Posts Tagged ‘bookshops’

Waterstone’s the J D Wetherspoon of the book trade

March 22, 2020

Boss of J D Wetherspoon Tim Martin was more than happy to put staff and clientele at risk by forcing sick staff into work under threat of no sick pay.

The same irresponsible attitude, encouraging going to the pub, failure to heed advice on social distancing.

Waterstone’s are showing the same contempt for staff and customers during coronavirus crisis. No ban on cash, no hand sanitiser, no social distancing. Office staff sent home, staff in book shops forced to carry on working.

Waterstone’s where greed rules ok. There should be hand sanitiser by the door, everyone walking in required to use. Contactless card only. Close early at three every day. This was the norm in Sheffield last week.

Contrast last week with Steam Yard coffee shop in Sheffield. Hand sanitiser by the door, close at three.

Or contrast with fish n chip restaurant Elite on the Bail, restaurant closed takeaway at the back, social distancing, hand sanitiser on offer to use.

Waterstone’s destroyed Ottakar’s. I had hoped James Daunt may improve, but no. Still the rubbish dumped by publishers piled on tables, staff treated badly.

Why is it always the big corporate chains that treat their staff badly?

Indie coffee shops as always leading the way. Coffee served in takeaway cups, no reusable cups, hand sanitiser by the door.

Talking to an employee of 200 Degrees a small coffee shop chain before they were forced to close, she said refusal to put hand sanitiser by the door, no interest in health and safety of staff or customers.

When the ban on pubs, bars, coffee shops came in, I walked down Lincoln High Street, indie coffee shops closed, Caffe Nero and Starbucks open.

Use contactless card. I prefer cash, cash is anonymous, cards are traced and tracked, inflate profits of banks, but these are not normal times, cash is dirty. Similarly, good coffee is to be appreciated, sit and relax with coffee served in ceramic or glass, but not normal times, takeaway protects staff and customers, minimises contamination.

Support your local indie bookshop

  • P&G Wells – Winchester
  • Lindum Books – Lincoln
  • Blue Bear Bookshop – Farnham
  • Ideas on Paper – Nottingham

and indie coffee shops

  • Marmadukes – Sheffield
  • Steam Yard – Sheffield
  • The Specialty Coffee Shop – Nottingham
  • Cartwheel Coffee – Nottingham
  • Outpost Coffee – Nottingham
  • Madame Waffle – Lincoln
  • Coffee Aroma – Lincoln
  • Krema – Farnham and Guildford
  • Coffee Lab – Winchester

By no means an exhaustive list.

Tuesday of last week, UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain, with one big difference, Italy and Spain already had measures in place before they introduced ever tighter measures. In UK, too little, too late.

If you wish for something to read, stuck at home, read an e-book.

Paulo Coelho has made available several of his books for free download.

Something other writers and filmmakers could do.

Mark Thomas has made available for almost free download one of his shows (he asks make a donation to a food bank).

When Primark, McDonald’s announced they are closing, we know it is game up.

Waterstone’s announced they were closing. But will staff get paid. Staff who were off sick, suspected covid-19, told to take out of their annual leave.

James Daunt the Tim Martin of the book trade. Shops closed but more likely no one on the streets, no one buying books, shops losing money, than consideration for the well being of staff and customers. Plus with shops closed staff on furlough government will pay 80% of their salary

But what does this say of Pepsi Trump? China gave us time, we squandered it. Tuesday of last week UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain. With one big difference, both countries had measures in place, and have since tightened those measures. It was sporting bodies which decided to close, led the way. Now it is shops closing, taking the initiative. Still no lockdown of London. Bars and pubs serving drinks.

Ruddock’s to close after 163 years in business

March 4, 2017

Ruddock’s and Stokes on High Bridge are permanent features of Lincoln High Street.

Ruddock’s, a printer and a shop, the shop a bookshop, stationary, art supplies, upmarket pens, located in the top half of the High Street in Lincoln.

Or was, the printing business is to remain, the shop is to close.

Ruddock’s is to close after 163 years in business. A family business, the plan is to close in April 2017, 113 years in the present location, prior to that a little further up the High Street.

Henry Ruddock blames the lack of parking.

That is not the problem, the High Street is busy, there is footfall on the street, the problem is people are not passing through the door into the store.

I am sorry to see Ruddock’s close, but sadly not surprised, it lost its way years ago.

