October Books, Southampton’s only
independent bookshop, says it‘s successfully put in a bid to buy the old NatWest
bank buidling in Portswood – but now thousands of pounds need to be raised to
seal the deal.
As reported, the bookshop has been looking for new premises because it can’t afford a rent hike at its current Portswood Road location.
In December the co-op said they were keen to create a “community hub” in collaboration with other groups.
Members of the October Books team outside the former NatWest bank in Portswood
Since then the group has been working with organisations – including the Society of St James, Social Enterprise Link Wessex, local architect Darren Bray, building contractor Peter Grant and cooperative business advisor Nathan Brown – to put in a consortium proposal to buy the old bank premises.
It requires £300,000 of community funds plus a loan to make the purchase possible.
October Books says over £70,000 has already been pledged by community members and supporters of the scheme.
“The plans are not finalised yet as we had to move quickly in order to make the most of this opportunity,” said October Books’ Clare Diaper, above left. “But we imagine the space to provide rooms for hire for community events and health and wellbeing activities, a social enterprise hub as well as supported housing for the homeless.”
Picture by Oliver Dean, from October Books' Social Saturday Mapjam
We understand the housing is likely to be on the first floor, in partnership with the Society of St James.
The consortium is asking for members of the public to pledge funds for a minimum of five years. There will be some interest earned and subscription will come with the right to vote at annual general meetings.
'New kind of high street'
“This is the community’s opportunity to be a part of a new kind of high street, one where they are involved and one which they can help to create,” said Annabel Hodgson, long-term member of October Books. “It’s such an exciting opportunity and we need the community’s help to make this happen.”
Raising £230,000 plus loan funding may seem like a tall order, but co-op consultant Nathan Brown said this type of fundraising isn’t uncommon: “Hundreds of community enterprises have raised funds through offering community shares, or loan stock, to enable them to purchase properties.”
He pointed to various examples, such as Clevedon Community Bookshop which held a community share issue, Unicorn grocery in Manchester which raised £350,000 to buy premises using loan stock, and West Solent Solar Co-operative near Lymington which raised £2.4m through a community share offer.
Chance to learn more
There will be a community open evening at the current bookshop at 243 Portswood Road on Thursday, February 8 at 7pm. It will be an opportunity to find out more about the project, to pledge funds and to meet others who are interested in supporting October Books in this new chapter. Contact
for more information.
October Books to serve notice on Portswood shop and look for new home
Portswood NatWest bank to close
The old NatWest bank in Portswood which has been empty since October 2017