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‘A town without a bookshop is a town without a soul’: Welsh bookshops shortlisted for top industry award

15 Mar 2022 5 minute read
The co-owner of Gwisgo Bookworm Nikki Brewer.

Six Welsh Bookshops have been shortlisted in the best independent bookshop award – or the Nibbies – awarded to the best of the book world.

For Gwisgo Bookworm of Aberaeron it is the first time on the short-list and celebrates a roller-coaster five years since opening in 2017. “We’re delighted to be on the list and amongst so many leading bookshops.” Commented co-owner Nikki Brewer.

Gwisgo Bookworm are on the main road through Aberaeron opposite the Square and offer a mix of new and second-hand books and records. There’s an extensive children’s section covering all ages and a good range of Welsh learning material. They are haven for browsers both local and holiday makers looking for something unexpected to read. There’s even a selection of vintage leather bags, a reminder of Karen Brewer’s earlier vintage clothes stall in Aberaeron Craft Market.

Aberaeron Book festival

“Our range has expanded considerably since we started with a lot more new books.” They have a strong contemporary Welsh literature section and a fine selection of maps and guides as well as best-sellers. The team at Gwisgo Bookworm will be running the Aberaeron Book festival this Autumn.

The other five bookshops on the list are from across Wales. The Mold Bookshop has been selling books since 1981 and moved to their present location on the Upper High St in 1993. Owner Caroline Johnson organises a lively events programme and you can catch Sir David Hanson interviewing Richard King about his new book Brittle With Relics on the 30 March. They also have a strong history section and a wide range of maps and guides. They also make a feature of eye-catching themed window displays.

Another bookshop with a wide-ranging events programme as well as running an annual festival are Book-ish of Crickhowell. The busy shop and café on the High St was awarded the Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2020 and owner Emma Corvish-Walters was delighted to be on the Welsh shortlist again. “It’s been quite a year.” Bookish even managed to reach out to their community to help them buy the bookshop building after the future was put in doubt due to an unexpected sale by the landlord. There’s a strong environmental theme to their stock and you can catch Ben Lawrence talk about his book The Treeline on 30 March in their events programme.

Griffin Books is at the centre of Penarth on Windsor Road and proclaims on its website that on Windsor Road that “a town without a bookshop is a town without a soul”. Mel Griffin is the proud owner “Since my teenage years when I had a Saturday job in my local bookshop, it had always been my dream to one day own my own.  After nearly 30 years working in IT for a global corporation, I was finally able to realise my dream in September 2014 when I bought the established bookshop in Penarth.

It has been a steep learning curve but I’m pleased to say that the shop is flourishing, and I still genuinely look forward to coming to work each day!”

Griffin’s also holds an annual literary festival and made a big feature of their online service during lock-down offering free, usually hand delivery during lockdown or a collection service from the front of the shop. Upcoming events at Griffins include local authors Katie Munnik and Dave Towsey in April.

Happy customers outside Cover to Cover with their signed books

Tucked away on St Mary St, The Chepstow Bookshop have a lively events programme are already looking ahead to summer with a book event on how best to wild swim on the river Wye by Angela Jones. Owner Matt Taylor has developed a lively social media presence engaging with readers and recommending books and sees the Chepstow Bookshop as very much part of the community. They also specialise in signed copies and have an extensive children’s section.

Cover to Cover is on the top of the hill on the Newton Road in the Mumbles with a fine view over the bay. Owner Tim Batcup a former full time musician and music writer who took over the shop in 2017 quotes Neil Gaiman on their website “A book is a dream that you can hold in your hand”  while  Tim very much sees the bookshop as part of the community of Mumbles with popular events with local and national figures.

Max Boyce packed the place out just before Christmas while new Swansea imprint Aderyn press will be launching Rebecca John’s The Empty Greatcoat this Saturday (19 March). Tim is a long-term bibliophile and is committed to stocking a fascinating range of books for all readers.

The winner of the Wales independent bookshop of the year is announced this week with the overall UK winner later in the year.

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arthur owen
arthur owen
2 years ago

You can take your pick, you could say a town or village without a church,without a pub or without a school is without a soul.Any other suggestions.

2 years ago
Reply to  arthur owen

A town without a chip shop is a town without sole.
As is a town without a shoe shop

2 years ago

Bookshops are great. But you are kind of limited to whatever they stock. Even if they will order in for you, Amazon is quicker.
And E-readers exist.

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