Saltburn’s Book Corner has lots of great stories to tell
By Rob Ten
Monday 13 Nov 2017 15:56:00
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Read All About It!   This may be an increasingly digital age, but a huge passion for books has led to ‘one of the country’s smallest bookshops’ going from strength to strength in Saltburn over the last three years.

Jenna Warren opened the Book Corner in May 2014, with the shop quickly becoming a favourite landmark with the local community and tourists alike in the postcard-pretty seaside town.

And its growing popularity even enabled the shop to move to slightly larger premises in the town’s increasingly vibrant Milton Street earlier this year.

We spoke to Jenna about her passion for books, and the creative community spirit she says helps the town stand out from the crowd.

Book CornerWhat inspired you to open the shop?

“Saltburn’s an amazing place. I’ve lived here most of my life, and found it surprising that we had no independent bookshop selling new books.

“I was looking to create a positive career for myself, something I loved doing day-to-day. And, although I had no prior experience as a bookseller, I did have other retail experience and, very importantly, a huge love of books!

“So that was my main inspiration, a huge love of books, and I opened a tiny unit on Station Square in May 2014.

“It was so tiny that Jen Campbell, one of my first visiting authors, said she thought it might be the smallest bookshop in Europe – and she won’t have been far wrong!

“Then I had the opportunity to move into my current slightly larger shop on Milton Street, and I opened up here in March earlier this year.

“Mind you, it’s easily still one of the smallest bookshops in the country, and probably one of only a handful with a sea view looking straight through the front door. I love it here.”

Community obviously plays a big part in the day-to-day life of the shop?

“Saltburn has a real sense of community – a fantastic place to be - and I now have a loyal core of good local customers as well as visitors from further afield.

“I obviously love it here, and I try and contribute to the town’s community as much as I can – by donating books as raffle prizes, sponsoring a planter or hanging basket for Saltburn in Bloom, contributing to the town’s Christmas Lights each year, and selling tickets for local concerts.

“I also embrace Saltburn Food Festival, which is an amazing day and attracts a huge number of visitors to the town. This year I put together a food-themed bookstall, and I also enjoy meeting people who browse the rest of the town after visiting our monthly Farmers’ Market.”

Being a small independent bookshop, how else do you stand out from the bigger household names?

“Well, we can obviously order any book currently in print for anyone who wants to spend their money locally rather than be swallowed up by multi-nationals somewhere or other.

“But the shop is small enough for me to enjoy carefully selecting my range of books – something you may not find on a typical supermarket shelf.

“My focus is on carefully selected novels, non-fiction and children’s books. Nature writing is particularly popular – especially given that we’re based right on the coast and have the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors and Yorkshire Dales on our doorsteps.

“Some of my bestsellers this year have been How to Stop Time by Matt Haig, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel, and the ever-popular British Library Crime Classics series.

“There’s also quite a vibrant local poetry and live literature scene, so I have a busy poetry section too.”

And local writers are given pride of place on your shelves?

“Rather than tuck them away on a shelf called ‘local,’ I include local and self-published writers in my main fiction section.

“I think this gives everyone a fair chance when placed alongside more established writers and household names.

“I’ve also found it helps to keep all my fiction in one section, as I like the idea a customer might discover something new they otherwise may not have tried if it had been displayed under sci-fi or some other category.”

You also have a busy events diary and run a Book Club?

“I regularly host book signings with local (and not so local) authors, and readings from local poets – and they’re always great fun and really enjoyable days.

“And this summer it was exciting to host my first two book launches…

“Carmen Marcus, a Saltburn-based novelist and performance poet had her debut novel How Saints Die published to lots of national critical acclaim, and she came along and did a reading in the shop.

“A couple of weeks later, Em Lynas launched her debut children’s novel You Can’t Make Me Go to Witch School!

“They were both fantastic days, and we’re adding to the events diary all the time.

“We also have our Book Corner book group, which has grown steadily over the last few years and is now very popular.

“I host it in the shop and we take turns to choose the book, which has led to plenty of variety in our reading material, and plenty of new friends being made along the way.”

And there’s plenty for families & children to enjoy?

“I like to think my bookshop has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I have a dedicated children’s section with colourful cushions, so children can sit and read, and an activity table where I keep colouring and activity sheets. I’ve also recently started holding occasional children’s storytime sessions.

“The bookshop is also dog-friendly, as are an increasing number of Saltburn shops, perfect for people out walking along the coast or on the moors.”

Still on a literary theme, you recently directed your first play?

“Yes, The Phantom of the Opera at Saltburn Community Theatre. I chose Phantom because it's my favourite story, and has been ever since I first saw the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. 

“I used a version I had adapted myself from the original novel mainly because I couldn't find a published version which I felt was quite right for our theatre group. It also meant we could use the lovely music of the time the story is set (the 1880s). 

“I was delighted with how it went. The cast, musicians and production team were terrific, and the audience was amazing.

“I would really like to write an original play or adapt another novel for the stage - and I would love to direct again, whether it was something I had adapted or an existing play.” 

Finally, being a bookseller, what would be your five Desert Island Books?

Ouch! That’s a tricky question to ask a bookseller, but here goes…

The Humans, by Matt Haig: A beautiful book. I love Matt Haig's writing style, the way he's both very humorous and very poignant. The story is also lovely, with the main character (an alien) learning to empathise with the humans around him. 

The Understudy, by David Nicholls: I've read this several times and I find it hilarious. The main character is a struggling actor who has to understudy a completely insufferable star in a West End play. I enjoy 'backstage' stories in general, but this has all of David Nicholl's trademark humour and spot-on characterisation. 

Jonathan Unleashed, by Meg Rosoff: This is the story of a young man, fresh out of university, who doesn't really know what he wants to do with his life. I think Rosoff manages to really capture what can be a confusing time for many people. It's also very clever because it feels like it's going to be a fairly typical romantic comedy, but then she sends it off in some very original directions!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon: This is one of the first novels that really inspired me as a writer.  The story is structured in a way which absolutely reflects how the main character sees the world.  I love how he uses drawings and diagrams as well as text.  I've never read another novel quite like it, before or since. 

A Robot in the Garden, by Deborah Install: A man finds a broken robot in his garden, and goes on a round-the-world road trip in order to find its owner, so it can be mended.  But Tang - the robot - has a personality and mind of his own, and the trip is fraught with chaos.  It's a lovely story about friendship and responsibility, and I laughed my head off.

“Can I also take The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux too?”

Book Corner: 24 Milton Street, Saltburn. 01287 348010. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Book-Corner-Saltburn-1506322029595573/

Book Corner Website: www.bookcornershop.co.uk

Jenna

 Photos - Stuart Boulton



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