Our October Bookshop of the Month takes us to North Yorkshire and the charming Little Ripon Bookshop. This family-run business delights with its impressive array of events, varied stock and competition-winning window displays. We spoke to Simon, Gill and Phoebe about their bookshop anniversary and their exciting plans for the last few months of the year.
1. When you set up shop back in 2009, what was your bookselling vision? How has your shop developed and grown over the past 10 years?
We set up the shop in 2009 at probably the worst time for independent bookshops, with the rise of ebooks and all the talk in the media about the death of the book. Our vision was to stand against that negativity and defend the book, to encourage both children and adults to read, and to add something to Ripon. We were only a small shop in a small city, but we felt that what we were doing was important and if we could make a go of it then anyone could do it in every town across the country, and we still feel like that! Over the last 10 years, we have established the business, built links to local schools, run and been involved with an array of local events, and played an important role in our community. In September 2018 we expanded into the shop next door and more than doubled the space we initially opened back in 2009. It has been fantastic to have all that extra space to use, and we are now able to host bookclub, storytimes, events and workshops etc. in the shop itself.
2. As mentioned above, 2019 marks a decade of The Little Ripon Bookshop. How are you planning to celebrate this important milestone?
Our little shop was 10 years old in July, and our new shop will be one in September, so all year has felt something like a celebration! We are planning on celebrating our joint tenth and first birthdays this autumn, and it will be a matter of bunting, birthday cake, bubbly and some special offers… We love a bit of a do!
3. You are well-known for your fabulous window displays. How do you go about creating these visual masterpieces? Which of your booksellers take the lead?
We have always seen the shop windows as the most obvious way of engaging local customers and we’ve set out to have fun with them! Phoebe is our main creative force in designing the windows and she has had some notable successes and won us some competitions with gigantic book replicas, tentacles and all sorts. We’ve also had a number of children’s book illustrators come and ‘take over’ our children’s window with their characters – including lions, unicorns and anteaters! Our aim is to promote our favourite titles and tempt people into the shop, and it always helps if the window shows we’re having fun.
4. The Little Ripon Bookshop has a bustling events schedule. What has been your favourite event from the past year?
We’ve had some wonderful events ranging from a cookery demonstration to a Harry Potter Night, from Coffee with Crime to Poetry and music. One of our all-time favourite events was our Alan Johnson interview accompanied by Ripon Grammar School’s Man Choir singing a medley of Beatles hits! Notable highlights this year have included a piratical event with the wonderful Jonny Duddle, our Unicorn Workshop with the incredible illustrator Jane Ray and a visit from Sally Urwin, a Northumbrian farmer with a nappy-wearing lamb. We’re always keen to do as much as we can with more authors and illustrators and to really put Ripon on the map for events.
5. And finally, do you have any exciting plans for the shop in the coming months that you’d like to share with us?
Christmas is obviously our most important time of year and we’re planning a fabulous late-night shopping evening with themed cocktails! Last year we developed a lovely VirGINia Woolf cocktail to refresh our evening shoppers and this year we’re planning something even more delicious. On the children’s side of the business we will be hosting ‘The Great Big Book Hullabaloo’ in October to celebrate reading for all the Year 3 children in Ripon. The aim will be to ‘Get Loud About Reading!’ and we plan on doing just that!