We auctioned a wonderful Decca ‘Salon’  Gramophone, along with forty 78s and a set of unused needles. Thanks to the guys at The Fleece, who bought it for £66.

To watch a video of the Celia playing Fats Domino on the gramophone click here. You can also examine the gramophone in the shop. It is in working order.

You can place bids for the gramophone by visiting the shop or going onto twitter and tweeting “I bid [type in your offer here] http://ow.ly/g4cns #DeccaGramophoneAuction @oxfamcothambook

You can find the latest offer by searching for #deccagramophoneauction on twitter or asking in the shop.Make sure you look at ‘all’ tweets on the results, not just ‘top’ tweets. We will also update the latest offer on this site as often as possible up until 4pm on Saturday 15th December.

Bidding will close at 5pm on Saturday 15th December. In order to avoid last second tactical bidding on-line we will close the auction with the traditional “Going once” “Going twice” “Gone to…” in three tweets.

 The successful bidder will have to pay for the gramophone by 6pm on Tuesday 18th December or it will be offered to the second highest bidder. Sadly, due to the weight of the item we can not deliver.

Art has taken on a new meaning at the Oxfam Cotham Hill Bookshop. As well as selling books about art, we are now selling art itself. Paintings, sculptures, photography and more will be exhibited and for sale in our shop over the months and, we hope, years to come.

The relationship between fine art and the real world could be the subject of many blog entries in itself. Some art is realistic, some idealistic, some politically influential and some detached and even created with nonchalance. However, the truth is that art is never entirely detached, it is always influenced by the experiences of the artist and, depending on whose eyes fall on it, can itself influence the world in the strangest of ways.

Artists are certainly known to affect each other. Delacroix’ Liberty Leading The People inspired Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France to the United States. More importantly, both of these works have influenced people at large. They reinforced a sense of patriotism among many French and Americans respectively, especially the latter. Bartholdi’s enormous sculpture is undoubtedly a piece of fine art, in both senses of the term, yet it is known more as a political statement. Placed on Liberty Island in New York Harbour it is a universally recognised image that is seen to represent the strength of its home country, the right to liberty and the notion of equity for all who disembark onto American soil.

'Liberty Leading the People' by Eugene Delacroix

'Statue of Liberty' by Frederic Bartholdi

It is this notion of equity which brings us to the relationship between art and Oxfam, at least on Cotham Hill. More usually expressed as the aim to reduce poverty around the world, Oxfam’s purpose is to give life changing opportunities to impoverished groups and individuals. It is to allow them to achieve an independent life style in which they are not trapped by being placed at the wrong end of the financial extremes. Oxfam is about nurturing equity.

Because of the immediacy of Oxfam’s work – there are over 1 billion people in absolute poverty today – making a political statement is not the most effective way that one bookshop can use art. Instead, we decided that selling it is. It is claimed that Bristol has the highest number of artists per capita in the country and it certainly has its fair share of art trails and art lovers, on the last count there were at least seven art trails taking place in the city each year. So what better place to sell art and raise money to reduce poverty?

Each month we will be exhibiting the work of a different artist. Sometimes there will be a complimentary artist’s work on show as well. The important thing is that all of them will be sold at a realistic price and at least thirty per cent of the money raised will go directly to Oxfam. We would like to make it higher, but it would be a bit hypocritical to drive the artists into poverty.

'Sleeping Female' by Norma Rowe

The first artist to exhibit at Oxfam Cotham Hill Bookshop is Norma Rowe. Based in Henleaze, just a stone’s throw (or two) away from Cotham, Norma’s art work is partly influenced by folk culture. The series of magpie tree paintings are each entitled after what they represent in the magpie nursery rhyme, ‘One For Sorrow’, ”Two For Joy’ and so on. The bronze resin and ceramic sculptures are expressive studies of the human form which you can not help but react to.

A big thank you goes out to Norma and to all the other artists who have agreed to show their work in our shop.

'Three For a Girl' by Norma Rowe.

To find out more about Norma and her work you can go to her website at www.normarowe.co.uk.

If you would like to exhibit and sell your art work in our shop then e-mail us on oxfamshopf2805@oxfam.org.uk 


Rather than write about our International Women’s Day event ourselves we decided to hand the reigns over to the prize winner, Helen Mott. There was plenty to celebrate about the evening, as Helen eloquently explains. All that leaves for us to do is to say thank you to everyone who came along and made it so enjoyable, and to Corks of Cotham who kindly provided the prize. Over to you, Helen.



