This weekend has been a busy one, in fact this month has been really busy.
I took a week off at the beginning of the month and went back to my roots as an event manager and spent a week in a field with eight thousand teenagers and then we have a shop full of events for most of the month.
But Saturday we went all out and ran two events in one day. So, an author in the morning, with craft, a busy shop all day and then another author event in the evening with cocktails. It was full on with some other big disasters happening in the midst, like books not arriving, staff not turning up, children going missing (don’t worry we found him), melted fishbowls, ahh that’s another story.
But on Saturday night as I sat with my aching feet up, eating my lunch/dinner at 10.30pm, I thought about one of my all-time favourite books.
The book is So Much by Trish Cooke. If you are from the Caribbean, you may well have had this book in your house when you were growing up. It is a classic. The story is about a mum and baby who are having a surprise party for daddy and one by one the guests arrive, and they all make a fuss about the baby, each according to their unique characteristics.
But the bit that I sat and pondered on was the end of the book when the party is over, and baby is in his cot and thinking about all the things the guests have said about him and how loved he is.
More context needed right? On Thursday we thought we should cancel the children’s event because we only had 4 bookings. But in the end, I said we would push through. We set up the room for 12 in case come extras came. Craft ready. Author ready doors open, and the children poured in. We were grabbing chairs and crafts and squeezing them all in. There were only 3 of us and one needed to be in on the shop floor and then… One of our children from our anti racist Kids Club turned up and pitched in, his mum pitched in, as did five other parents. They cleaned the room between craft and story time (we all love glitter, deep down) and cleaned up afterwards. When a child went missing, they all hit the streets to find him. They all said thank you to us for the space and left with big smiles
In the evening we had cocktails with our author. The room was packed, and we lost two staff to an emergency. So, at the end it was just the two of us left to clear up. (A couple of hours work) Our customers stayed and wiped tables, stacked chairs and tables, swept, cleaned, moved furniture and again laughed and thanked us for the space.
In the mornings we often see mums exchange numbers and arrange coffees and play dates. In the evening I listened to total strangers from the event stand outside the shop laughing, chatting exchanging details and eventually going for a drink together.
I had always known that our events like the bookshop would be more than the platform we are giving black authors. I knew that beyond the conversations other things needed to happen to create bigger impact. And here I had a front row set to that
So, I reflected like the baby about how all the different people showed us that they loved what we do. I sighed at the joy it gives me to see the community we are helping to build. And I look forward to a future where these strong communities will do far greater things than a bookshop can ever do.
It’s been two years since we started all of this, and it has been the easiest hard two years of my life. I know we have so much more to look forward to. There are so many customers who I have never met, so many places that we want to bring the shop to, so many conferences that I want to talk at, so that I can share the stories about what we do and what others can do. We will do all those things, mostly because you will help us to do them.
Because when all is said and done, this bookshop is not about me, it has always been about you, the people who truly make it happen and are changing the world.