Community-minded volunteers running a library are looking to reopen a nearby derelict shop so that profits raised from it will go towards the upkeep of the library.
A crowdfunding scheme is under way to raise the cash needed to open the shop – to be called The Leaf and Groove – a reflection of the books and vinyl records it hopes to sell.
The shop, in Dartmouth Road, is the aim of the long-term supporters of Forest Hill Library. They say that it aims to be a “shop of distinction, a browser’s paradise and a book-lover’s dream” dealing in specially-selected second-hand items.
They also plan for it to be a cultural hub where art, writing and drama workshops vie for theattention of users going to see live musical performances there. It will also provide a home for community groups to meet such as the Forest Hill Gin Club.
The scheme aims to raise money for the library which is part of the network of Lewisham community-run libraries established after the council decided it could not afford to run them due to Government cuts.
It has been run from October last year by arts organisation V22, The Forest Hill Society and The Forest Hill Traders’ Association with a team of volunteers. Since the changeover the library has seen an increase in visitors, extended opening hours and the replacement of IT equipment. But there are funding issues including maintenance costs for the Grade II listed building that the Leaf and Groove shop aims to address.
The project is being led on a voluntary basis by businessman Simon Higgs who runs the Archie Parker coffee shop in Dartmouth Road and his partner Charlotte Rose who works in Waters Fishmonger and is a web designer.
Mr Higgs, who has also been running the library, said: “Leaf and Groove would kill two birds with one stone. It aims to give the library a sustainable future and help revive a shop which has been derelict for six years and bring something to the high street for the community.
“We need to raise £19,000 on the crowdfunder just to get it up and running. There are already 100 people supporting it which is fantastic and shows how people are keen to support the library. It’s a great community round here and people want to keep the library open and more shops in the high street.”
“A lot of the community libraries have set up money-making enterprises inside them to help pay the bills but we want to keep Forest Hill as a library as it is really popular. But we do need to raise money to make the future of the library sustainable and so we asked the landlord of the shop, which has been derelict for six years if we could use it and all profits will go back to the library. Lots of people are getting involved and we are looking into whether we should set it up as a social enterprise or a charity.”
He said: “We fought against the council stopping funding for the library but understand the council is in a difficult position and has to find ways to save money. Since it has been run by the community, the library has been really popular and we have managed to have the computers replaced – which are greatly used by young people.”
Pauline Wright, from Sugar Mountain sweet shop, said: “Leaf and Groove would be an amazing addition to our independent shops in Dartmouth Road. Not only would it bring a shop that has been closed for almost a decade back into use on our high street and be a community hub for the arts, but more importantly it will give an income to our library. As one of five members of Forest Hill Library Management Board I can safely say this will make a massive difference to what we can do at the library for our whole community.”
For more information and to support the cause, visit https://leafandgroove.com and https:www.spacehive.com/leafandgroove.