On the face of it, times have not been good recently at Fryern. Grovers the Butchers has closed as has our branch of the Nat West. I’m always sorry to see an independent firm go, some history goes with them I feel, but, to my mind, the bank branch closure is a stupid decision. It’s not as if the bank wasn’t busy!
Going to Eastleigh or Romsey is not convenient when you want somewhere local to bank a cheque and could take custom away from Fryern. How often do you pop into the bank while shopping? If your bank branch has moved, will you move where you shop? Possibly, you would. Even if you don’t, it forces you to extra mileage so you can go to your own bank. I wonder how many will switch to the other banks that are remaining in Chandler’s Ford…
I am biased. I am a Nat West customer (or am at the date of writing this!). The good news is you can bank cheques for Nat West via the Post Office but I’m still not happy with RBS for closing the Chandler’s Ford branch. Okay, many of us are not happy with them for more significant reasons than that but I think all CF customers have an additional reason to feel miffed with RBS. As for the mobile bank… we want a branch all the time and not just on Wednesdays in a church car park. I think the chances of this being successful are slim. (I also consider it an insult to long standing CF Nat West customers but there you go).
On the plus side for Fryern, there is a new travel agency, Ocean World, there now (near the Shell station). A new shop, Pets Corner, has opened near to Waitrose too. I must pop in sometime and see what I can pick up for my new rescue dog, Lady.
Equally positively, MIBI Gift Shop is now stocking books by local authors amongst its wonderful variety of wares. How do I know? One book is mine (From Light to Dark and Back Again) and the others are Richard Hardie’s Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords fantasy novels for YA. Many thanks to MIBI. I like the link between books and gifts and would do even if my book wasn’t on sale here but you will just have to take my word for it on that!
All of this made me wonder about the benefits of our local community helping local writers.
Recently, of course, there has been the Book Fair held at the Age Concern Centre in Brownhill Road (and again many thanks to the ladies of Secret Lives and More Secret Lives of Chandler’s Ford for being the driving force behind this).
Our community has helped writers in different ways. Eric Robinson Solicitors, the Co-op at Fryern, our fantastic library, Hiltingbury Post Office and Tescos have all put up posters about the Book Fair. (I know! Those places are where I either put the posters up or the good people at these places did so for me!) Is it too cheeky to say “every little helps” given this is Tescos’ slogan? It is true for advertising local events…
Bay Leaves Larder, The Post Office, Andersons, and our railway station all stock local writers’ books. Many thanks to everyone here. (I also love using Bay Leaves Larder as a great venue to interview other writers for Chandler’s Ford Today and there have been signings here too. I hope to have one myself there at some point. Events can widen the scope of what a place such as Bay Leaves can offer the community around it. They can also help develop a unique sideline to what the business does).
A big thanks again to Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for enabling me to have my first book signing at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station earlier this year. My book and the Secret Lives books are all on sale when Three Rivers have their coffee and tea bar open at the station incidentally. The idea of course is to enable passengers to pick up a book to take with them while waiting for a train or on a railway journey.
And then there is the support from the libraries at Eastleigh as well as Chandler’s Ford, which is very much appreciated.
So the benefits to the writer are obvious. More outlets for our books, more people get to see them, hopefully this will lead to more awareness and sales. I hope it leads to additional custom for the businesses concerned. We need each other.
For the community, as well as raising awareness there is a thriving writing side to it, events can do two things. They can bring people in for the event or, as in the case with my railway station signing, people are going there anyway but get to see more on offer (i.e. books) at the Three Rivers stand here.
This is important as we do not have our own independent bookshop any more. Nor do we have a chain book shop at the station or near enough to it for people to pick up books on their way through to get their train as you do at bigger stations such as Southampton. I hope extra services on offer at Chandler’s Ford station will lead more people to use the station and the Three Rivers stand when they are there. (I highly recommend the tea incidentally).
Businesses generally like supporting the local community (which is why there is sponsorship for events such as the Hiltingbury Extravaganza and the children’s poetry competition run by Chandler’s Ford Authors).
Sponsorship is good advertising and public relations work for the businesses concerned and that support makes the difference as to whether events like the Extravaganza happen at all. Being useful to the locals can be a way of being distinctive. There are Post Offices and Tescos all over the country of course but it is our local ones that stock our local writers’ books.
Holding events in places like the Age Concern Centre obviously increases its usage for the events themselves but can be a direct way of advertising to others this could be somewhere for your own event. Holding events in the railway station can open the way for other book signings to take place there. These can emphasise this is our local station so how about supporting it during the rest of the year? (To the good people at Three Rivers, I hope to get down to the station again before too long and see you then!).
What can local writers do as a result of events in the area? I hope events like the Book Fair will encourage people to check out what local writers have to offer and also our fabulous library network. We are lucky here to have good access to Chandler’s Ford, Romsey and Eastleigh Libraries plus of course the Discovery Centre in Winchester.
I hope one event leads on to others, creating a real buzz for books of all genres and amongst all ages. Not all events can appeal to all people but it would be good to have a variety of them so there is something for most people at some point during the year. From a writer’s viewpoint, different events build up experience in presenting your books to the public.
I also hope local events encourage spending in the area – and not just at the event. In reaching out to local people via events, businesses can show a more human side to what they are. Connections are formed. When all is said and done it is a relatively cheap form of marketing. (If events are written up for papers, magazines, including online such as CFT, then that marketing continues for a while too). For businesses, being seen to support your local community is bound to encourage said community to support you. Given a choice between two firms, wouldn’t you support a business that sponsors events in the area over one that doesn’t?
From a writing perspective, it gives writers a chance to connect directly to people who are our readers (or we hope will become so!). It give us a chance to sign books for people (and I love personally signed books. It does make them more special). The bigger writing festivals, such as the world famous Hay-on-Wye one, generate significant income for the shops around it during the time of the festival. Local events are obviously on a smaller scale but I know I go to an event and usually call in on other associated places of interest in the area. I am off to the Bridge House Publishing, Chapeltown Books, and Cafelit celebratory event in December and I know once that is over, wild horses probably won’t keep me out of the Foyles bookshop at Waterloo!
Talking of events, I’m glad to share news of the Winchester Discovery Centre’s 10th anniversary celebrations coming up on 25th November (from 10 am to 4 pm). A wide variety of people will be taking part but local authors are involved too, I’m glad to report. Richard Hardie, Sally Howard, Catherine Griffin, Heather Chamberlain, Finian Black, Richard Frankland, and I will be amongst those there. There will be readings, talks, and signings throughout the day. Do come and see us and join in with the celebrations. When posters are available, I will of course share them here!
Hope to see you there! It is local after all…
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.