Tuesday, 16 September 2014

No Monkey Business Please!

We get all kinds of donations in the Main Shop, but I wasn’t prepared to be confronted by a Giant Monkey when I unlocked! I hadn’t even switched the lights on, and I opened the door to the Back Room, and there he was, slouched in a chair, large as life, and twice as natural. There’s no window in our office and workroom, and in the dark this creature looked just like a person – I was quite scared for a moment until I realised what it was. 

It has to be the biggest soft toy I’ve ever seen. It really is huge, and I’m not sure if we’re going to sell it, raffle it off, or keep it for Christmas, but we’ll certainly find it a good home.

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Wall of Sound for Christmas...

It's only September, and I hardly dare mention the 'C' word, but just look what we found in the Bookshop – a Christmas record! Really it’s much too early to put this out, but who could resist Phil Spector’s distinctive ‘Wall of Sound’ on seasonal classics like White Christmas, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Winter Wonderland, and Silent Night. And there’s also a few less well-known songs… Was (It’s a) Marshmallow World ever a hit? 

This is a 1972 re-issue (by Apple), of Spector’s earlier festive LP ‘A Christmas Gift To You’, featuring The Crystals, Darlene Love, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans and, of course, The Ronettes. It’s probably been snapped up already (‘vintage vinyl’ is very popular) but it’s always worth browsing through our record collection to see what goodies you can find.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Don't Stop The Music!

Hitting the right note... Like Oxfam shops up and down the country, we're appealing for unwanted musical instruments which can be donated to primary UK schools. The idea is that you can leave instruments for the Don't Stop The Music campaign at either of our shops, and we will arrange for them to be collected, checked over, cleaned, and passed on to a participating school.  
The ‘instrument amnesty’ has been launched by internationally renowned classical pianist James Rhodes, who wants the Government to give every child in England the chance to play a musical instrument.  “Music education should be a right, not a privilege,” he says on campaign website. So, if you’ve got an old guitar, violin, trumpet, flute, oboe or anything else which is never used, and just lies in a forgotten corner of the house gathering dust, then James would like you to donate it, enabling a child to make music. The campaign will accept almost any instrument, as long as they are not electric (which rules out keyboards and some guitars), and are not too big (which rules out pianos and harps).

James fell in love with the piano when he was just seven years old but, despite his musical ability, he ended up working in the city. Then, as he explains the campaign website, one day he decided to swap bank notes for musical notes and followed his dream to become a professional musician.
“I was lucky,” he says. “Today, many kids never get a chance to play an instrument. Three years ago the Government declared that all school children in England should get the chance to learn a musical instrument. Presumably they didn't envisage sweet tins, rubbish bins and the other sad excuses for instruments I've come across while visiting some of our primary schools over the past few months.
“I've found schools where only those who can afford private lessons play music. Where there is not a single music tutor. Where teachers are squeezing what they can out of music budgets that are tighter than a guitar string.  The UK music industry is worth £3.5 billion to our economy. Yet instead of investing in musical education, we treat it as a privilege for some of our kids instead of a right for all.
“But music is about more than making money. By practising, kids learn discipline; reading sheet music demands concentration; playing in a band calls for teamwork; performing boosts self-confidence. The longer we continue to chip away at this country's rich musical heritage, the more we're denying our children the chance to develop these vital life skills, through learning an instrument.”
His efforts to show how learning a musical instrument can benefit school children are being followed in ‘Don't Stop The Music, a two-part Channel 4 TV (the second part can be seen next Tuesday, September 16, 2014).
James (right) in the TV show.
 He’s being backed by a host of celebrity musicians like Neneh Cherry  and Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, and, of course, by Oxfam. The charity believes the power of music can change lives around the world, and the ‘instrument amnesty’ coincides with the annual Oxjam bonanza – a celebration of music which involves a packed programme of fund-raising gigs and other events organised by local groups around the country, with festival finales all taking place on October 17. Instruments must be donated before that date.
If you have a musical instrument you can give to the cause that would be great, but please, please, don’t just drop it off – there are various forms which need to be completed. First you need to register online, so your gift can be tracked, and you can see exactly where it goes. It may sound complicated, but it’s really quite easy – just go to http://www.dontstopthemusic.co.uk/ and click on ‘Donate an Instrument’.
Once you have keyed in the relevant details, you should receive an ID number, which must be noted on another form (paper this time) to be completed when you drop the instrument off at the shop. I admit it sounds a little time consuming, but as well as letting you track your gift, it all shows that you have agreed to make the donation, and that you want the instrument to go for this project, rather than being sold to raise funds for Oxfam.
Volunteers in both our shops should be aware of the campaign, but if you are interested in making a donation, or need more information, the best thing to do is to pop into the Bookshop, and have a chat with manager Chris Hancox.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

It's Quiz Night!

