Come on in, we are open!

What is the value, for a neighbourhood and community, to have in its midst a shop that can provide a rich choice of books, books which you can look at before you buy, maybe read a bit, while you are having a cup of coffee?

What if the staff were friendly and knowledgable, were involved with the area and helped promote reading and writing, arranged historical walks and knitting sessions, invited famous authors for talks and readings, and promoted local talent?

As a neighbourhood and community we are probably quite lucky to have such a place, alongside all the other convenient shopping facilities on the High Street, while at the same time even arty Crouch End is bemoaning the loss of a treasured last independent bookstore.

Because the Big Green Bookshop in Brampton Park Road is different: it has been a cosy, independently run, hassle free oasis of culture for over three years now, and is certainly more than just a replacement for the Waterstones on the High Street, which has long gone.

I met the owners Tim West and Simon Key, who explained to me their motivation and vision of a 'local' book shop in Wood Green.

Tim and Simon from the Big Green Bookshop

Blue Sky Thinking: Simon (left) and Tim are bucking High Street trends by favouring local issues

Both Tim and Simon have longstanding ties to the area, Tim, in fact, is a born and bred 'Muswell Hillbilly', while Simon lives just around the corner from the shop in Noel Park.

But what made them set up shop next to a massive shopping centre, in an area traditionally more fertile for betting shops and internet cafés, and far from the leafy hot spots of the literary elite, located higher up on the hills of London?

Simon explains: "This area really needed a good shop. It's a busy area, but it has a heart of gold underneath. Unfortunately this area is written off sometimes without proper thought; but when the Waterstones closed it was crying out for a good book shop."

What sets the Big Green Bookshop apart from other shops is that they keep on going even after closing time.

In the evenings the shop turns into a venue, a workshop, a meeting place. There are events that you would expect, such as readings and book signings. But did you know that, every first Sunday of the month, they host a 'Knitting Club'? What is all that about?

"We do hundreds of events and we try to organise a wide variety of events for different people. We don't have a core audience. Also, many people still don't even know that we are here. Others may not know that we carry books on particular topics, such as sports, unless we had events that highlighted this."

To further distinguish themselves from the corporate chain stores dominating the High Street, Tim and Simon are trying to put their weight behind the promotion of local talent, bucking the general trend which tends to give the already established and successful all the breaks.

"We want to support and encourage local authors, musicians, poets, which is why we are going beyond the traditional book events here, we have comedy nights, poetry sessions, the knitting club, quizes... "

"We don't cater for a particular age group either. We do storytelling and singing for the under fives, the kids love it, and so do their mums!"

And what would Tim and Simon like to see from the local community to support their work?

"Feedback! We try to run the shop with our customers. We need to know how they want to shop."

"But above all we need people to know we are here. People could walk down the High Street every day and still don't know we existed."

"If there is anybody out there, who has not been in the shop yet, we think they should come and visit."

The Big Green Bookshop
Unit 1, Brampton Park Road
Wood Green
N22 6BG

Tel 020 8881 6767


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