Lack of car parking in the town centre is simply an excuse. Yes, there is a problem of traffic congestion, solve that by improving public transport.

I see a High Street packed, but I see Ruddock’s empty.

But I would agree most of the developments within the city centre have been to the detriment of the town centre. For example the ugly high rise buildings, destruction of Sincil Street and the market, allowing motorised traffic through a pedestrianised city centre.

Ruddock’s used to be an excellent bookshop. Ruddock’s lost their way when they stopped selling books, though difficult to compete with on-line and Waterstone’s selling cut price best sellers, deals that are not offered to indie bookshops. Walk in now, and it is newspapers, magazines and rubbish.

Though first floor is a specialist art supplier.

Henry’s tea shop upstairs, is nicely done out, has atmosphere, but the coffee when I tried was not good. These days if open a coffee shop, ok it is a tea shop, you have to employ top class baristas and take a pride in the coffee you serve, not leave it to someone who makes the sandwiches. And how many passing by know there is a tea shop upstairs?

The tea shop will remain open or for the time being, but it is difficult to see how this will work if the shop is to close.

The tea shop is also placed at a competitive disadvantage when Starbucks and Caffè Nero dodge tax.

Ruddock’s also sells high quality pens, and I do not mean trendy rubbish Ted Baker as they promoted on twitter.

Montegrappa The Alchemist

Montegrappa The Alchemist

One of the rare shops I have found selling Montegrappa pens though not their top range, for example The Alchemist pen.

Lincoln will now have lost all its indie bookshops, or soon will have.

Readers Rest closed a couple of years ago. A great loss, and still missed.

Harlequin is going, driven out of business by a greedy landlord hiking the rent.

BookStop Cafe remains, local authors and second hand books, located in an undercroft beneath a Norman building with stunning view down Steep Hill.

Business rate hike is going to kill off many more indie businesses.

Development of Sincil Street has done an excellent job of driving out indie businesses. The street is now derelict. It used to be between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon busier than the High Street.

What is left? The same boring chains as seen in every town.

And where we do see indie coffee shops like Coffee Aroma, harassment from the County Council for leaving their tables and chairs outside in a pedestrianised area.

Yet what we see sadly is not only Lincoln, planners who care not for the local town, lack vision, lack understanding of town centre planning, and too often in the pocket of greedy developers.

When I attend a planning meeting and find a planner arguing on behalf of a greedy developer, dismissing any local objections, often quite well founded local objections, blatantly lying on the presentation, then I know something stinks.

And we only have to look at the results.

That is why time and time again, when English visit small towns across Europe, and still find the butcher, baker and indie bookshops, the historic centre free of traffic and unspoilt, they ask, why is my town not like this?

Libreria Palazzo Roberti

Libreria Palazzo Roberti

In Bassano del Grappa, a small town north of Venice nestling in the foothills of the Alps, we find traffic free streets, little shops, three indie bookshops, one of which is in a former palace where Napoleon once stayed.

Lincoln City Council, shedding crocodile tears, wringing of hands, not us guv.

Of course they are at fault, they are the planning authority hand in hand with Lincolnshire who are the Highways authority.

A classic case study in bad town centre planning.

And then have the gall to blame Lincoln for being a historic town. That is its attraction, there is nothing else of attraction. Or do they think people visit to admire the ugly buildings, to shop in the same shops as found elsewhere?

I fully back Henry Ruddock in his damning critique of the City Council.

Lincoln would make a case study in unimaginative, bad town centre planning.

Where I would disagree, is in the comments on car parking.

In the last decade or more we have seen ugly high rise buildings, each one uglier than the other.

Brayford is an eyesore.

This was an area of old warehouses and mills. This area could have been restored, to create an attractive and vibrant atmosphere, ground floor indie coffee shops and other indie businesses, first floor small businesses, design studios, hi-tech, top floors living accommodation.

Look to Bristol for an example.

A couple of years ago Sincil Street was thriving, between ten in the morning and four in the morning, it was busier than the High Street.

Now it has been blighted by development and sky high rents. And if look at the hoardings, more High Street chains, where once we had indie businesses.

Look to North Laine in Brighton, three streets each longer than Sincil Street, associated side streets, always busy, not a single chain, all indie businesses.

We see harassment of Coffee Aroma for leaving their tables and chairs outside, rather than deal with the real issue of stopping traffic through a pedestrianised area and delivering by handcart and trolley, as the norm in Europe.

