A Toast to Samuel French at Royal Court
Last Friday, Samuel French's London Bookshop officially opened at the Royal Court Theatre! Douglas Schatz, Managing Director of Samuel French Ltd, toasted the Bookshop and its creation during the evening's event. Below, you'll find his inspiring remarks.
The idea for Samuel French to open a bookshop at the iconic Royal Court theatre in London’s Sloane Square came from a wonderful coincidence of vision with Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director, and Lucy Davies, Executive Producer at the theatre, when they confessed that they had been imagining exactly the same thing: a bookshop in the under-used space in their Balcony Bar that would offer visitors somewhere to stop and spend time reading plays, linger over coffee, listen to playwrights talk about their work, and meet other passionate theatre people.
During this first fateful conversation with Vicky and Lucy we identified that one of the motivations that we had in common was the shared belief that bookshops and the printed word are essential to the whole ecosystem of theatre, if not to our culture most widely. We all know that we can do just about anything online, including of course buy play texts, even from Samuel French; but when we closed our previous shop in Fitzroy Street last April we were overwhelmed by an outpouring of support and sadness from former customers, many of whom told similar stories about the first time that they visited the shop as young drama students, actors, playwrights, directors or producers, and of how they had loved spending hours sitting around our table or on the floor pouring over texts looking for just the right monologue, or the next play to program, or just inspiration.
Bookshops represent more than just retail opportunities. They are places where you can carve out some precious, very personal time in your life, to pursue your passions or profession, to discover new directions or dreams, and to interact with others who share the interests that are important to you.
It was this deep personal and social meaning that Vicky, Lucy and we recognised can only be found in real places – places like the theatre, or this new bookshop.
We have been thrilled to work with the theatre and our professional design team over the past nine months to create the new bookshop in the balcony space. Katy Marks, from Citizens Design Bureau; Roger Watts, from Haworth Tompkins who have recently designed the new Bridge theatre in London; and Lars Wagner, who has hand-crafted the furniture, have created a beautiful shop.
We are also delighted to welcome back our incomparable Shop Manager, Simon Ellison to helm the new shop. Simon ran our previous London bookshop for 17 years. When we announced that he was returning to our new shop he was rightly described by a customer on social media as our very own “stalwart hero play boffin!"
We have now opened the doors of the new shop, and I’m delighted to say that we have seen everything happening just as we’d envisioned and hoped: theatre lovers of all kinds sitting at the table or on the steps engrossed in plays, chatting over coffee, and finally of course buying piles of books to take away to continue their own education and life stories.
This is just what we and the Royal Court had in mind – a fruitful partnership between the Writers’ Theatre and the Theatre Bookshop.