Oxfam Cotham Bookstore celebrates International Women’s Day

When I heard that Oxfam Cotham Bookstore were hosting some readings for IWD I knew that I really wanted to go along. Oxfam, as a charity that focuses on poverty, recognises the central place of women both in the narrative of poverty (poverty, it is said, “has a female face”) and in its alleviation. This is as true in the UK as it is in other parts of the world. How appropriate, then, that Oxfam’s Cotham Bookstore would seek to mark IWD and raise awareness of Oxfam’s work on gender issues by this very lovely idea of holding readings of women’s work.

I am the co-ordinator for Bristol Fawcett, a voluntary group which campaigns for gender equality in Bristol – you can find out more by visiting our website www.bristolfawcett.org.uk or join us on Facebook / follow us on Twitter.  For feminist activists and campaigners like me, International Women’s Day is always a very busy time and sometimes the important theme of celebrating women and women’s achievements can be lost in the work of raising awareness and information-sharing. Similarly the pace of modern life has certainly meant for me that the love of literature and especially poetry that once burned so strongly in my far-off youth has taken a bit of a back seat in recent years, losing out to the demands of activism, family life and – yes – Twitter & Facebook.

So I very much wanted to take some time out on IWD to celebrate and indulge in the creativity of women writers, whose work is still today not as valued as the work of men, in the canon or in the publishing and prize-giving circuit. It was a pleasure to see women’s writing and feminist writing showcased for IWD in the bookstore’s window too.

I chose to read a poem by Marge Piercy republished in her newest collection, “The Hunger Moon”, a treasured Christmas gift to me last year.  I am a huge fan of Marge Piercy, whose phenomenal feminist science fiction classic of the 1970s “Woman on the Edge of Time” still resonates powerfully today.  I also love her poetry, which ranges right across the spectrum from observational musings on the natural world to the strongly political.  I chose to read her poem, “What Are Big Girls Made Of?” because this poem is a reflection on women’s embodiment and the stranglehold of expectation and market forces on our self-image. As Natasha Walter has pointed out in her recent book “Living Dolls”, this is a theme which was of major concern to western feminists in the mid-20th century but lost traction in the latter half of that century as we set our sights on having equality before the law and in policy, thinking that the rest would follow… but there has been a recognition that issues around body image, the policing of women’s bodies and their sexuality, are absolutely central to the liberation of women and cannot be considered in isolation from all the other issues that we work on such as equality in democratic representation, an end to violence against women and girls, economic equality, and so on.

It was a delight to listen, too, to the beautiful and diverse readings of the assembled contributors: a gloriously descriptive excerpt from Colette’s “Cheri and the Last of Cheri”; a moving rendition of Sylvia Plath’s poem about her newborn baby, “Morning Song”; an evocative and intriguing tale of wifely duty in Singapore from “Following the Wrong God Home” by Catherine Lim, an author new to me.  And finally we listened to a precious tape-recording of Sylvia Plath reading two of her finest poems, “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus”.  These two poems are engraved on my heart and hearing her read them in that unmistakable precise – but somehow also languid – voice gave me goosebumps – you can listen to her here: http://thereaderonline.co.uk/2007/09/18/sylvia-plath-reads-daddy/ and here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/poetry/outloud/plath.shtml.

So thank you, Oxfam Cotham Bookstore, for creating this space on IWD, thank you to Corks for the much appreciated wine voucher (instantly redeemed and enjoyed!), thank you to all the contributors who gave such pleasure in their readings and I do hope we can do it again next year.

International Women’s Day is on Thursday 8th March. To celebrate we are holding a competition in the shop on the day and the prize is a £10 voucher from our lovely friends and neighbours, Corks of Cotham! All are welcome to take part or just to come and listen.

The idea is simple. Choose a piece of literature written by a woman.

It can be poetry, prose or even part of a play or script. It can last anything from 30 seconds to five minutes.

It can be written by someone famous or someone unknown. It can even be written by you – if you are a woman!

Read it to the audience, either individually or as a small group.

The most entertaining or informative reading wins the £10 Corks of Cotham voucher.

The event will start at 5.15 on Thursday 8th March at the Oxfam Cotham Hill Bookshop. If you would like to read a piece of writing it would help us if you let us know, but don’t let not getting in touch put you off taking part. You can leave a reply below. Alternatively contact us on www.facebook/oxfamcothamhillbookshop , www.twitter.com/oxfamcothambook or just pop in and let us know in person. Spread the word!

