Play Hard

Inside Whitley Bay’s new independent bookshop, the bound

We caught up with owner Helen Stanton to find out how the newest addition to the Forum Books family came about – and (of course) to discover her top book recommendations

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 29.05.2021

In Partnership with Forum Books

By Becky Hardy

You’ll all know by now that, here at HLN, we love a good book. Old, new, thin, thick, local, international, we don’t care – as long as it keeps us hooked, it’s on our bookshelves.

So we’ve had local independent Forum Books on our radar for quite some time now. A modern bookshop with a difference (and that difference is personality!), for a decade Forum Books has been our go-to for a new read guaranteed to pack a punch. Staffed by book-lovers, supported by authors (who frequently drop in for a chat) and fuelled by an unbridled passion for everything literary, Forum Books are a firm favourite with writers, visitors and industry critics alike, with a whole host of prestigious awards to their name.

 

So when we heard that they were opening up a second outpost a little closer to our Gosforth home, our interest was significantly piqued. And, having popped along as soon as the ribbon was cut (by Vera author and local legend Ann Cleeves, no less), we can confirm that their Whitley Bay bookshop, the bound, does everything but disappoint.

We caught up with owner and head bibliophile, Helen Stanton, to find out how the newest addition to the Forum family came about, what they’ve got planned for their famous live events programme and (of course) to grill her about her top book recommendations…

 

What’s Forum Books all about?

What a question! The short answer would be books, but that wouldn’t give you the full picture – but yes, we love books, we love talking about them, recommending them and celebrating their writers. So our aim is to bring a brilliant, eclectic, enthusiastic selection of books to the high street in interesting, beautiful locations that are just lovely places to be in.

 

You’ve just opened your new bookshop, the bound, in Whitley Bay – after what was (we hear) some nudging from Vera author and local Ann Cleeves! How did that all come about? 

Ann Cleeves is a great supporter of independent bookshops and we’ve been lucky enough to work with her over many years now, with events in all sorts of locations – from ice cream parlours and fishermen missions to Alnwick Garden, as well as in our bookshop. Last year, she even gave us a short Vera story – Frozen – where the famous detective comes to Corbridge after a walk along Hadrian’s Wall, and pops into Forum Books… just as I’m discovering a body in the bookshop!

 

She’s been telling us for years that Whitley Bay would be a great place for a bookshop and has been actively involved in the whole process of getting the bound up and running – from scouting out premises to cutting the ribbon and officially opening the shop!

What can we expect from the bound?

It’s similar to our Corbridge site, in that both bookshops are stocked with the same eye-popping range of books and staffed by proper bibliophiles! But the bound is different because of the building – we’ve got shop windows for a start! So watch out for some eye-catching window displays; we’ve had The Ormering Tide by Kathryn Williams and Careless by Kirty Capes so far…

How do you choose which books you sell?

If we’ve read it ourselves and loved it, then it’s in! If it catches our eye, we know it’ll catch yours too. Sometimes it’s a cover, sometimes a title … sometimes it’s just because… it’s an arcane art!

Forum Books is loved for its local author introductions, live readings and other author-led events. For those who haven’t been along to any yet, how would you describe your events programme?

I’d say book events bring out the best types of conversation: interesting, varied, funny, and often leading somewhere very unexpected!

For the past year, we’ve been running online events with three other indie bookshops – Booka, Bookish and Linghams. Together, we’ve worked with more than 250 authors and have even picked up a FutureBook Award, too. We’re still running those events, so you can see what’s coming up here 

 

Is this live element something you’ll also be bringing to the bound?

Absolutely! I’ve got a few things pencilled in already, with fingers crossed we can press ‘go’ on them soon!

Earlier this year, your writer in residence, Lyndsey Ayre, choose 10 of her favourite books by women. What are your top 3 books by female authors? 

This list would probably change by tomorrow, but today I’d say: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto; This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets; and Saltwater by Jessica Andrews.

 

What would you say is one classic book that everyone should read at some point in their lives?

Fup by Jim Dodge is, I guess, a ‘modern classic’ and definitely one I’d press on anyone that hasn’t read it. But a more traditionally classic recommendation would be Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero Of Our Time – a contemporary of Pushkin who, similarly, died young in a duel, it’s a gem: think Cossacks, sumptuous balls and plenty of drama. I also love Guy de Maupassant’s Bel-Ami, set in Paris in the Belle Époque. It’s a glorious tale of blackmail, seduction and social climbing.

And what’s your favourite book(s) that have been published in the last year?

I’m completely smitten by Kathryn Williams’ The Ormering Tide – it’s so beautiful, lyrical and lovely. Ronan Hession’s Leonard and Hungry Paul is a massive bookshop favourite too, and he weaves his quiet magic again in his latest release, Panenka. And Rutger Bregman’s Humankind is not only a hopeful history, but literally reaffirms our faith in the ingenuity and compassion of people.

If you could bring any author back from the dead to do an event at Forum Books or the bound, who would it be?

Oscar Wilde! George Orwell! Maya Angelou! Eric Carle! Anthony Bourdain …this isn’t a fair question, asking me to choose just one… Oh, and Anthony Bourdain!

It’s 10 years now since you opened in Corbridge and you’ve won many industry awards in that time. What would you say is the secret to your success?

Like any independent, we do this because we love it. What I always say to my booksellers (and this might not seem like much of a catchphrase) is: ‘inventory is everything!’ By that I mean that we take real care over our book selection and the writers we work with, and we’re very proud of each and every title you’ll find in our bookshops

What are your hopes for the future of Forum Books and the bound?

One of the best bits about opening the new bookshop is the conversation with new customers – they’re the best for book recommendations and ideas. So my hopes are that we’ll keep talking and connecting with our local communities and see what happens!

To find out more about Forum Books and the bound, visit their website, Facebook page or Instagram

Or pop in and say hello!

Forum Books, The Chapel, Market Place, Corbridge NE45 5AW

the bound, 82 Park View, Whitley Bay NE26 2TH

 

 

 

 

 

 

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