It looks like what old bookshops are supposed to look like: there are laden shelves and hidden corners; lots of dark, stained wood; others quietly browsing; clearly treasure to be found.
Evelyn Page, The Old Bookshop, Christchurch oil on canvas board 1922
Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu
It's ninety years old, but Evelyn Page's The Old Bookshop (1922) stays just a bit timeless for me. Many Christchurch booklovers will relate to this painting. It's just like being back in that local institution, Smith's Bookshop in Manchester Street, upstairs or down, the warren of thematically dedicated spaces, rooms and walls full of choice. How many of us still treasure the books, prints, maps, or photographs we found there; chance discovery or final decision, the carefully weighed result of a committed, leisurely browse?
OPENING DAY: Smith's Bookshop in The First Four Shops, 3 Garland's Road, Christchurch
Things can change. We have missed the experience. A few days ago, Smith's Bookshop owner Barry Hancox joined The First Few Shops in Woolston, part of the new Christchurch, part an eclectic coterie of good and interesting shops, shops which carry something of a creative edge. The shops are each housed temporarily in a converted shipping container while the developer of the Tannery site brings the greater building project to completion. (Free commercial plug: it's at number 3 Garland's Road, an easy drive from Ferrymead or via the Brougham Street motorway. There are refreshments nearby. It's not difficult to find.)
The First Four Ships
And it's a bit of creative energy and initiative in this city that seems worth supporting. The converted shipping containers – an interim step – are a useful start towards something cosier. Let's see this place put on the map. Smith's Bookshop may not have as much space for obscure and musty treasures as we enjoyed in the past, but there is still a fine, eclectic assortment of printed merchandise, a generous dash of eccentricity, and relaxed browsing to be done.
My youthful co-shopper found a book that seems to have the new Christchurch written all over it. Thank you Mr Banksy for your ideas...
Thank you Mr Banksy.