Kate Mosse: Independent bookshops are an important part of the community

July 5, 2013

Failing bookshop chains

April 4, 2013
Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

It is easy to see why bookshop chains are failing.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen the Aleph farce and NeverSeconds farce, two potential best sellers not on display.

Last Thursday saw the official UK publication of the eagerly awaited Manuscript Found in Accra, in the US Tuesday of this week.

The publisher having failed to set an embargo (better than actually forgetting as they did with Aleph), Waterstone’s and a few indie bookshops stole a march and had it on sale, and on display. But why not on display in the window?

Today, I had junk e-mail from Waterstone’s, usually I delete unread, but today I had a glance. Books I must read for April. No mention of Manuscript Found in Accra. Same for junk e-mail about ten days ago. I daresay publishers pay for a mention, not based on merit.

Thursday of last week WHSmith had it on display at half price, if you looked hard enough, but not on display in the window, and if asked, the staff not a clue what asking for. One store had three copies, another two copies.

I even took the trouble to speak to the manager in one of the stores and point out he had an international best seller.

Tuesday, I visited WHSmith. One copy of Manuscript Found in Accra, that was after speaking to the store manager.

Today, same store, not a single copy!

I asked a member of staff. She wandered aimlessly around the store with me in tow. No we don’t have, I will get some one to look it up. No, it is out of stock.

I am then told they have deliveries on Thursdays. Today is Thursday. And? We have not opened it up yet. And when was the delivery? This morning. It is late afternoon. And you have not yet looked at the delivery? We were too busy. I look around the store and see it is empty, staff standing around like zombies. Does your computer system not tell you what was delivered? No.

No one had a clue what I was asking for.

I walk out of the store in disgust.

We have seen many High Street chains go bust. I am surprised Waterstone’s and WHSmith are not among them. Of the two, WHSmith is the worst. The staff seem to be Asda or Tesco rejects and know nothing about books, the shops are shabby as though in a pound shop.

Last week Manuscript Found in Accra was number 28 in their charts, this week, one week later, nowhere to be seen, I wonder why?

The publishers are to blame. Writers need to take a stand. Fine you may offer my book to a chain at a big discount, but you must offer the same discount to the indie bookshops. But having said that, many of the indie bookshops (if you can find any) are crap too. I rarely go in bookshops, they are depressing. Usually piled high with celebrity crap. A very rare exception is P&G Wells, an indie bookshop in the back streets of Winchester, a joy to visit, as bookshops used to be.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 in Barnes and Noble on day of publication. Maybe unlike WHSmith, they made it readily available.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 on Amazon. Which only goes to show the demand and where it could be in WHSmith if they got their act together and actually sold books!

Why bookshops are failing

April 3, 2013
Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

Within a space of five years we lost a quarter of all our indie bookshops. The chains are faring little better.

It is easy to see why they are failing, and it is not the internet or Amazon which are simply scapegoats for bad practices, bad businesses acumen, and failure to know anything about books.

Independent bookshops are being put out of business because we do not operate in a level playing field. The chains Waterstone’s and WHSmith are offered massive discounts which are not available to the little guys, which enable the chains to offer books at anything up to 75% off.

But even with these massive discounts the chains are failing.

A couple of years ago we saw the Aleph fiasco. Walk into Waterstone’s they did not have it on display, the staff did not have clue what it was. A book by a leading author, an international best seller, and the staff did not have a clue, the shops did not have on display.

The same happened last year with NeverSeconds, by Martha and David Payne. There can be few books that has as much publicity, it was a potential Christmas best seller, it was launched in Waterstone’s in Glasgow, and yet lucky to find a copy in Waterstone’s, the staff did not have a clue, it was not on display.

Last Thursday, the eagerly awaited Manuscript Found in Accra was published. Another international best seller from an internationally acclaimed author.

Thanks to the publisher failing to set an embargo (at least better than Aleph where they actually forgot the book was published), Waterstone’s and a few indie bookshops stole a march on Amazon and not only put it on sale, but put it on display. But why not on display in the window? No mention in e-mails from Waterstone’s, that has been published, is in their bookshops.

Last week WHSmith had Manuscript Found in Accra on display in store (if you looked hard enough) at half price. But why not on display in the window and why so few copies? In one store three copies, in another store two copies. The day before publication they did not have a clue when I asked.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 in Barnes and Noble on day of publication. Maybe unlike WHSmith, they made it readily available.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 on Amazon. Which only goes to show the demand and where it could be in WHSmith if they got their act together and actually sold books!

