How Yorkshire's independent bookshops may be witnessing a 'renaissance' as the heart of the high street
And for Yorkshire's independents, on market squares or vibrant precincts and quaint cobbled streets, they can bring a sense of community that has come to be cherished.
As today sees the start of Independent Bookshop Week, it shines a light on the hidden gems that are enjoying a "renaissance" across the nation. For what greater symbol might there be of a high street's vibrancy, than that of the vivid charm and quirky colour of these characterful little shops. In the wake of lockdowns, some suggest, they are more prized than ever before.
"They are so individual. It doesn't matter which bookshop you go to they are all so different," said Alan and Claire Flack, who opened Leyburn's The Wonky Tree last September. "It's the personality the shop has, that draws people in."
Independent Bookshop Week, by the Booksellers Association, runs until June 24. Some 700 independent shops are set to take part, with events, book signings and visits.
In Yorkshire, several are to host a Great North Author Tour, from Thirsk to Ripon and Leyburn, as it whips through the region with 11 writers on whistlestop signings. Then there are the school visits, book club groups, and special events, all aimed at encouraging people to visit their local bookstore.
At Kemps, in Malton, owner Liz Kemp said an independent bookshop is more than a store. It's integrated into a high street, and into a community, and people come not just to shop but to talk about books or hold book clubs or just to chat.
"People come just to loiter, for an hour between coffee and lunch," she said. "It's somewhere that gives people a really special space to discover something new. And it's a joy, it's a joy just to watch a child running to find their next book."
Many independent shops on the nation's high streets have struggled over recent years, and bookshops are no different. Still, Mrs Kemp believes, they are seeing a "renaissance".
"To have the vibrancy and resilience and variety of a local high street, a bookshop can bring something special to that. We have taken on the character of the place that we are."
And back at The Wonky Tree, with an emphasis on sustainability, recycled materials, rainforest support with charitable donations to Just One Tree, the idea is the same. Books here are carefully curated, chosen perhaps for just one customer. There is no 'competition' between booksellers, laughed Mr Flack, it's all so supportive.
"Independent bookshops add to the vibrancy of a high street, they can be at the heart of a community, and that's what we want to be," added Mrs Flack. "And it's a wonderful way to inspire imaginations. The number of people that come in and stand in the doorway just smelling the books... it brings back something from their past."