Bookends in Keswick and it’s always lovely to hear other languages in the bookshop and find out about their countries and what they think of the Lake District.
3. As we all know, independent bookshops are a huge part of the local community. Are there any local festivals and/or events that Bookends are involved in?
We have been involved in the Words by the Water literature festival since it began; it’s a 10-day literature festival held in Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake and it’s always a vibrant, bustling time for us. Keswick has many festivals including jazz, mountaineering and beer weekends and we always make a point of having a relevant window and stocking books which might be of interest plus we often sell books for authors during the Mountain Festival. We take part in the Keswick Advent window which is a nice way to get in the festive spirit and engage with fellow businesses. We also supply books to Keswick Museum and Keswick Theatre which increases our sales and keeps us up to date with events in the local area. We also organise our own author events and reading groups.
4. What’s your favourite thing about running an independent bookshop?
It’s a very diverse job and I like having the opportunity to be creative and flexible. The best thing about our shops are the customers though; we get to know some regulars very well and they tend to be interesting and well-informed people who are very supportive of our shop. It’s also lovely to meet a lot of visitors – they’re on holiday and are usually quite relaxed which means there’s generally an enjoyable atmosphere and I like the fact we get a lot of children in our bookshop. There are some lovely, imaginative and committed people working in the shop as well and I enjoy working closely with them too.
5. Do you have any exciting plans for your store that you’d like to share here?
We’re expanding our presence in Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake with an increased range of books and a weekly storytime. Our busy time is approaching over summer and we hope to have some book signings and children’s events in our courtyard. We just have to keep our fingers crossed that we get some decent weather!