How Sheffield bookshop survived to fly the flag for independents

David Granville, of Kelham Island Books and Music, who used to run Books on the Park. Picture: Andrew Roe
David Granville, of Kelham Island Books and Music, who used to run Books on the Park. Picture: Andrew Roe

It could easily have been a very different story, says bookseller David Granville.

When his shop Books on the Park was forced to shut on Ecclesall Road, its lease having expired, he was on the verge of leaving the trade completely.

David Granville, of Kelham Island Books and Music, who used to run Books on the Park. Picture: Andrew Roe

David Granville, of Kelham Island Books and Music, who used to run Books on the Park. Picture: Andrew Roe

"I was just three to four weeks away from having to call it a day, put the remaining stock in storage and take some time out to work out what to do with the rest of my life," he admits.

It would have spelled the demise of yet another treasure trove of second-hand books, art prints and records, driven by factors such as high rents and competition from the internet. The planned demolition of Rare & Racy, which closed last summer on Devonshire Street ahead of a redevelopment scheme, prompted a petition with 20,000 signatures, an outcry led by the likes of Jarvis Cocker who said it would be 'a crime to destroy' the shop.

But David managed to find new premises at the last minute. 

Kelham Island Books & Music is close to the Shalesmoor roundabout, in a good spot near Krynkl - the complex made from recycled shipping containers - and opposite the Nichols Building, the former grocer's warehouse earmarked for a £6 million revamp bringing 50 apartments as well as cafés, bars and retail space.

David Granville, of Kelham Island Books and Music, who used to run Books on the Park. Picture: Andrew Roe

David Granville, of Kelham Island Books and Music, who used to run Books on the Park. Picture: Andrew Roe

"Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the move and the way things have turned out," says David. "It could have been very different. But now it’s full steam ahead - initially for three years but hopefully longer."

Books on the Park operated in various locations near Endcliffe Park for 15 years, most recently in a unit close to the junction with Rustlings Road. It closed in late May, and everything was moved down to Shalesmoor by the end of June.

"It was one hell of a job, given we were experiencing Britain’s hottest summer on record," says David.

The new incarnation's home was formerly Coincidence Lifestore, a purveyor of Nordic-inspired goods, and before that a bicycle outlet and a motorbike dealership. David has been testing the waters before settling on fixed opening hours, but the response has been positive so far.

"We’ve had a great reception from both new customers in the local area and from the steady stream of familiar faces who’ve followed us down from Endcliffe Park," he says.

From September 19 the place will be open five days a week from Wednesday to Sunday. The new shop is bigger than Books on the Park and is essentially one large room suitable for author events and community meetings - at least one writers' group has already expressed an interest in using it as a venue.

More artwork and an increased range of stock is now being offered too, particularly books at bargain prices, both fiction and non-fiction. 

Record collectors can browse a wider selection of vinyl, especially seven-inch singles. "We didn’t really have the room to display them properly but we now have a whole table dedicated to singles and there is lots more stock waiting to be processed," David says.

The loss of Rare & Racy after nearly 50 years was an enormous blow to Sheffield’s cultural life, he thinks. 

"I would have felt very bad if we’d had to go the same way. We’ll never replace them but I like to think we operate with a similar spirit."