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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Hastings

Can you see us under all these bushels?

I always thought it was something leafy and twiggy we were hidden under but it turns out it’s a kind of bowl.

Bushels (or in some translations, ‘vessels’)

“And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light. For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor [anything] secret, that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath.”

— Luke 8:16-18

Hidden things

No, I haven’t gone all religious unless that really is the bit in the Bible where Jesus is telling everyone about how small presses work. It’s a huge task, bringing a new title to the public. It’s not just that you can’t afford the posters on the railway stations, the stand at the London Book Fair and all the rest of it – it’s also that distributors and corporate bookshops tell lies about you.

Yes, all our books are available through the standard supply chain as well as from our friends, the local indie bookshops but if you look in the big online bookstores, they tend to be labelled ‘unavailable’. They may even be missing the cover image. And if you go to closed-system shops like Waterstones and ask for one of our books, the staff may not even admit they exist.

The Titans

The reason for this is distributors. Big businesses don’t like ordering from little businesses, they like ordering in bulk from big distribution companies. We little presses do  supply the distributors, but if they don’t happen to have a pallet-load in the warehouse, their automated system punches out that word ‘unavailable’ – not true. My own little press is particularly bespoke here because we happen to be just a few miles  away from one of those gargantuan book warehouses so every week, our Jim bravely goes over there on the train, clutching a weeksworth of individual shop orders – sometimes even just one book – and weaves his way through the security gates, the articulated lorries, the pallets and the forklifts, and hands his little packet over to the giant, book-munching system. That means that even if the great big store labels one of our books ‘unavailable’, you can still order it, and you’ll probably get it within a week. Indie bookshops generally do this willingly. Even Waterstones do, if you can convince the innocent person behind the till that the stock list they are logged onto is not the be-all and end-all.

So why do they say ‘unavailable’? It’s because they’re all – knowingly or not – part of a big global plot to get everyone in the world reading the same hundred books. It’s so much easier to manage, if everyone’s reading the same hundred books. ‘Unavailable’ means ‘we’d have to make a small effort to order this so why not save us the bother and buy one of this week’s top sellers instead?’

The Good old days

What used to happen was that we’d go to all the local events and exhibitions, and do our own marketing.

Kay Green and Lesley Samms at Pure Arts Exhibition in Battle

Here I am with Lesley Samms at one of her amazing Pure Arts Festivals, with our Hastings Modern Art Beach Book, and What’s the Story?  – a beautifully illustrated account of some of the artists and printmakers at work in their studios in and around Hastings.

Unfortunately, recession came along, closely followed by COVID and Brexit and – how long ago did I last do a real world book event? They are starting to happen again now. They’re few and far between, though and in the meantime, we really need to tell you that we are NOT UNAVAILABLE!

Here I am at FantasyCon – oh, feels like decades ago! With the glass-twiddler from George Street, Kate O’Hearn, Terry Pratchett and er… the Green Knight.

At Fantasy con with Kate O'Hearn and Terry Pratchett

The world is beginning to open up again. I’ve recently seen authors Chris Tennent and Simon Edge announcing their presence out in the world…

All being well, Earlyworks Press and Circaidy Gregory Press will be out there again in due course. It’s vital, because once people have actually seen and handled a book, maybe had a chat with the author, it becomes familiar and once the book is familiar, people will go into shops and order it. If the distributors get orders for a book regularly enough, they will actually stop pretending they’re ‘unavailable’, take in some stock and admit they’re ready to take orders. That’s how small press titles ‘break through’ to the level where even Waterstones will admit they exist.

Meantime, I tend to put Foyles links in blog posts, for people to buy their books because Foyles are the best known of the stores that are pretty good at ordering small press books without making a fuss – or else I put local indie shop links such as Printed Matter and Bookbuster in Hastings. If you’re not in Hastings, the chances are, the indie shops where you are will be just as good so please ignore those ‘unavailable’ tags. They are telling Porkies.

Buy The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book at Foyles

Buy What’s the Story? from Pure Arts

Or if you’re in Hastings, drop in to Printed Matter or Bookbuster or contact me for free home delivery.

Categories
Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press Hastings Poetry Uncategorized

20th Century Art in Hastings

This article, adapted from a piece in a former Hastings anthology, Visions of Hastings, explains how the Hastings Modern Art Beach Book came to be…

text © 2010 K Green, pictures © 2010 K Reekie

They threatened to build an art gallery on The Stade in Hastings and, despite a furious tide of resistance, they did. It was to house the famous Jerwood Collection, the existence of which most people in Hastings were blissfully unaware. Well, the Jerwood Collection came and went, and Hastings is still as full of art … and as contrary … as ever. One of the many things that came out of our brush with Jerwood though was a project I set about with poet and art critic Joe Fearn and artist Katherine Reekie.

Katherine, Joe and Kay present the book,
poems and paintings in a local bookshop

First, find out what ‘modern art’ is…

I was the guinea pig. Like a lot of people in Hastings, I knew very little about modern art and was very suspicious of the whole ‘scene’. I first got involved when I went to see Katherine’s collection at Hastings Arts Forum. I got talking to Joe, already an experienced arts commentator, about how difficult it is for ‘outsiders’ to see what’s going on in the art world. Next thing I knew, I was wandering around art galleries in Edinburgh and London, trying to educate myself on the subject, and reporting back experiences which ranged from baffling through infuriating to utterly amazing.

Featuring Reekie’s
Art on the Beach collection

The three of us presented our conclusions, along with a range of opinions on Hastings and art by local commentators such as creative community moderator Erica Smith, social policy researcher Peter Saunders, and art promoter Lesley Samms. There is also a range of Hastings and/or beach-themed work and commentary by writers and artists such as beach artist Laetitia Yhap, illustrators Ian Ellery and Cathy Simpson and poet Sandra Burdett. Hastings is a wonderful and terrible place. It’s bung full of music, poetry, art and street-drama, and it’s been at war with itself since long before 1066. There’s no helping this. Just like good friends who are constantly fighting, if you try to help, they turn on you. Perhaps they’re enjoying the battle too much to give it up.

Perhaps it’s because of The Stade. There is one set of laws to cover the ownership and access to land, and a different set to cover the same issues in the case of beaches. Where onshore drift causes a build-up of shingle which becomes sufficiently embedded to deserve the name ‘land’, what you have is what lawyers would probably call an on-going earning opportunity and what everyone else would call outright war.

By the time we’d finished working on the book, the art gallery was pretty much built, and the remaining argument was mostly about the ownership of a scrap of land on which the electricity generator for the gallery stood. I had spent a lot of time learning about art galleries, Joe had spent a lot of time looking at boats and talking to people who work on the beach, and Katherine had painted a lot more pictures. All the time, all of us continued to be amazed, outraged, delighted and baffled by the relationship between Hastings, Modern Art, the beach, art galleries and the words and the pictures of all involved, many of which we collected as part of the journey, and became part of this oh, so very Hastings book.

Buy The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book from Foyles

Buy Visions of Hastings from Foyles

The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book is £12.99, including postage, to the UK but if you’re in or near Hastings, contact me and you can have one delivered to your door for a tenner.

Or (again, if you are local) and you’d like both the Hastings Modern Art Beach Book and Visions of Hastings, delivered to your door, for £15, just give me a shout.