Radical bookshop co-operative takes over former bank building in Southampton

'There is something about radical bookshops, especially long-established ones like October Books. They have a special place in the hearts of local people'

October Books, a radical bookshop co-op in Southampton, plans to turn a former bank building into a community hub.

On 6 August the co-op became the legal freehold owner of the former NatWest branch at 189 Portswood Road. The co-op raised £487,800 through a combination of loan stock, crowd funding, personal loans and gifts, and a loan from Co-operative & Community Finance.

It will use the ground floor of the building, which will double up as a community hub, and the top floor has already been sold to a private leaseholder. The first floor is being sold to the Society of St James, a local charity for homeless people.

The co-op, currently based at a smaller site on the same street, is renovating the premises and plans to open the new store in October. It will continue to sell a range of popular fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, radical books and magazines, specialising in adoption, humanities, political, and social issues.

Customers can also choose from a variety of greeting cards, organic and fair-trade foods and green household items.

The bookshop runs with support from five employees and a team of over 40 volunteers and supporters.

Clare Diaper, who joined the team in 2016, said: “We have recently extended membership of the co-op to customers. We want local people to have the chance to get involved in the business and influence what we do and sell.

“We have been amazed by the support we have had from the local community and we want to give something back.”

October Books bookshop (Photo: Co-operative & Community Finance)

Founded in 1977, October Books has been providing books for the local community for over 40 years. The crowdfunder aimed to secure the long-term future of the bookshop by helping it to establish a permanent base.

Ian Rothwell, investment manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “There is something about radical bookshops, especially long-established ones like October Books. They have a special place in the hearts of local people and now by opening up the old bank to community use that bond will become even stronger.”

Members of the co-op include singer/songwriter Jaquie Daniels, who composed a special song, Buying the Bank, to show the strong community spirit within the co-op bookshop.

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