Battle of the Bookshops: Bloom & Curll in Bristol

20th Aug 2010

Bloom and Curll independent bookshop in Bristol

Bloom & Curll is a beautiful bookshop in one of my favourite areas of Bristol: the top end of Colston Street, near the ‘Christmas steps’ (another story). There is a kind of organic and independent vibrancy around these parts that can make you feel like you are a hundred miles away from the doldrums of Cabot Circus and central Bristol.

The shop itself is very small and quaint: a one-man show that has been running for the last three and a half years by the owner, Jason. The stock consists of about 60/40 second-hand/new books and covers everything from fiction to philosophy to children’s books. The owner, Jason, is extremely amicable and very knowledgeable making this a great place to browse or simply to stop for a chat. He also encourages customer to use the space for their own activities, whether they want to “display fine art, discuss politics, poetry, or Kafka over a cup of tea, play chess and plan the next revolution or simply sit read and think.”

Bloom & Curll is a social hub for the local community. As part of that, what I really like about this bookshop is its involvement with Bristol Developing World Enterprises, a joint business venture with the behemoth that is Amazon, but one which actually benefits the ‘developing world’ by creating new jobs in Africa by setting up small businesses from the proceeds of books sold.

The project is co-ordinated in the UK by long term unemployed and prisoners on job placement, as part of a scheme enabling them to get back into proper employment. Besides the fact that there’s a wide range of choices from prices as low as a penny (you effectively only pay for P&P), it’s an easy and enjoyable way of doing your bit. What more could you ask for? You’ll literally be saving the world one book at a time.

Another plus point for Bloom & Currl is its ethos of the old school; its minimal fuss and simple layout style is a refreshing change from some shops that seem to try too hard. The interior, featuring wonky shelves and piled-up books, is a perfect reflection of the quirky exterior of all the buildings in this part of Bristol with their uneven roofs and walls. A further bonus is the fact that although there is seemingly endless stock, the shop somehow manages to not come across as being overloaded with books, which is often the case with independent bookshops and can make you feel overawed and unable to take in what’s on offer.

Bloom & Curll is a tucked-away hidden gem and, although it’s hard to imagine too many people knowing about it, I quite like it that way as I have never been much good at sharing. A place to discuss Kafka, drink coffee and play chess? I think my girlfriend might be seeing a lot less of me in future…

Guest post by Matthias Mueller. Follow him on Twitter or read his blog, Cultural Constellations. Is there an independent bookshop dear to your heart that you’d like to see featured in our weekly Battle of the Bookshops series? Let us know in the comments or email us if so!