A Matlock charity shop celebrates its golden anniversary this month, and staff are making big plans to mark the occasion.
Oxfam, now on Dale Road, opened its original town centre store in August 1968 and in the years since has raised more than £1.25million from an estimated 500,000 items sold.
Today, it is Matlock’s only general interest bookshop, and continues to thrive, regardless of all the changes to hit the high street over half a century, thanks to the hundreds of helpers who have passed through its doors.
Hannah Reed, 42, who joined the shop in 2016 and has been manager since December, said: “For us as a team it’s obviously very special. This was the first charity shop to open in Matlock, and it’s brilliant it’s still going strong.
“Obviously there’s been a huge amount of change on the high street, but the fact we still offer a relevant service to the community is testament to the time and energy of our volunteers.”
There are currently more than 40 people on the staffing rota, ranging from a Highfields School student who came on work experience and never left, up to people aged in their 80s who have been with the shop for much of its existence.
Hannah said: “It’s wonderful that one shop can offer a space for such an incredibly diverse team, who effectively run it themselves with all their different motivations.
“They donate more than 5,200 hours every year transforming pre-loved items into a means of tackling poverty and helping vulnerable people around the world recover from famine, drought and other natural disasters.”
The success of the shop is a two-way street. Volunteers see their effort matched by donors and customers to produce a treasure trove of books, greetings cards, CDs and DVDs.
Hannah said: “We are very lucky to have the support and generosity of the people of Matlock. Thanks to them we have established what is a really good book shop, just as much as it’s a charitable operation.
“We get the most amazing selection of donations, some of which are rare, niche, beautiful things in exceptional condition which we list online for collectors all over the world.
“It’s wonderful that so many people think of us when they’re having a clear-out at home. Every donation is exciting, and we have a lot of fun trying to sort through it.”
She added: “There’s a huge sense of satisfaction when someone finds something magical. The work is hugely varied, and there’s a real excitement about turning something unwanted into what will be someone else’s most exciting find ever.
“Just today we had someone come in and ask about a Francis Bacon art book which he’d seen listed on the website. He only lives a few hundred metres away and was so happy and excited to have found this book.”
Originally from London, Hannah moved to Cromford after 15 years of working overseas on humanitarian projects in countries including Haiti, Sudan and Syria.
She said: “There’s something special about being able to continue tackling poverty, albeit in a different role.
“Every penny spent in a shop in Matlock goes towards helping people in situations most people can’t even imagine. There’s something powerful about that.”
She added: “In our own little way, we are helping people to build a better future for themselves and their families.”
The volunteers at Oxfam are inviting people from across the Derbyshire Dales to celebrate the shop’s birthday on Friday, August 17, 10.30am to 4.30pm.
Local authors, including the award-winning crime writer Stephen Booth, will be reading from their work, and Stephen will be signing copies of Dead in the Dark, the latest in his series of Cooper and Fry novels set in Derbyshire.
Hannah said: “We want to say thank you to Matlock for supporting us. We wouldn’t be here without them, and we are looking forward to the next 50 years.”
Also on show will be a specially commissioned book, Fifty Pages for Fifty Years, written by local personalities, organisations, community groups, volunteers and regular customers, sharing their memories of the Oxfam shop, reflections on Oxfam’s work and the power of books to transport and transform.
Among the contributors, there is one very special entry written by Gladys Preston, 85, who has been volunteering for Oxfam since before the shop opened in 1968, having recently moved to the town.
Gladys said: “I was a member of an Oxfam group in Yorkshire, and very glad to find another one when we moved to Matlock.
“When the shop opened it was in a different location, and it was quite chaotic. We would sell almost anything you could think of, and we also used to run themed events and street collections. I remember that people were very generous even then.
“I thought the work Oxfam was doing was extremely good, and I have always felt very happy that I could do my bit to help. I certainly never imagined that we would still be here 50 years later, but it has always felt worthwhile, and that’s why I’ve continued to volunteer.
“Of course, I’ve made a lot of friends here too, and so many memories right from those earliest days. It has changed enormously over the years, but the friendliness has stayed the same and I think the community is very glad that they still have such a good book shop.”