It’s Calliope? What’s Calliope?
Well, plenty of things, actually. Calliope was the Muse of Epic Poetry, back when the Greek Gods ran the world. Since then, the name has been applied to (amongst other things) a hummingbird, a font, an asteroid, a saint, a river, a housing project, five Royal Navy ships and a host of other things. And it’s pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable: Ca-LYE-o-pi.
The name was also given to a steam-driven fairground organ, which you can read about here. I’d rather like to own one of these, though the horses might be high-maintenance.
And in the spring of 2013, Calliope will be a retail business operating from a physical shop and a virtual website, selling gifts, books and all manner of attractive things, and run by my old colleague and friend Andy Adamson, and me.
Of course, there’ll be more to tell when we have a business to launch, but in the meantime, here’s what Benedicte Page had to say about us in The Bookseller:
Downer to open new store:
06.12.12 | Benedicte Page | The Bookseller
Former Borders UK c.e.o. Philip Downer is to open a new store, selling books, gifts and other merchandise, in the spring.
The shop, named Calliope, will be opened in an undisclosed Surrey location for which the lease is currently under negotiation. Downer will run the shop in partnership with former Borders colleague Andy Adamson, who is handling commercial relationships with vendors. A recruitment process has begun for a store manager, with applications welcome. Conversations with publishers are already underway.
Downer, who announced the venture at a meeting of The Galley Club last night (5th December), said: “We envisage a store and an online offer with a combination of books, gifts and other merchandise. I’ve been saying for some time that bookshops have to diversity and that being an expert 100% bookshop shows a profound failure to understand how customer expectations have changed. There is an opportunity to sell quality books to a broad consumer audience.”
Downer declined to give details on what percentage of his offer would be books, saying the volume and proportion of books within the retail offer would vary “according to season and customer demand”. They will, however, all be beautifully produced volumes, books “of quality, inside and out”, he promised. “I was a judge in the British Book Design and Production Awards and spent two days looking at these fantastic books and recognising that we have the design and production capability in this country to produce truly beautiful, attractive books. It is interesting the extent to which some of the major publishers is grasping that nettle.”
The bookshop will have an “interesting and extensive” but as yet unspecified online offer and will also act as a community resource, Downer said.
The name “Calliope” refers to the music of epic poetry, but Downer said he was more inspired by the old steam organ of the same name towed around the country by horses, the “explosive fairground noises” of which feature on one of the songs on “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Calliope is already on Twitter, at @CalliopeGifts, so do follow us and keep in touch with developments, as we move from being a great idea to becoming a great shop.
In the meantime, I’ll be undertaking at least ten somersets on solid ground. Have a good Christmas, and don’t forget, shopping at local stores keeps your economy and community alive – and their taxes pay for the services you use.