Living Oasis Update: Edinburgh opening imminent, Summer newsletter, Online ambitions and a DVD

Update 5pm, 26/7/2010: News has emerged that negotiations for the lease on the former Wesley Owen premises in Croydon have been unsuccessful. Please continue to pray for all concerned as the search for alternative premises goes on.

It’s all happening at Living Oasis, with Living Oasis Edinburgh gearing up for a grand reopening soon — doors open Saturday July 31st, official opening ceremony planned for September — having at long last secured a temporary lease in the former Wesley Owen premises on George Street: keep an eye on their new facebook page for updates and photos (you’ll need to update your facebook ‘likes’ if you’ve been following the old Wesley Owen Edinburgh page).

Living Oasis: The Story So Far: News Summer 2010

Living Oasis: The Story So Far: News Summer 2010 (pdf, 1.5mb)

The Living Oasis Summer 2010 newsletter is available for download (pdf, 1.5mb) and includes introductions to each of the stores by the staff (pp.2-3) along with an outline of plans for a new online store due to be launched “by late summer 2010” (p.4). Living Oasis online will seek to complement rather than compete with the high street stores, offering price parity with the shops in the hope that applying five key principles — summed up under the headings Excellence, Equity, Encounter, Expertise, Engage — will be sufficient to win customer loyalty over the temptation of lower prices elsewhere. A sixth ‘E’ — Experience — will no doubt prove telling, but one can only wish Living Oasis every success in the venture.

Now some reflections from Richard Howarth of Ignite Creative, producers of the Living Oasis DVD that you may have seen.

Richard writes:

AS someone who believes Christians need to be seen if we are going to be heard in the wider community, I was gutted to hear late last year the Wesley Owen chain was going to be broken up, with the potential loss of a well-known brand across the country.

But it was not just about the name. When so many people only latch onto headlines about declining church attendances and miss the good stuff – something I’m fairly certain of after 25 years in the secular press – the Wesley Owen story seemed to offer further proof of a religion in irreversible decline.

The reality, of course, has been quite different as a number of groups have stepped up to keep shops alive, meaning there have been more good stories than bad stories to come out of this situation.

The Nationwide Christian Trust is one of those that got involved. It saw the opportunity to rescue many of those shops that went into administration and also to develop a radical, long-term vision that would give them a much bigger profile on the high street.

Its Living Oasis brand has already had plenty of exposure as shops have been reopened but the plan is to do much more and fully develop their potential for outreach. They want to relocate them, put a coffee shop rather than books in the shop window, offer children’s play areas and more, while still stocking the full range of Christian resources.

This might all sound a bit bewildering for those with an expectation of what a Christian bookshop looks like.

So to show how exciting it all could be – and to encourage support for the plans – the Trust turned to Ignite Creative, a Christian video production company based in Coventry. The two had worked together before and the Trust was certain a DVD was a great way to get its message across and get people on board.

There was a chance to glimpse the future at the Christian Resources Exhibition in May, where Living Oasis had a working shop set up in the new way. This was also Ignite’s chance to do the filming ready for the promotional DVD.

Living Oasis DVD Still with Andy Twilley

Living Oasis: DVD still featuring Andy Twilley

Rev Andy Twilley from the Nationwide Christian Trust features on it setting out the plans and there are also interviews with many of the people who came for a coffee or for a closer look, including Adrian Plass and GP Taylor.

There was a real buzz around the place and out of all this, Ignite produced two versions of the DVD.

The Trust and Living Oasis seem delighted at the outcome, describing it as, ‘a resource which was far more than just a film… something which really made an impact in a way which would connect well with our target audience’ and hundreds of copies have already been sent out.

So if, like me, you have had spirits lifted by the great things that have happened already in 2010, I think you’ll be equally impressed if you see the DVD Ignite has come up with to show what could be happening in the future on a high street near you… and you can find a version right now on the Nationwide Christian Trust website!

Living Oasis DVD Still

Living Oasis mock-up store at CRE as featured on the DVD