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" Live out of your imagination

not your history "

Stephen R. Covey

End of an Era – Watkins Closes

February 26th, 2010

Watkins - London's Oldest Occult Bookshop

I have just heard some sad news  from Stephen Gawtry, editor of The Watkins Review, who has given me permission to quote his mail. This is another example of the way ‘big business’ is trying to destroy uniqueness, idiosyncracy and ultimately culture in the pursuit of the ‘almighty dollar’:

Dear friends and colleagues,
Some of you may have already heard the sad news, but I’m afraid that Watkins Books has gone into administration and the shop closed on Tuesday, February 23rd. Watkins has been struggling for the last few years to keep its head above water. The tide turned with the collapse of the Net Book Agreement and the rise of discounted books. Independent bookshops relied on the bigsellers like Harry Potter or the latest Dan Brown to enable them to survive and stock the classics and slow sellers. Once the Net Book Agreement went, supermarkets were suddenly allowed to sell the bigsellers at heavily discounted prices, literally taking the bread from the mouths of the independents. When “The Da Vinci Code” first came out in paperback, Watkins was buying copies from the wholesaler at around £4.50, while up the road Tescos in Covent Garden was selling it for around £3.50. I heard of one independent bookseller who drove to his supermarket and filled up a trolley with the latest Jamie Oliver book, as it was far cheaper than getting it from his regular supplier. On the last Harry Potter books, supermarkets like Asda were selling them as lost leaders. A vast mountain of brand new £16.99 hardbacks marked down to £4.99 so that every little ‘Potter’ fan would urge their parents to take them there and hopefully buy their weekly shopping at the same time. This is the real crime. These people don’t respect books. To them they are a throw away commodity. What other area of retail gives away the latest brand new products like that? The collapse of the Net Book Agreement has enabled the supermarkets to take the cream of the bestsellers and demand huge discounts from publishers, thereby depriving bookshops of their life-blood. But what happens when there is suddenly nowhere to buy the classics, the text books, the car and computer manuals? Yes, if you know exactly what you want, you can order online. But what if you don’t know? What if you need to look at the book or to browse and see what is right for you? This is the reality. As of 2009, 500 independent bookshops in the UK had closed since the demise of the agreement in the late 90s. That number will vastly increase over the next year. Online sellers like Amazon have compounded the problem and the recent recession has just about brought the high street to its knees. Even specialist shops with loyal customers like Watkins are now struggling to survive. I always thought Watkins would pull through somehow and have not yet given up hope. There are several people interested in buying Watkins and hopefully it will rise again from the ashes and be given a new lease of life. Having worked at Watkins since 1993, I have seen many changes, met many dear friends – authors, publishers, distributors, work colleagues – and of course customers! I would like to thank everyone for their continued support over the years. Like Watkins, long may it continue!
Those of you who have adverts, books or articles in the Spring or Summer issues of the Review, please note that I have every intention of continuing with the Review and will do my best to get future issues out when I can. I will let you know more once I know more myself.
Best wishes,
Stephen Gawtry 
Editor, The Watkins Review

The Bookseller have a included a piece on their website about the closure of Watkins. You can check it out and add your comment here.
There are already several comments in response to the article, so please feel free to add a comment, as I’m sure the Bookseller will make an article about the closure in their next issue.

The Evening Standard on their “This is London” website have also added an article about Watkins. You can check it out and add your comment here.

The Disinformation Company in New York have posted a “Save Watkins” story on their site.

Quote Hunt

February 25th, 2010

Anyone know the author of this quote:

“You can accomplish anything if you are willing to take credit for nothing.”

No clues on looking through the web. Could it be Gandhi?

