Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 10 Nov 2015

Foyles in Birmingham Grand Central

I finally got to see the newly re-designed New Street Station in Birmingham and pretty impressive it is too. Mind you, the old New Street Station was so unbelievably horrible it's hard to see how they could have failed to improve on it. Above the station concourse there is a shopping centre that they've called Grand Central - which has a range of restaurants and some fairly chi-chi retail outlets and , joy of life, a Foyles bookshop.

If you know Birmingham at all, you'll understand why this is such a moment. Bookshops in the Second City are a rare and endangered species - I understand that the current two Waterstones shops are being condensed into one in order to make space for a new Apple store and this is a depressing sign of the times. Birmingham also has nothing much by way of independent or second hand book shops and I'd pretty much given up on ever seeing books given a fair crack of the whip. So Foyles are now on my list of heroes for giving it a go.

When I went to see the shop it was about 7.00pm on a Monday evening and the place was still buzzing. This is remarkable in a city that likes to wrap up and go home at 5.30pm and the people of Birmingham have had nothing like this since the long lamented Borders shop that helped anchor the new Bull Ring before it went down the financial toilet. The Foyles shop itself is still bedding in but it's bright and crammed nicely with books on colourful unconventional shelving and browsers are helped by good signage and new titles being given prominance. 

Sadly, having no back catalogue worth talking about has become a feature of pretty much all bookshops these days - it's presumably a space and turnover thing - but I really would like to see someone buck the trend. Despite this, I would expect Foyles to be a success - although the rents in this new development must be eye-watering and the amount of books they will need to shift must be genuinely awesome.

I'll certainly make a point of paying them a visit whenever I am in Birmingham centre - Foyles have gone out on a limb in a city that needs more bookshops and I can only wish them any success.


Terry Potter

November 2015