Member Spotlight: The Book Trade Charity

The Book Trade Charity shine a light on how they are supporting colleagues and their families across the book trade when they need it most.

Like so many of us in the benevolent society sector The Book Trade Charity is underpinned by a lot of tenacity and sustained by a healthy dose of good humour and compassion. Both are needed because, as we all know, the work of a small benevolent society can be tough and emotional at times.

We are the charity of the UK book trade and since 1837 we have supported colleagues across the book trade and their families, providing grants and housing when they need it most. Our small team of four are a dedicated bunch and we have an equally cracking Board of Trustees from across the book trade to support us along the way. We work hard but do find time to unwind together.

I have been lucky to have spent the past 18-months meeting an extraordinary group of publishers and booksellers who brim with passion, good humour and creativity and who have a real soft spot for The Book Trade Charity as the industry safety net and springboard, but we know that there are still people who don’t yet know about our work. We are working hard to address that – a new website project, new impact report and assets are all underway and we have a growing bank of testimonials to bring our work to life but there is still plenty to do!

The Covid-19 pandemic affected book shops in a very real way and of course, freelance publishers (amongst others) were also reaching out for support. Many of those who applied in 2021 had either lost jobs due to Covid or were dealing with other life-changing events due to the pandemic (e.g., exacerbated health issues or relocation). Many Covid applicants also sought support for career guidance as they applied themselves to looking for new employment. Thanks to the continued generosity of our company and individual donors in 2021, we were able to provide a vital safety net totalling over £285,000 for individuals and families when they needed it most.

Now in 2022, book communities are being shaken by the global energy crisis, by increasingly high inflation and by a deepening cost of living challenge. It is for this reason, on our 185th year, that we have launched the 185 Appeal raising funds to support our grants programme. We have just had our first large donation and are absolutely thrilled to get things going.

Here are a few facts about our very tangible support:
• The Book Trade Charity awards around 300 grants each year to an almost equal beneficiary split of booksellers and colleagues from publishing.
• Last year 43% of grant applicants were in work and seeking help for a variety of reasons.
• Grants can help people facing all sorts of uncertainty. Including, but not limited to: unemployment or redundancy, health or caring concerns, accidents, bereavement and those facing housing difficulties and homelessness.

How we talk about our work:
A SAFETY NET – we act fast to help colleagues at the point of crisis. Putting food on tables, heating homes and keeping the lights on. For hundreds of families.

A SPRINGBOARD – but we don’t stop there. We actively drive positive change across the trade and are strongly committed to building a more inclusive and diverse book trade. We have helped hundreds of colleagues to enter the industry, relocate for the job of their dreams and hundreds more gain the skills they need to go further and to realise their potential.

Chris’s story

Chris met his partner Hil when they were both young booksellers. After falling in love, they moved to Taunton and ran a bookshop together. In later life, Hil became ill and Chris stopped working to become her carer. After her sudden death, Chris found himself alone, grieving and without a stable income.

“It can sound like a cliché but you just never think you could be in this situation. It was like a switch being turned off and I fell to pieces, our lives had been so entwined for over twenty years. I was emotionally devastated, isolated, jobless and eventually without a home. At that point I was in relatively dire straits and in need of someone to turn to. I then had a kind, caring and helpful conversation with The Book Trade Charity – all the thing one needs when you are in that situation. I filled in the paperwork, and it gave me back my confidence in humanity.”

Chris now receives a regular monthly grant from us, and we are so grateful to him for sharing his story.