Our new columnist LJ Ross introduces her new Local Heroes interviews
Meet some real-life heroes in my series of special interviews with people who represent the spirit and heart of the North East of England. This week, I speak to Claire Grint, owner of Cognito Books.
North East based LJ Ross is an international best-selling author, local philanthropist and at the end of last year was named by The Bookseller as one of its 150 most influential figures.
With her own publishing imprint, Dark Skies Publishing, something Louise and her family all try to live by is to be kind and work hard. That informs everything that they do and there are many examples where Louise has given back to the North East community through businesses such as Greggs, The Corbridge Larder, and Blacks Corner, as well as most recently buying new laptops for local children who didn’t have sufficient IT equipment to work whilst homeschooling.
Louise is currently running a series of special interviews with people who represent the spirit and heart of the North East. We’re delighted to welcome Louise as a columnist, so she can share these fantastic stories with HLN readers over the coming weeks and months. Enjoy!
With special thanks to Kate Baguley, who helped to coordinate these interviews.
By LJ ROSS
Claire Grint is the owner of Cogito Books, a bookshop based in the historic market town of Hexham, in Northumberland. Her shop is at the heart of the Hexham community and is a relaxing oasis in which to stumble upon your next read.
In this interview, Claire tells us about running her bookshop, why she loves the region, and more…
Claire, tell us a bit about you and your connection with the North East.
I’m actually a southerner by birth – I was born in Surrey but both my parents are from the North East, and we moved back to the Hexham area when I was 14. I enjoyed living in Edinburgh (with a year abroad in France) while at university but I knew it would only be a matter of time before Northumberland lured me back – and I have been here ever since.
Tell us about Cogito Books!
A family business from the outset, my Dad established Cogito Books back in 2001. I joined him in 2005, then I took over when he retired in July 2012. I love books and people, so running a bookshop has always been a perfect combination for me. The relationships we build with customers are absolutely central to what we do – and nothing beats the feeling of helping someone to find the perfect book and hearing that they enjoyed it.
It’s often been said that the people and landscapes of the North East are full of ‘spirit’ and ‘heart’. Tell us, what do you love most about the region?
I think that’s true – it is absolutely the people that make the region. We’re lucky to be part of such a strong community in Hexham, and one of the highlights of the past year has been the way we’ve been able to keep conversations going with our lovely customers – whether in person in the shop, over the phone, or doorstep-to-garden-gate on our delivery rounds. I also love the range of landscapes we have on our doorstep – from the wildness of the moors to rolling hills and ancient woodland.
Is there one place you always like to visit?
I love to be outdoors generally, and we’re really blessed to have so many beautiful places to explore in our corner of Northumberland as well as further afield. One of my favourite spots has to be Heavenfield – my husband and I got married there, so it has special significance for us, and it is also a fabulous vantage point for taking in views across the region. It’s a great destination for a walk.
Well, you know it’s certainly one of my favourite places, too! Do you have a favourite shop or business you think everyone should know about in the region?
Yes! The Robinson-Gay Gallery in Hexham is an absolute gem. Curated by Sarah Robinson-Gay, it’s a truly inspirational space – she has a fantastic eye and brings the work of wonderful local artists together with such care and creativity. I could spend all day in there.
Which three words best describe the North East?
If I was to try to sum up our character as a region, the words which spring to mind are, ‘friendliness’, ‘humour’ and ‘determination’. There’s a huge warmth of personality, combined with the ability to laugh at ourselves and a determination to tackle anything life might throw at us.
Favourite North-East Slang?
I have a soft spot for the word ‘pet’ – there’s something so gentle and endearing about it.
Who do you think is a hero in the North East?
Looking at this past year, in particular, there are so many heroes – many of whom might easily pass under the radar. So, for me, the real heroes are mostly unsung. Anyone who has found ways to be kind when it’s been really challenging; people who have looked out for one another – ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
I couldn’t agree more. Finally, tell us what makes you smile?
Sunrises and being outside – especially if that involves walking in the hills.
If you would like to discover more about Claire’s lovely bookshop, click here.