Love this poster from our friends at Oxjam Lichfield, who are so energetic and enthusiastic about raising cash for Oxfam – and seem to have great fun at their events. For those who have never heard of Oxjam, I guess you could call it the ‘musical arm’ of Oxfam. Nationally, it was founded in 2006, with the aim of staging events around the country, run by local volunteers, for local people, showcasing the talents of local musicians while raising cash for Oxfam.  

Oxjam Lichfield hasn’t been going quite that long, and is now moving into its third year, attracting music lovers of all ages and tastes (if you think it’s about young people and pop, that just shows how wrong you can be). So far this year there have been all kinds of events, including informal music sessions in our Bookshop - it’s amazing how many people are prepared to squash themselves into such a small space, all for the sake of good music! 

In addition to the ongoing musical events, last month volunteers organised a raffle at the Beacon Park Fun Day, and in July they undertook a 20-mile sponsored walk, which sounds pretty tough to me (I told you they were energetic). 

And tonight (Sunday, September 7), of course, there’s the fundraising quiz at the Paradise Club in Lichfield, which gets under way at 8.30pm. All the entry money (it’s only £1 a person) will be donated to Oxfam, together with 10 per cent of the bar cut. 

All these activities lead up to the Oxjam Lichfield Takeover Festival on October 18 – I’ll post up some more details nearer the date, but in the meantime you can find information on Oxjam Lichfield’s excellent website, which links into their blog and their Twitter site. And the masses more about Oxjam on the main Oxfam GB website.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Train, Boats and Planes...

This week we have a Transport Table in the Bookshop! Sadly, perhaps, that doesn’t mean the table will whisk you off to distant destinations – though a Star Trek style transporter in the shape of a table would be pretty cool I think, especially for those of us like me who are not good travellers. Actually I’ve always fancied the idea of a magic carpet – the one in Edith Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet is my favourite, and the idea of travelling on a bed powered by a magical bedknob (Bedknob and Broomsticks by Mary Norton) sounds quite enticing.  

Anyway, I digress, and I dare say carpets, beds and tables would be very uncomfortable modes of transport, so let’s stick to more conventional methods, which is what our current display of books is all about. 

We’ve got dozens of books on boats, planes, trains, trams, cars, bicycles, motorbikes…. Have I forgotten anything? As you can see, these volumes tell you about transport on land, sea and air, and seem to cover everything you’ve always wanted to know about transport old and new, and there are fabulous pictures in some of them of steam engines, vintage cars, sailing ships and canal boats, as well as faster, more modern transportation.

We are very grateful to the man who donated these books (it must have taken years collecting them all) and were amused to see them delivered by van, which seems a very suitable way to deliver books on transport! Anyway, if you’d like to pop in and take a look, we’d love to see you – but you’ll have to be quick, because these books are selling like hot cakes!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Book Art!

This piece of Book Art has pride of place in our Bookshop window, and we think it is truly spectacular, It was created by one of our clever volunteers, inspired by a workshop at an Arts Festival in Alrewas, a village just outside Lichfield. 

If you’re feeling artistic, and you want to try your hand at some Altered Books, pop in and have a browse, or chat to our manager.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Well Clever!

It’s very easy to forget what Oxfam is all about, but there’s a lot more to the organisation than a string of charity shops and groups of fundraisers. So today we’re taking a look at a project in Bangladesh, which we think is well clever, and dead simple. The Oxfam GB Facebook page (where the photo comes from) explains it really well, so I’m going to quote from there, because I can’t put it any better! 

“You might think finding drinking water wouldn’t be difficult during a flood, but the opposite can be true, with sources contaminated with dirty flood water. That’s why, in Bangladesh, we installed wells high above the flood level, so people have clean safe drinking water, even when extreme weather strikes. Preparing for disaster – sometimes the simplest things can make a massive difference.” 

I know I keep highlighting the need for water, but it is so important, because it is such a life-saver. Oxfam works to provide clean, safe water, for drinking, cooking and washing, in some of the poorest communities in the world. They provide water in areas devastated by natural disasters like floods, droughts, and typhoons. But they also help people living in places devastated by war, like Gaza and Sudan. Oxfam’ work providing clean, safe water not only combats thirst and hunger – it also helps halt the spread of disease. 

Importantly, the charity works with local communities to find practical solutions to the problems they face – like overcoming the difficulties of providing easily accessible clean water in flood-stricken Bangladesh.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Calendar Collection

You know Winter’s on the way when… The kids go back to school… Some shops already have Christmas displays… And Oxfam starts selling Next Year’s Calendars! Here at Oxfam Lichfield we have a selection of colourful Calendars (or Family Organisers as they seem to be called these days) in both shops, and yes, we know it’s only September, but it’s never too early to make a note of those important dates for the year ahead.