I invited Joy McIlroy of Ashburnham Books to give us a bookseller’s perspective on this week’s Retailers and Suppliers Retreat. Appalling jokes, amazing speakers, phenomenal artists, friendships made and renewed, hope, inspiration and a sense of family: this was clearly the Christian book trade at its best — Joy writes:
As it turned 11am on Tuesday 4th May 2010, some 180 retailers, publishers, distributors, authors and artists began to gather for the Christian Resources Together Retailers and Suppliers Retreat at the beautiful High Leigh conference centre. It became apparent VERY quickly that there was a buzz and an energy about the place that had been seriously lacking in our industry in recent months. Those flogging their ‘wares’ had already set up their booths with products (and some sweeties), although for most retailers just the opportunity to put a few faces to names and feedback some ideas was a brilliant opportunity.
It is hard to summarise what exactly made the event so good. The very obvious hard work and dedication of the team who put it together was crucial to its success. They did a fantastic job of hosting the event, making everyone feel instantly secure with a mixture of clear instruction, full programme and quite appalling jokes at times!
We were spoiled with some amazing speakers and phenomenal artists. Cathy Burton brought her blend of sensitive worship leading and beautifully crafted lyrics in her own songs to inspire and refresh the soul. The following day we were blessed with the more raw and raspy stylings of Marc James leading us into the presence of God. As for speakers, when I mention the names Joel Edwards, Rico Tice and Eric Delve you would be forgiven for nodding your head in profound understanding of quite what quality, passion, fire and insight we were presented with. It is probably unsurprising that all being published authors they were quick to encourage us that what we do in our industry is of utmost importance to the kingdom, but through their words and encouragement they spoke the heart of God into what has become quite a dry, barren industry.
It’s fair to say that fellowship was not a struggle. As my colleague shared with me on the way home, the trick was actually finding time to be on your own, there was always someone to talk to. There were many long, old friendships that were being rekindled and deepened, alongside brand new ones as people mingled and chatted. Even with all that has taken place in the last year or so, I experienced very little grumbling! Everyone was so hopeful and excited. Conversation flowed freely and inspiration was abundant. One of the most inspirational things for me to observe was the interaction between the publishers. Healthy competition was evident but also there was a real sense of family amongst them.
Other elements of the retreat included… an early morning prayer time which was located in the creative prayer room; a series of workshops eloquently presented and facilitated to encourage lively debate and a free flow of idea; the awards dinner where the best in our business were celebrated and rewarded; professional, fun and entertaining presentations from several publishers; and the good food and service from the High Leigh staff.
As people began to (reluctantly) depart from the event the feelings being expressed were overwhelmingly positive. Many came into the event feeling weary, disillusioned, fearful, confused. But people left feeling refreshed, enthused, inspired, and hopeful. We all knew in our heads that we needed to be stronger together, but on leaving I believe we now truly know in our hearts how to do it. God’s presence was tangible as we shared and prayed together.
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1 v.3
It is NOT over.
Next: A Publisher’s Perspective: watch this space…