Manuscript Found in Accra in Top 30

April 2, 2013
Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

Manuscript Found in Accra was officially published in UK last week (Thursday 28 March 2013), though many bookshops, including Waterstone’s had it on display before the official publication date as the publisher had neglected to embargo.

Note: Published today (2 April 2013) in US.

In WHSmith it opened last week at No 28 in their charts.

This week it should be No 1, or would be if WHSmith got their act together.

It is all too easy to see why bookshops are failing.

I asked in WHSmith the day before publication, as I knew it was already available. The idiot I spoke to had not a clue what I was talking about.

I tried the next day. Could not find with the Paulo Coelho books. I was about to ask, when I found it on display, and to my pleasure was on offer at half price. I asked was these two copies all they had? No they had three, and they found a third copy hidden away.

But it was unbelievable, an international best seller, on offer at half price, the first day of publication, and all they had was three copies!

I went and talked to the manager, and suggested they got in more copies and put on display.

A couple of days later, a different branch of WHSmith, with some difficulty I found they did have Manuscript Found in Accra. Two copies! I asked why only two copies. I may as well as talk to a brick wall.

Today I went back to the first WHSmith. Thinking, maybe naively, they would have ordered and got in more copies. They had one copy!

I again asked, the same idiot I had spoken to before, why only one copy. I may as well have spoken to a brick wall.

If selling something at a discount, then you pile ’em up high, shift a lot.

An international best seller, especially when on offer, especially when first published, you have on display in the window.

If you have something on special offer, you make sure your customers or potential customers know about the offer, that way you sell more, that is why you have it on special offer. Though in the case of WHSmith I suspect it is more a case of a failing chain desperate for cash flow.

Can anyone imagine WalMart or Tesco having a product on special offer and then keeping quiet about it, just in case they might actually sell more?

Then people wonder why bookshops are failing.

It is not simply they know nothing about books, they also know nothing about business.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 in Barnes and Noble on day of publication. Maybe unlike WHSmith, they made it readily available.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 on Amazon. Which only goes to show the demand and where it could be in WHSmith if they got their act together and actually sold books!

Note: When Aleph was published it was a complete and utter fiasco, not on display, staff did not know. And Aleph too was an international best seller.

Readers Rest

January 15, 2013
Readers Rest

Readers Rest

A snowy climb up The Strait and Steep Hill, on my way down I popped in Readers Rest to say goodbye.

Readers Rest is a veritable rabbit warren of a bookshop. The type of bookshop it is a pleasure to visit, where the owner knows books. Not like Waterstone’s, a chain that sells books.

Speaking to the owner he said he has had a good 30 years, but was now losing money, cannot afford to pay the rates and has decided to call it a day. He will be closing in a couple of months. When I looked in a couple of weeks ago, he said people come in, browse, comment on what a lovely old bookshop, then walk out empty handed. Today he said, they are happy to pay three pounds for a cup of coffee, but begrudge a couple of pounds for a book.

As we were talking a customer walked in and found a book he liked. He said Readers Rest was a Lincoln landmark and he was sorry to hear from our conversation that it was closing.

It is a crying shame when shops like this close. It was not only the books, it had character, around the bookshop were quotes from books or on books.

I picked up his only two Paulo Coelho books, very sad, my last purchase from Readers Rest. Each has his distinctive pencilled price inside the front cover.

He commented The Alchemist, one of my purchases, was very popular. I said yes, Paulo Coelho a personal friend. I then told him of my experience of Waterstone’s when Aleph was published, an international best seller across Europe and yet in Waterstone’s they did not even know who the author was.

Not a single copy of NeverSeconds in Waterstone’s

January 8, 2013
Waterstones Lincoln High Street

Waterstones Lincoln High Street

Two Waterstone’s in Lincoln, one in the market area in the old Corn Exchange, the other in the High Street.

Waterstone’s in the High Street no NeverSeconds on the shelves.

I asked, girl no idea NeverSeconds. Checked on the system, the one and only NeverSeconds they had in stock had been sold some days ago. She may have said 27 December, but I cannot be sure.

As she was quite helpfully, I explained NeverSeconds, that what was only on display was in the main celebrity garbage, Waterstone’s was a disgrace as a bookshop, and soon the chain would go under.

