A tiny bookstore had to move — so they formed a 200-person human chain

'One hour. 200+ people. One stock room, emptied. THAT is community, friends.'

'One hour. 200+ people. One stock room, emptied. THAT is community, friends.'

A tiny bookshop in Southampton, England needed to move — but instead of packing boxes, they got more than 200 volunteers to form a human chain. (Twitter/The Southampton Collective)

If you have ever moved a lot of books, you know exactly what a headache it is. One bookcase will fill multiple boxes — and then when you get to where you're going, you have to unpack and reorganize them — so you can just imagine what moving an entire bookstore would be like.

But a beloved bookshop in Southampton, England found a smart solution to the problem when they were forced to move down the street: they formed a human chain.

"We are looking for volunteers to help us in the week of the 29th October to the 2nd November," read the plea on the October Books website. "This is heavy manual work and so we are looking for people who are able to help lift and shift boxes, furniture, shelving and general awkwardly shaped things. This could include carrying items downstairs and/or loading trolleys or vehicles, or carrying them along Portswood Road from the old shop to the new shop."

More than 200 volunteers answered the call from the 40-year-old business, which bills itself as "local, radical and eco-friendly." Amazingly, the volunteers stood in a long line, and one by one, passed more than 2,000 books to the new location which was roughly 150 metres away.

"It was a tremendous show of support and community and we're moved and incredibly touched by it. We are of, and for, our community and it is truly heartening to see that reciprocated," said Clare Diaper, who works at the bookshop, in the Guardian.

First opened in 1977, October Books had been in their former location for 15 years, but was forced to move because of rising rents. Through donations and repayable loans, the business was able to purchase a former bank building.

According to The Society of St. James, the first floor of the property will be used to increase the housing stock available for vulnerable people.

"There is something about radical bookshops, especially long-established ones like October Books," said Ian Rothwell, investment manager at Cooperative and Community Finance. "They have a special place in the hearts of local people and now, by opening up the old bank to community use, that bond will become even stronger."

Not only did the store get all of the books moved; they have garnered a wave of attention from around the globe, and are being heralded as a model of what can happen when a community pulls together.

"One hour. 200+ people. One stock room, emptied," read an October Books tweet earlier this week. (See above.) "THAT is community, friends."

About the Author

Jennifer Van Evra

Jennifer Van Evra is a Vancouver-based journalist and digital producer for q. She can be found on Twitter @jvanevra or email jennifer.vanevra@cbc.ca.

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