How a human chain made world news of a small co-op bookstore

When Southampton's October Books invited volunteers to help the move to its new home, it hit headlines around the globe

Radical bookstore co-op October Books has made a move to new premises – with the help of 250 volunteers.

The Southampton co-op made headlines around the world when supporters formed a human chain to move more than 2,000 books along the 150 metre route to its new home.

Locals came together after the co-op appealed for help on its Facebook page and lined the route between its old home and the new premises to pass the stock along. Passers-by stopped to join in and cafes along the way provided volunteers with refreshments.

News of the joint effort – designed by the co-op as an accessible way for people to come together to contribute – went global, with admiring reports by the Washington Post, New York Times, Guardian, Huffington Post, BBC and CNN.

The move meant high-profile reports not just of October Books, but about co-operation, community action and community fundraising, with the story shared in countries including Brazil, Taiwan, France and Cananda.

October Books’ new site
October Books’ new site in a former Nat West building

“It was a tremendous show of support and community and we’re moved and incredibly touched by it,” Clare Diaper, who works at October Books, told reporters. “We are of, and for, our community and it is truly heartening to see that reciprocated.”

As a shining example of the principle 6 – co-operation among co-operatives – in action, volunteers included members of the co-operative youth organisation the Woodcraft Folk and local community interest company Art House Cafe, which also helped decorate the new store.

Ian Rothwell from Co-operative and Community Finance (CCF), which supported October Books in its purchase of the new site, also joined the chain, alongside members of the city’s Hamwic housing co-operative and sector organisations Co-op Culture and Co-operantics.


One of the locals who joined the human chain, Jani Franck, told the Southern Daily Echo: “It’s amazing. The power of community coming together and achieving something like this. October Books have done really well. I’m in awe.”

October Books, which formed in 1977, bought the site, a former NatWest bank, in August and plans to create a community hub. The stock will be stored in the old vault of the bank.

It raised £487,800 it needed to buy its new premises through a combination of loan stock, crowd funding, personal loans and gifts, and a loan from Co-operative & Community Finance.

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