Bookhaus: the new independent bookshop to become a ‘cultural hub’ in Bristol

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By Kitty Lawton, Third Year English

Renowned for being a home to multiple independent businesses in Bristol, Wapping Wharf has finally welcomed an independent bookshop to its bustling harbourside location.

Bookhaus, owned by experienced booksellers Jayne Pascoe and Kevin Ramage, opened its doors to Bristol’s booklovers on 6 August. Having already established the acclaimed Watermill Bookshop in Aberfeldy, Scotland, the couple moved to Bristol in 2019 with an irresistible urge to open a bookshop within one of Bristol’s most eminent hangout spots.

'The shop-front of Bookhaus, located in Wapping Wharf' | Epigram / Kitty Lawton

‘What a place for a bookshop’, Kevin announced to the crowd on opening day, ‘We looked and looked, and we asked and we asked, and then this place became available at the beginning of this year.’

With Bookhaus situated on the ground floor of Hope Quay along Rope Walk, surrounded by many favoured independent businesses such as Bush Bristol and Mokoko, the couple felt that Wapping Wharf was the perfect location to achieve their vision of a bookshop which aligned with the community and culture of Bristol.

‘I didn’t want a shop that was too tiny’, Kevin remarked, ‘but one that was big enough to have events, to have writing groups, as well as to obviously stock a wide range of books. Our aspiration here with Bookhaus is to create a bookshop which will serve on the one hand for the burgeoning, vibrant community of central Bristol and South Bristol, and on the other hand for visitors who are visiting the harbourside.’

From their impressive selection of books covering a wide range of current topics and issues, Bookhaus have undoubtedly achieved their goal of providing a stock which will cater to the needs and interests of the city itself. Darran McLaughlin, who Kevin and Jayne appointed manager of the shop, explained to Epigram the advantages of independent bookshops over large chains, especially when it comes to connecting with local customers.

‘We have a vision for this shop that we hope will fit in well with the culture and community in Bristol’, Darran exclaimed, ‘which means we aren’t being directed by the interests or vision of a corporation.’ He continued, ‘We aim to have a good selection of books on the environment and climate change, which, having been involved in climate activism is of interest to me, but also to many people in Bristol. We also aim to have a good range of books by black and brown authors, books of local interest and local history, books of food and drink (reflecting our location surrounded by lots of cafes and restaurants) and radical politics. We can choose to focus on these areas because we have the freedom to do so.’

Although Kevin and Jayne moved to Bristol to retire, be closer to their families and fulfil their desire to live in a big city, Darran explained why Bristol in particular was so fitting for the trio’s vision. ‘Bristol is a big city with a vibrant culture and highly educated population’, he said, ‘so it feels like there is room for a bookshop like ours.’

Despite the UK being forced in and out of lockdown since March last year, with non-essential retail taking a huge hit as a result, the number of independent bookshops actually rose from 890 shops in 2019 to 967 shops by the end of 2020, according to The Bookseller’s Association. Additionally, bookshops have experienced a surge of support since the pandemic, with lockdown acting as a reminder of what really matters: community – especially when things get tough.

The friendly and welcoming atmosphere created by Kevin, Jayne and Darran at Bookhaus was undeniable from the evening that the bookshop opened. Not only did the shop’s red, cosy, and bookcase-heavy interior ignite feelings of warmth and fuzziness in your heart, but the owners’ exceptional people-skills and promise to host reading and writing groups for locals left customers certain that Bristol had just gained its next best hangout.

Alongside independent bookshops being a great place to indulge in the interests of your city and connect with your neighbours, Darran also expressed the vital importance of supporting small businesses like Bookhaus, especially considering the crushing competition that they face. ‘Big chains and corporations have an unhealthy level of dominance in the fields in which they operate’, he said, ‘which will tend to have a negative impact upon consumers, suppliers and competing businesses. I was in the book industry for years before leaving about a decade ago, when it looked like Amazon and the Supermarkets were going to crush bookshops and potentially several publishers through their monopolistic market dominance.’

However, communities have acted as a salvation for small bookshops over the past year and a half, with Darran beaming that ‘Thankfully, bookshops have made a comeback and people have rediscovered their love for local bookshops.’ By sticking together and resisting our modern-day tendency to grab everything off Amazon Prime, we can continue to support the businesses which are so invaluable to our community.

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We have all felt a sense of entrapment over the past year and a half, with lockdowns regularly confining us to our houses. We have, however, been able to escape through literature, transcending the limitations placed upon us through the stories that we read. So, next time you feel like some escapism, why not find it at a place bursting with passion and enthusiasm for the books that they sell.

Featured Image: Epigram / Kitty Lawton


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