May 2006 - July 2008
Sometimes things don't work out as planned, even for highly placed business men and lawyers. Taken largely from the "Save the SPCK" pages on Dave Walker's The Cartoon Blog, this publication reveals the sad and sorry story of the demise of the SPCK Bookshops following their handover to SSG, the Society of St Stephen the Great, in 2006 — and ends abruptly with a note from Dave dated July 8th 2008 on his silence following the tragic suicide of Steve Jeynes, former manager of the SPCK/SSG bookshop in Worcester.
Or rather, I should say that silence from Dave seems to be where Mr J Mark Brewer (co-owner of the bookshops with his brother, Philip) wanted it to end. Unfortunately, Dave's not the silent type: he kept on blogging, in his own quirky way, telling the story, reporting evenhandedly and watching with astonishment as the Brewers' business strategy fell apart.
Trouble is, Dave's not an especially noisy guy either: he's a cartoonist who expresses himself in pictures. He doesn't shout or scream. So when Mr J Mark Brewer sent Dave a "Demand to Cease and Desist" — which if it was anything like the one he sent me was full of self-righteous indignation, allegations and threats of legal action — Dave backed down.
This proved, in retrospect, to be the best move that Dave could have made: the blogosphere exploded with indignation as "Of Course I Could Be Wrong" blogger, MadPriest, declared war by launching a campaign to send Dave Walker solidarity messages to Mr Brewer whilst fellow Anglican priest Sam Norton retrieved some of Dave's missing posts from Google's cache and reposted them on his own site.
Alongside this, political blogger Matt Wardman — who compiled and published this report — launched an ongoing and growing campaign in defence of Dave's right to free speech, whilst Unity, a self-proclaimed "big bad atheist blogger with a penchant for digging into the detail" has been systematically taking Mr Brewer, his business dealings and his correspondence to pieces on his blog, Ministry of Truth. For a more comprehensive round-up of blogs and others picking up on this situation see the Wardman Wire My Name is Dave Walker post index.
Enough by way of introduction, however. Perhaps the best snapshot summary of Dave's posts has been given by blogger Exigency In Specie:
When you read the posts, Dave spent a good deal of time trying to moderate those reactions in order to thoughtfully report events that he believed should be of concern to a wider audience. As a relatively high profile site he primarily acted as a central resource for collecting together information from the geographically diverse chain. Care in what was written was uppermost, even when emotions grew - you can easily find points where he calls for cool heads, and where he removed comments that he himself deemed were close to the line.
My own reading concurs: Dave is no irresponsible or reckless blogger. Which begs the question, why the heavy handed intervention?
Dave's last SPCK related post appears on p.113. Then follow several pages of
As you read it, please be sure to send us your comments and feedback. If you run your own blog, please remember that it could be you being chased by angry lawyers next time. Please don't sit back and hope it doesn't happen to you: blog the story, join the fight and spread the word. And pray. Pray for the ex-SPCK booksellers whose lives have been wrecked by this fiasco. Pray for those of us standing with them. Please pray for Mr Brewer: despite all he's said and done, nobody wants to vilify him, I hope: that's emphatically not what this is about; but I would like to see some justice for these booksellers, and I would like him to respond in a more civil way than we've seen thus far.
Finally, when you come across some of the funnier stuff, do have a laugh. Remember, Dave Walker is a humourist.
You'll find continuous updates in the SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info blog. Thanks for reading...
Phil Groom, August 2008
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.The Wardman Wire | Comments? Feedback?