Located in a picturesque location, this week’s Bookspot Of The Week is a space that actively and consistently promote books that center people, experiences, and the perspectives of people that have been historically under-represented. Round Table Books CIC makes it their mission to be a safe and healthy space to connect with the local community. Read on to discover more about this week’s bookspot.
How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?
The bookshop was first started in 2018 by Aimée Felone and David Stevens as a week-long pop-up on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton to champion diverse books. The initiative was a response to the Centre of Literacy and Primary Education’s Reflecting Realities report which highlighted that less than 1% of children’s books featured a Black or minority ethnic main character. The pop-up was a huge success, and from this success, money was raised through a crowdfunding initiative for a permanent bookshop. The goal was reached and three years ago Round Table Books CIC was born!
What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?
We are a Community Interest Company, therefore a type of social enterprise. One part of the organization needs to raise funds to facilitate community-based projects. The bookshop is committed to only selling diverse books written by diverse authors and/ or with diverse representation. We believe in championing under-represented voices and celebrating experiences currently still in the minority in publishing. The profits from the sale of the books are used to fund various community events and projects.
If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?
To develop on the foundations we are currently creating. We are working towards Round Table being a vital community hub; a literary space in the heart of Lambeth, where children and adults feel safe to have complex conversations. We would like a place that can be used for workshops, book clubs, and events, but fundamentally, we would like to share that space with our community, for it to be a co-operative hub.
How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?
The bookshop exists because of the needs in the community and the necessity of challenging the under-representation of various demographics in publishing. The local community created the organization by supporting the pop-up and continuing to support the bookshop. We do everything we can to make sure their needs and wants are met first and foremost. This means that we are not only a place that sells books but a safe space for them to come and just be.
What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?
We put our community first and we believe in the importance of working in partnership with other organizations working towards similar goals. Responding to the needs of our community at a grassroots level can only be achieved by being a physical presence in the community.
Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?
As we are such a tiny team we rely on each other to hold each other accountable — making sure that our ethos is always being met. It helps that our team is all committed to making sure readers are represented inside and outside the bookshop.
How else do you create a welcoming environment?
Always welcoming each and every person coming into the space and always making time for conversation.
What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?
We’re one of a kind and are always happy to welcome customers in — even if it’s just for a chat about some books they’ve read recently.
Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?
Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?
We work hard to cater to the specific needs of our community by listening to their book requests and paying specific attention to titles that don’t stay on the shelves for long. We also listen to the wider diverse community for books that we predict will be in demand.
Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?
We know that it’s not always possible to come into the shop, so we do have an online shop. Due to the events of the past two years, a proportion of our sales have come through the website where you can access some of our favorite titles. Be sure to check us out: roundtablebooks.co.uk
What’s your favorite book?
I am reading People Person by Candice Carty-Williams, this book is going to be massive this year!
For more Bookspots Of The Week, click here!