The team behind one of Britain’s best-loved bookshops didn’t disappoint and the evening to celebrate the commendable anniversary was made suitably merry by 1970s fancy dress and some spirited speeches among the nooks and crannies of the incredible shop.
David Mitchell bought Scarthin House in front of the millpond at Cromford in 1972. Then it was a house with a shop on the ground floor. A couple of years later they opened the bookshop.
Eventually the books began to creep into every room in the house – even the roofspace and after 20 years the family moved next door allowing the shop to spread room by room until it filled the entire building and some. There are now in excess of 100,000 books in the labyrinthine shop.
The café and children’s bookshop were opened in 1994 and to mark this anniversary a new music room is to be opened, the art room is being redecorated and the mind, body and spirit room and foreign languages room are being revamped. And thanks to help from a James Patterson Grant aimed at independent bookshops there should be a new carpet downstairs for 2015.
Over the years David, who admits his own eccentricities don’t necessarily equate with the smooth order of things, has been helped by a dedicated band of workers. He is the man behind secret messages hidden in books, quotations in unexpected places and the fact there is probably a book on every conceivable subject.
His team take care of the smooth running of the shop day to day making sure it remains viable in the 21st century.
The current general manager is David Booker who has been part of the team for several years and he says the joy of working at Scarthin is the constant sense of excitement and the fact that things are always changing.
“Even though we are celebrating 40 years of the bookshop the best thing is that we are not just looking back,” he said.
“The team we have here now is very positive and strong and we are now focusing on being more than just a bookshop – we look at ourselves as a destination venue. The vegetarian café brings in a lot of customers and we are starting to host more events.
“At a time when some bookshops are struggling and there are less than a thousand left in the country it really is good news that we are doing better year on year.”
As you would expect of Scarthin the shop’s website, scarthinbooks.com is also legendary and packed with news, useful snippets, little known facts, links to accommodation so you can make a weekend of your visit and of course a chance to buy books from the shop online if you just can’t get to Cromford.
Gavin Repton, the Wirksworth filmmaker featured in artsbeat a couple of months ago, has made a short film about the bookshop which you can see here.