Spring Equinox Invitation to Book Launch and Art Exhibition

February 24th, 2010

Nuinn (Ross Nichols) before the Pyramids at Gizeh (composite image)

You are cordially invited to the launch of Journeys of the Soul: The Life & Legacy of a Druid Chief by Philip Carr-Gomm, with the Selected Poetry, Letters, Travel Diaries, Watercolours and Drawings of Ross Nichols, and with a Foreword by Christina Oakley Harrington. The party will be held at Treadwell’s Bookshop, 34 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7PB on Monday 22nd March 2010 from 7pm.

Please call the bookshop on 020 7240 8906 to reserve your ticket (free) and to ensure that your glass of wine and peanut will be held for you.

Ross Nichols was one of the key figures in the revival of interest in Druidry and Celtic Spirituality in modern times. Journeys of the Soul vividly describes Nichols’ life in the first complete biography of this enigmatic and influential Druid Chief, allowing us an intimate and controversial glimpse into the life and mind of one of the founding figures of the modern Pagan movement.

In this illustrated 220pp hardback published by The Oak Tree Press in March 2010, photographs, sketches and colour reproductions of his watercolours are included with the letters and diary excerpts of Nichols’ own journeys, continuing the theme of Philip’s biography with stories of travel in evocative places: by the pyramids in Egypt, in the mountains of Bulgaria, in the ‘House of Mysteries’ at Pompeii. In these travel journals, Nichols weaves impressions of the countryside and the people with historical and archaeological information, psychic impressions, anecdotes, jokes and poetry. As we follow a historian and spiritual teacher on his journeys, we too are taken on journeys of the soul.

The book launch also launches the first ever exhibition of Ross Nichols’ watercolours and sketches, which will be on display at Treadwells for a week.

If you can’t come to the party, you can order a signed copy from the bookshop of The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (The book will not be available from any other source).


February 23rd, 2010

Another fantastic Druidcast – the longest ever – with an interview with Simon Emmerson of Afro-Celts and Imagined Village. Music from both bands – including tracks with Peter Gabriel and Sinead O’Connor:


Druidcast is the podcast of The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. It is released monthly on around the 22nd of the month. See the Druidcast page for details of all the episodes and for the button you can press to record your contribution to the show!

The Robin Hood Tax

February 18th, 2010

Fantastic! Do watch. Bill Nighy at his best and a powerful message:


February 18th, 2010

Barddas II is a compilation of music created by members of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. Released in 2001 it has been sought after ever since. We now are pleased to be able to offer it in this digital format: you can hear excerpts from it with a mouse-click and if you like it, it’s only £5 to download. As with the CD release, all money raised from the sale of Barddas II will go to the Order’s Sacred Grove Planting Project.

The Garden of Awen

February 14th, 2010

An enchanting evening of the finest grassroots performance poetry, storytelling, monologue, song, acoustic music, dance and other Arcadian delights, featuring Awen authors; special guests.
Garden of Awen takes places on the First Sunday of the Month at Chapel Arts Centre, central Bath.
Each month there is a seasonal theme. Details.

The Emperor of Atlantis

February 14th, 2010

When I started this blog opera was a theme that popped up quite frequently. It’s been on the back burner for a year or so, partly fuelled (note burner analogy running like wildfire through this piece) by circumstances preventing me from seeing a single production last year (“What a tragedy!” I can hear you saying with heart-felt sympathy).

This lack of a post on opera for a long time must be corrected, and circumstances have provided the opportunity. The artist Angela Lemaire, daughter of Douglas Lyne (see a few posts down) has sent me a scan of a woodcut inspired by an opera which I had never heard of: The Emperor of Atlantis. Here it is:

'Death, Harlequin and the Drummer Girl' Woodcut by Angela Lemaire

Angela writes: “The picture was inspired by the opera composed in 1941 in a transit camp, entitled The Emperor of Atlantis.  They had rehearsals but eventually the composers and musicians perished in Auschwitz.  This is an extraordinary story.  The figures are characters in the opera. Though Doug I don’t think ever saw this image, I’m sure he would have been interested – especially about the opera and its tragic story.”