She did not disagree, said she was ashamed at having to walk past the rubbish on display, more suited to shelves of a supermarket, it was dictated centrally. I guessed she was former Ottaker’s (the rival book chain Waterstone’s bought and destroyed) where they decided what to order.

NeverSeconds grabbed her interest, and she said she would check it out.

She also checked other Waterstone’s. It was the same picture in most shops with a few rare exceptions, a single copy of NeverSeconds.

This has been my experience too, not on display, not a clue.

There has to be something very seriously wrong with what masquerades as a chain of bookshops (in reality a chain that sells books) and fails to have on display a potential best seller.

At the end of last year, the food blog NeverSeconds passed nine million hits, it featured with Martha Payne on most end of year reviews, but Waterstone’s does not have a single copy in stock, let alone NeverSeconds on display!

Over Christmas, BBC broadcast an updated edition of Martha, Meals and Malawi.

During the year, Martha picked up numerous awards, including Campaigner of the Year on Freedom of Expression from Liberty.

Together with her father David, Martha co-authored NeverSeconds, which tells the story of her blog, standing firm against the bully-boys at her local council, the trip to Malawi. For each copy of NeverSeconds sold, 25 meals for Mary’s Meals.

Thanks to the generosity of Cargo Publishing it is possible to download NeverSeconds for 99p.

NeverSeconds is for 12 days available for download from Amazon at 99p. Double good news, it will still pay for 25 dinners in Africa.

NeverSeconds found in a bookshop!

November 27, 2012
 Martha reading NeverSeconds

Martha reading NeverSeconds

Martha with her book NeverSeconds

Martha with her book NeverSeconds

Wonders will never cease, after a long search, NeverSeconds found in a bookshop. Yes, hard to believe, NeverSeconds found in a bookshop!

Last Saturday, Waterstone’s and WHSmith in Farnham. Not a clue, did not have, Waterstone’s one on order, WHSmith unable to find on system.

On Monday, WHSmith in Aldershot. Not a clue, unable to find on system.

WHSmith Godalming: No NeverSeconds, cannot find on their system. Tried on another system, found 500 in a warehouse, but that works out at less than one copy per shop.

It is worth holding off purchase of NeverSeconds or any book until 2 December. Currently WHSmith have vouchers which give 20% off any book, even books on special offer, from 2 December. This would make NeverSeconds cheaper than buying off Amazon. And remember Amazon are tax dodgers.

Waterstone’s Godalming: Is NeverSeconds by Paulo Coelho? None in stock, did have one, we sold it. One on order. I suggested they may care to order more, put on display. Helpful guy checked system, lots in Scotland, one in Guildford.

Waterstone’s Guildford: Yes, we have NeverSeconds, it is in Biography. I spotted it before the girl did. But only one.

Miracles will never cease, Waterstone’s Guildford has one copy in stock of NeverSeconds!

As I had time to spare, I sat down to flip through and read little snippets. A interesting format. Extracts from Martha’s food blog NeverSeconds coupled with Dave giving the background.

As only one, I did not buy, left for someone else to buy, but what I did do was put on the shelf on display with the cover showing.

I suggested they got more in and put on display.

On display Aleph. Only one year after publication, but I guess better late than never.

NeverSeconds, the story of Martha Payne and her food blog NeverSeconds, as told by Martha and her father David Payne, is currenty selling 300 copies a day, published two weeks ago, is already on its second print run.

Every copy of NeverSeconds which is sold provides 25 school dinners for children in Malawi through a donation to Mary’s Meals.

Why Martha Payne was honoured by Liberty

November 24, 2012
Martha putting finishing touches to Friends of NeverSeconds

Martha putting finishing touches to Friends of NeverSeconds

If you wondered why a ten-year-old schoolgirl was honoured by Liberty as Human Rights Young Person of the Year or why in the same week the Scottish Herald named her Campaigner of the Year, this TED talk recorded at TED Global in Edinburgh June 2012 and the TED interview with Martha Payne will give you an inkling.

What made them think they could get away from this? — Clay Shirky

Martha Payne may only be 9-years-old, but she is already a world-renowned food blogger.

In a preamble to his fascinating TEDTalk about what governments can learn from open-source programming, Clay Shirky told Payne’s inspirational story.

In April of 2012, Scottish schoolgirl Payne started the blog NeverSeconds.blogspot.co.uk, which documents her school dinners (otherwise known as school lunches in the United States) with ratings like “number of mouthfuls” and “pieces of hair” found in food. The idea was to raise money for the charity Mary’s Meals, while at the same time showing the world the low nutritional value of school meals.

