Pigeon Books are Portsmouth’s newest edition to the bookshop scene and recently just celebrated their shops’ first birthday. They’ve had a whirlwind of a year throughout lockdown and I was excited to catch up with them to question them on it.
Mel, Phil, thank you so much for chatting to me and a belated Happy first Birthday as well as Happy Independent Bookshop week! So tell us, how did it all begin? How did Pigeon Books come to be?
Pigeon Books started as a combination of a few things – Mel has wanted a book shop forever, and I’ve worked in retail for most of my working life so it seemed like a logical step. The conversation between us started when we were trying to work out what we could do as a job that would allow us to have a dog… and then that led on to ‘well why don’t we start that bookshop?’.
We’d found something that Southsea didn’t currently have, and did a few market stalls and pop-up shops to test the water first before jumping into our own place.
I love that Pigeon Books centered on finding time for a dog! And what a sweetie little Bear is. Opening up during a pandemic must have been really interesting (or maybe terrifying?), how was it for you both?
It certainly wasn’t part of the plan! We did wonder whether we’d done the wrong thing for a while – but we’d already committed at that point, so just went ahead and tried to make the best of it. It soon got a lot easier once we started to realise that we’d created something that people really liked, and that actually maybe it could work after all.
I can definitely vouch for being one of those people! So you’ve had one year in the shop, how incredible! Has it been a testing first year or have you loved it?
It’s been an interesting year, to say the least – in various states of being open, then closed, then open for collections only, then open again, repeat as necessary… we haven’t been able to do all the events and things that we’d originally planned, but we’ll get there. I certainly racked up a few miles on my bike doing local deliveries when we weren’t able to open. It has been tricky, and a steep learning curve. But we’ve loved it. It’s a pleasure to be here, and we’re so happy that people love the shop.
They certainly do and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way! Huge congratulations on that. I know anyone that reads a lot hates to be asked this question but I’m going to do it anyway – what are your favourite books of all time? Or maybe just some great things you’ve read recently?
Phil: I’ll always go with Roald Dahl as my favourite, from childhood and still now. Such a creative and fun writer, who really captivated me as a child and is probably largely responsible for my love of reading. Nowadays I’m much more of a non-fiction reader in general, I tend to read a lot of cycling books and musical biographies, but I do enjoy Japanese fiction, Ryu Murakami and Sayaka Murata are both authors I’ve read and enjoyed recently.
Mel: So I have loads (obviously). One of my all time favourite writers is Favel Parrett, she’s an Australian writer whose latest book There Was Still Love was published in the UK late last year. She’s so good at being really evocative, she writes so beautifully that I will return to her books over and over again.
Some of my all time favourite fiction books are: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. Favourite poets would have to be: Frank O’Hara, Hollie McNish, Hera Lindsay Bird and Anne Carson. Then finally, some favourite non-fictions would be: Ways of Seeing by John Berger and The Art of Reading by Damon Young.
Phew! What a list. I’ll definitely be adding them to my ever-growing reading pile. Thank you for them. Any last words as we wrap up today?
Just to add that we’re super grateful for Southsea in general and the support we’ve had for what we’re doing – we’ve loved being involved with you [The Bookish Mindset] and the subscription boxes too, and the other things like the Literacy Pirates. We can’t wait until things are relaxed enough that we can start putting on events, and hopefully this time next year we’ll be able to have a proper birthday party!
It’s been an absolute pleasure supporting you both, I can’t wait to see what you have in stall next. Thank you!
If you’d like to find out more about Pigeon Books or take a browse at what they have on offer then you can find them in store: 1 Albert Road, Southsea. You can find out more details on their social media by hitting the icons below!
Written by Nikki Jones from The Bookish Mindset
Featured Image by The Pigeon Books