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Haringey blogger: Cash-mob generosity is rich reward for Wood Green bookshop

More than 70 people turned out to spend £10 each at Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green More than 70 people turned out to spend £10 each at Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green

Rachella Sinclair
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
7:00 AM

The cash-mob started in New York to mobilise people who wanted to band together to help independent businesses as the economy made it a struggle for them to keep their doors open.

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It’s the grown-up version of the flash mob—where a seemingly spontaneous crowd of people gather suddenly to perform a silly public act. Cash mobs have more purpose. Instead of making a public spectacle, participants use social media to pledge to spend £10 at a pre-determined place, and then they show up and do just that. Now the phenomenon is sweeping through north London.

The cash mob came to Wood Green on Sunday at the Big Green Bookshop, organised by Richard McKeever, creator of local website Bowes and Bounds Connected, with help from other local sites Harringay Online and Noel Park net who helped spread the word. This is the third cash mob in Haringey so far, and more are planned.

“We want to celebrate what’s great about our community, and promote the stuff that we think should be on our high streets,” said McKeever. Apparently, other community members agree. More than 70 people arrived with money in their pockets to show their support for Big Green Bookshop.

The atmosphere was festive. People made room for each other among the books and drank mulled wine while catching up with their neighbours, meeting people they previously only knew on Twitter and queuing for the tills.

Owners Simon Key and Tim West were thrilled with the result. “I don’t know how we were chosen when so many businesses deserve this, but it’s brilliant,” said West. Key was equally humble: “It means such a lot to be seen by the community as something people want to support,” he told the crowd.

The attitude of the owners hints at the reason Big Green Bookshop is still in business at a time when many independent businesses in general, and bookshops in particular, are closing their doors. Just a few yards off of busy Wood Green High Road, land of few independent businesses, and even less that provide valuable services to neighbouring communities, Big Green Bookshop is a beacon of hope to residents like me who want to see quality retail on the high road.

I’m a big reader so I’m happy to live near a bookshop where I can buy good books or order obscure titles that are hard to find in the big chains, but Big Green Bookshop is more than just a retail destination.

It offers community-based activities nearly every evening of the week including author talks, children’s events, comedy nights, board games, knitting groups and writing groups. “Since we first opened nearly five years ago, we wanted to be like an old-fashioned community bookshop where the people who come into our shop are more to us than customers. We just want to be the best thing for our community. I guess that seems to have worked,” says Key.

It’s worked so well that Key and West will be opening a second shop in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire later this month. Not surprisingly, Key says that he doesn’t measure success by how much money he makes —he and his business partner put most of the money they make back into the business—but by the sense of pride he feels providing something the community wants. “I’m hoping that other independent businesses will see the potential Wood Green has and will want to come here now. I’d love to see some more traditional shops come back to Wood Green.”

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