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that is felt repeatedly in our bookshop. Children’s books are particularly evocative of a time and a place, associated as they are with innocence rather than experience. ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle and ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak have both been described as “the best book ever” by volunteers. This despite their

This album was especially popular with boys.

brevity and absence from the vast majority of literature courses. Just as powerful but less obvious are  old atlases. With a quarter of the world’s countries coloured pink, they have started older volunteers reminiscing about the days of the British Empire and their life in lands such as Rhodesia. Not wishing for a return of colonialism so much as remembering a time in their own lives.

Our latest window display seems to have caused a wave of nostalgia amongst customers and volunteers alike, not to mention the manager. Brooke Bond picture cards, and the albums they came with, were a feature of many children’s lives in the second half of the twentieth century. Produced from 1954 right through to the 1990s, they filled the void left by the absence of cigarette cards after the war. To collect them you had to buy PG tips tea, each packet coming with a free card. The urgency to complete the set meant that for some families the badgering of parents to buy more tea was probably as effective a marketing tool as the iconic live chimps that advertised it on television. It also lead to trade offs in the playground as children exchanged their repeat cards for ones that had eluded them so far. Business studies for the young, so to speak. Perhaps this early wheeling and dealing is why our boss ended up running our shop.

One customer’s response clearly showed the level of feeling that these picture cards can evoke. A seemingly mild mannered woman suddenly erupted with feeling as she flicked through several of the albums. “Oh, my husband will LOVE these!” she expressed. “They were wonderful.” At this point she and the boss started going on a nostalgia trip that is possibly best left out in case you are about to eat. It was concluded with “My brother will love THIS one” and a purchase of several of the albums in question.

The original album was called ‘British Birds’, and most early albums were about natural history in one form and another. However, by the 1960s and 70s titles included ‘Race Into Space’, ‘The Sea – Our Other World’ and ‘Inventors and Inventions’. Each picture card had a tantalising amount of information on the back. Just enough to make even the vaguely interested want to find out more and so get their family drinking more tea.

The albums themselves included more information than that found on the back of the cards and also featured an introduction by a well-known figure in the field. ‘Inventors and Inventions’ was introduced by Tomorrow’s World presenter Raymond Baxter and ‘Wildlife In Danger’ was written, illustrated and introduced by Sir Peter Scott, founder of the then World Wildlife Fund. Both were prominent figures at the time. Little wonder that the albums and the picture cards that they held were as addictive for the innocent as reminiscing is for the more experienced in life.

When a local vicar walks into the shop and donates his personal collection of  Batman and Warhammer comics with a certain amount of reluctance you know that times are changing. Somehow the image of the clergy of yesteryear donating Spidey comics and the like is too incongruous to believe, yet graphic novels and latterday men of the cloth are clearly a plausable combination. This revelation inevitably became the subject of conversation in the shop, which moved on to the history of comics themselves.

One of our favourites.

It turns out that opinion about comics’ beginnings is as divided as their subjects are diverse. Trajan’s Column in Rome, built in the early 2nd century AD, tells a story in sequential pictures. On the other hand the Bayeux Tapestry, created in the late 11th century, depicts the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings using words as well as pictures. The humourous element which  brought about the medium’s name was first included, in the west at least, by the likes of the 18th century artist William Hogarth. His use of pictures and words to satirise the politicians of the day still has a bearing on cartoonists such as Gary Trudeau (creator of Doonesbury) and Ralph Steadman (illustrator of Hunter S Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ amongst many other works.)

Comics did not take the form which most of us think of, that is as comic magazines, until the 20th century. The Beano and the Dandy are amongst the earliest comic magazines still in publication in the original form, appearing in the nineteen-thirties, and they remain popular to this day. However, they were preceded by works such as Herge’s Adventures of Tintin. This started off in 1929 as part of a Belgian newspaper comic supplement, but is now better known for being published in the book format and as such can fairly be described as a graphic novel.

Unlike the Beano and Dandy comics, Tintin books are read by adults as well as children and this element which carries on through to the present day. Modern science-fiction and fantasy magazines are particularly popular with grown ups, but factual graphic books are becoming more common. One very good local example is ‘The Bristol Story’ by Bristol journalist Eugene Byrne and illustrator Simon Gurr. A regular donation to our shop, it gives an excellent outline of Bristol’s long and chequered history and is well worth reading.

There are far too many variations in twentieth and twenty-first century comic history to go into more detail here. Gender oriented comics like Action and Bunty, underground comics such as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and the resurgence of sci-fi adventures with the start of 2000AD are just some of the elements which go into the rich tapestry of this story. What is clear is that the rise in demand means the medium is becoming more and more popular, and we think rightly so.

If you have some comics or graphic novels and you want to get rid of them please do not just throw them away. We will be very happy to take them off your hands to help us raise money to reduce poverty.