Community Books and Crafts Shop: NorfolkTales

by Eleanor Ann in Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

Community Books and Crafts Shop: NorfolkTales
Not quite
Unfortunately this project was not successful.

To set up a second-hand books, arts and crafts shop (with tea and cake!) on the ground floor of a little house in North Lancaster.

by Eleanor Ann in Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

Brief summary

I am hoping to raise money to register Norfolk Tales as a company, and to apply for planning permission to change a residential property into a mixed used residential and retail property. This is so I can open a second-hand bookshop on the ground floor, also selling cheap arts and crafts, gifts, tea and coffee, juice, toast, and homemade cakes and biscuits. I hope that this will be good for local families, children, and anyone in the area who is feeling isolated. It will be friendly, inclusive, environmental and very cute. 


I have lived in Lancaster for 9 years and it is a pretty arty little city! However, it seems like this artiness is more accessible to the middle-class residents and students than it is to the working-class members of the town. 

My idea is to turn the ground floor of our house into a shop for second-hand books, and little pieces of locally made arts and crafts. It is super important to me that the things we sell be as affordable as possible. We will also gather comic books, magazines, and colouring books which people can read and use inside, if they like. We might set up some kind of rental system for things like comics and magazines. We are going to evolve the way we do things in response to the needs of the local people. 

We have a big front window which we could fill with wonderful displays, and we will paste art prints and postcards, and old sheet music to cover the walls of the 'living room'. Locally designed and created art will hang on any walls which aren't covered with book shelves. Through to the kitchen there will be a little breakfast bar and visitors can buy hot and cold (non-alcoholic) drinks, as well as toast and homemade cakes and biscuits. 

On sunny days people could take a book or magazine out to the yard and sit in the sunshine. 

So far, I have been developing all of these ideas with a small (but growing) group of friends. Some are interested in working or volunteering in the shop, some people make keyrings, jewellery and art pieces and would like a place to sell these. Some have simply offered to help by donating books or driving to pick up donations. It has been amazing to have so many people become excited about this project and offer to help in so many different ways. 

Market research and communications

We have a Facebook page, and have (just!) finalised a logo. A survey has been shared around and has had around 30 responses, with some really helpful feedback. I have been in touch with some local city councillors who have offered support and advice, and who have been really positive about the project. We have some market research flyers to print and post to the houses on the street to continue to gather feedback, and I have set up an email address. 

Help needed

We need to apply for planning permission to start this project, and I have been advised by some that this application is likely to be rejected. I have done all I can to try to provide reasons for this application to be accepted, but honestly I just don't know if it will be. It will not be noisy, it will serve the local community, it will hopefully fight isolation, and provide an arts based outing for local families, older people, anybody who may struggle with the longer distance to the city centre or feel excluded by the price and culture of 'normal' shops. It will remain a rental property, renting rooms at below average prices to local people, and hopefully one or two of these tenants will work in the shop. We will be paying staff the living wage (£9 per hour) and give them enough time outside of opening hours to pursue their own interests.

To register as a company limited-by-guarantee (our social enterprise, not-for-profit status will be outlined in our official documents) with Companies House, we need about £30. To apply for planning permission to change the property from residential only to mixed-use residential and retail we need £500. 

If planning permission is rejected we will try to find a suitable retail property to rent - but the increased rent and complexity of this may prove impossible. I just think this would be a cute project which might encourage local children's literacy and creativity, and maybe help any isolated people in the area. 

Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. We will also apply for grants from organisations which may support this kind of venture, but most applications can't be done until we know if it will be legally possible, and we are registered as a company.

Keep reading for more information and extra details!

I manage a small rental property in North Lancaster for my mum. We poured our life savings into this house three years ago so that she could take early retirement, partly due to chronic health problems, partly because she deserved it! I want to make sure that this property brings in a reliable income for her (this is from the rent - the project itself is not-for-profit with surplus used to improve the service for the community). For a couple of years I lived in this house with some friends, but after this setup changed we have struggled to find new tenants. 

Our house is to the North of the city, over the river Lune in the Skerton area. This is a fairly big residential area, bordering more residential areas. There are a few shops dotted around, of all kinds, and some schools. There is a huge park nearby with a community centre which hosts some great events for local people including children and families. We would love this project to support the work that the community centre, and other local groups, does!

There are a lot of children and families in this area, and we want to provide a cute and exciting place for children to visit where they can browse books, magazines, do some colouring, and maybe take home something crafty. I have been cleaning and saving plastic tubs and containers and one of my ideas is to crochet cosies onto these containers and fill them with some crafty materials, like an arts and crafts pick-n-mix. These could be bought and then, once the contents are used, the container could be brought back for a refill (which would be cheaper than the initial cost). 

I have nearly completed a librarianship qualification and perhaps, if there is a need, I could provide support to people in things like CVs, job applications, using the internet, and reading and writing. 


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£50 or more

Crocheted gloves OR small basket

If you pledge £50 I will crochet you a pair of fingerless gloves or a small basket.

£15 or more

Crocheted bookmark OR hair band with bow

If you pledge £15 I will crochet you a bookmark, or a soft hairband with a bow.

£20 or more

Crocheted stripy phone case

If you pledge £20 I will crochet you a case for your phone!

£100 or more

Crocheted bag OR rug

If you pledge £100 (wow, thanks!) I will crochet you a bag or a rug!

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