Are you sitting comfortably? Embracing the page-turners with Storytellers, Inc.'s much-loved book clubs
An award-winning independent bookshop in St Anne's run by the mother-and-daughter team of Carolyn and Katie Clapham, Storytellers, Inc. has quickly become one of Lancashire's go-to safe-havens for literary fans across the North West. And not solely for their expertise in the world of books, but for their vibrant book clubs, too.
Despite not having any industry or retail experience at all, Carolyn and Katie opened Storytellers, Inc. in December 2010 and founded their three book clubs for children, teenagers, and adult readers four years later. Today, a total of some 60 people are involved across all three clubs.
"I'd just finished working and I realised I didn't know as many people locally as I would've liked to," says Julian Ridley, 68, when asked why he joined Storytellers' book club in 2015. "I also like reading books I wouldn't otherwise have read and, with Storytellers, they choose the books and pick different types and never repeat an author, so you get a bit of everything.
"It expand your horizons," adds Julian, who's lived locally for 28 years. "The club's very democratic and everyone gets the chance to contribute to the discussion, which is wonderful. It makes you read more thoughtfully and it helps make you be nice because you're looking for positive things - it can be weary to be too negative and down about everything!"
With the bookshop showcasing the very best in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry and also featuring a dedicated children's area and reading den, Storytellers' clubs and author events provide bookworms with a great way to get out of a reading rut and to expand their literary horizons alongside other fans of the written word.
"Ever since I've been able to read, I've always had a book on the go," says Alison Young, who joined as soon as the club started. "I'd newly moved to Lytham and so was looking for things that were going on in the area. I liked the idea that I would be challenged more to read something different because I'd fallen into the trap of reading novels which were of a similar genre.
"With this book club, it's almost always a book I wouldn't choose myself, which means they've always raised good discussions," adds Alison, 65. "It's made me read in a different way. I've also found the author events absolutely fascinating because you get the chance to really listen to and ask questions of the author. I think that's so valuable."
During Covid, Storytellers' meetings continued via Zoom and the club recently hosted Kate Sawyer, author of The Stranding, for their first author event back in person. "The club grasped the nettle of Zoom to keep things going, which was very important," says Julian. "They did their best to make books available and even went as far as to drop them on your doorstep, too.
"It was a great outlet during lockdown - a little stab of freedom and normality where the government can't control you!" adds former business manager Julian, who points out with a chuckle that the group's next book is 'Everyone Is Still Alive' by Cathy Rentzenbrink. "And it was so nice to hear Kate Sawyer talk first-hand and to be in the same room with other people again.
"I really enjoy the meetings and we're very lucky to have such a good book club run by such good people."
Having lived locally for eight years since moving to the Fylde coast after retiring from a career working for both Preston Borough and Preston City Councils, Alison agrees. "The communal angle is a big part of it, which has meant that lockdown has been hard," she says. "Zoom isn't the same as an actual meeting, but the discussions have still been good.
"I sadly missed Kate Sawyer's event, but I'm really looking forward to getting back to face-to-face meetings," she adds. "Storytellers, Inc. is fantastic - it's a lovely store and Carolyn and Katie are so obliging. It's so important to support independent bookstores because the service is fantastic.
"You can't beat that personal touch and they do a lot for us," Alison says. "They're great."