The blog quickly picked up fans. But on June 14, readers of NeverSeconds were greeted with a distressing post.

“This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today,” wrote Payne. “I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners.”

While Payne’s school supported the blog, it was reportedly the local Argyll and Bute Council that had decided its fate. Fans of the blog swung into action, flooding the council with angry messages. The outpouring was so extreme that the council quickly reversed its decision. By June 15, Payne’s blog was back.

Today, NeverSeconds has been read by 8 million people across the globe. Payne has raised £114,840 for Mary’s Meals, and the charity has set up the Friends of NeverSeconds kitchen at a school in Malawi, which Payne herself will soon visit. Meanwhile, Payne is also inspiring students in other countries, like 13-year-old Isadora Faber of Brazil, who documented her school’s poor facilities, leading to many swift improvements.

We caught up with Payne to ask her a few questions.

What inspired you to start your blog?

I want to be a journalist and I asked my dad if I could write everyday. Dad suggested a blog and we looked at some. I like the fact there is a publish button because it’s like I’m a real newspaper writer.

Why do you think your blog posts resonate so deeply with people?

Everyone knows about school dinners. I love seeing what school dinners are like around the world. Children are sharing their photos and ratings. It’s brilliant and I have cooked some of their lunches.

How did you feel in June when you were told you couldn’t photograph your lunches anymore?

I was upset and cried because I had done nothing wrong. Some adults had got embarrassed and thought stopping me would stop them being embarrassed.

What reactions did you get after you posted your goodbye message?

There were so many messages — I couldn’t read them all. Dad said it trended on Twitter and lots of people contacted Argyll and Bute Council.

Were you surprised by the level of public support you received?

It was awesome. Although I was sad because it was unfair, I was also happy that other people thought it was unfair as well.

What does that tell you about the type of world we live in?

It says even a big Council can’t be a bully. They ignored me when I said it was unfair but they couldn’t ignore the world.

How has your blog changed since you were able to resume posting?

There are guest bloggers writing each week because I’m off school, so no school dinners yet. I am going to Malawi to visit the Mary’s Meals charity because the friends of NeverSeconds raised over £114,000 to feed children a school dinner in Malawi. I will blog everyday from Malawi if I can.

What have you learned from your blogging experience?

I don’t know why adults teach us to write and think then get embarrassed when we do it outside class. I love kids sharing their meals with me and I like sharing back. The internet isn’t just for adults — we can use it too. When everyone chips in, you can help children around the world like with Mary’s Meals.

—————————————

During her day in London, Martha visited Parliament, before the Liberty Award Ceremony in the evening. She later reflected: why do we need Liberty if we have Parliament?

We need Liberty, we need people like Martha, because there are always those who will seek to silence critical voices.We need people who will fight for what is right.

The Taliban thought they could silence Malawa with a bullet to to the brain. They were wrong, she survived, more determined than ever to fight for education for girls. Her cause was taken up by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. So far he has collected over 2 million signatures in support of Malawa, Pakistan has been forced to introduce compulsory free education for girls and boys, has doubled the education budget.

Vladimire Putin thought he could silence Pussy Riot. He was wrong. Only last week he was given a public dressing down by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

President Morsi thought he could grant himself executive powers. Those who have filled Tahrir Square in protest think otherwise.

A pathetic jobsworth in a local council thought he could bully a nine-year-old schoolgirl, close down her food blog NeverSeconds. With the help and support of her family and friends around the world including chef Jamie Oliver, Martha stood her ground. The council were forced into a humiliating climbdown, with the leader of the council issuing a public apology on BBC Radio 4 lunchtime news World at One (only that morning on the Today programme the council had tried to justify their action). The council even blatantly lied!

NeverSeconds has now recorded over 8.7 million hits. Through NeverSeconds Martha went on to raise over £120,000 for a school kitchen in Malawi called Friends of NeverSeconds, and was invited to Malawi to inaugurate the kitchen.

With the help of her father David, Martha has co-written a book NeverSeconds, which tells the story of her blog, standing firm against the bully-boys at her local council, the trip to Malawi.

For whatever perverse reason Waterstone’s in England is not stocking NeverSeconds, does not have it on display. Once again her friends are coming to her rescue, walking into Waterstone’s bookshops and demanding to know why NeverSeconds is not in stock, not on display.