Nestled above Withington's Cafe Blah, Alphaville is more Black Books than WH Smith
For years, people have rumoured that the end of brick-and-mortar bookshops is nigh. The last decade has seen more bookstores surrender to the ever-growing popularity of podcasts, online e-books and Kindles.
Alphaville has consciously hand-selected it all, hoping someone will stumble down the street and walk out enlightened by 'God's Fox' by Don Montgomery and Austin Collings
In this world where everything is at our fingertips behind a blue-light screen, the artsy owners at Alphaville are determined to help kick soulless Amazon Prime purchases to the kerb.
The owners want to remind people that there is still a joy to be had in reading a classic hardback in a quirky bookstore with even quirkier people. Plus, the books on their shelves won't run out of battery.
Suppose you have forgotten the scent of a well-loved, second-hand book or desire to brush up on the most recent music biography, Alphaville has it all at their self-professed "emporium" of radical culture.
Rising from the ashes of Withington's well-loved Wilderness Records shop and bar, former team members Hayley Scott and Kane Martin decided to take the community back into their loving arms and give residents another cultural hub to get stuck into some crafty action.
The concept of Alphaville started over a few pints in a local Hydes pub as the visionaries discussed their mutual infatuation with The Fall, punk records and literature. Following in the footsteps of the legendary Withington-born Factory Records, and with encouragement and help from their local friends, Amy Prosser and Dean Woodhouse, the idea kickstarted into reality.
Hey, why not? A DIY bookshop, and one that also sells records. Cool. What more could anyone want?
Lost in the Wilderness
The void that Wilderness Records left behind in April 2022 was felt harshly by locals. It was renowned as the base of operations for musos, creatives and artists. One of the Wilderness owners, Lyndon Higginson (Crazy Pedros, The Liars Club, Bunny Jacksons), reported, "people buying records from Amazon and coffees from Costa made it really difficult to compete."
Frustrated with the circumstances, Alphaville co-founder, Kane Martin, noted to the rest of the collective that Café Blah had a space for rent above their coffee shop and bar. The rest is modern history.
"We just decided to take the plunge and open our world of selling books, records and other media, as well as emphasising the importance of an inclusive, unpretentious cultural hub for our neighbourhood.”
“We have only been open a few weeks, but I can already feel a change. It does feel like something special is happening in Withington." Hayley explains.
Laden with second-hand books and new prints, Alphaville ensures that its selection is "carefully curated", sourced from their personal collections, charity shops and distributors.
"In the future, we're hoping to make specialist new releases with local presses such as Pariah and Confingo, as well as more leftist cultural criticism from Repeater books."
Books for sale are ones they want to read - focusing on all genres: crime fiction, modernist novels, brain-warping science fiction, wayward poetry, and critical theory. You name it, Alphaville has consciously hand-selected it all, hoping someone will stumble down the street and walk out enlightened by 'God's Fox' by Don Montgomery and Austin Collings.
They have also included a wide range of publications from local poets, photographers and zine makers, such as the DaDaDa fanzine by Elodie Ginsbourg and Ste Fletcher's Lunacy - documenting the “seismic socio-economic shifts” in and around Manchester.
The working-class, northern DIY ethos is behind all great literature and music, which co-owner Hayley Scott, in particular, feels strongly about.
"Mark Fisher hugely influences me, and after reading his book, Acid Communism, I felt I wanted to try to continue his ideas in a practical setting. A bookstore. I want working-class people to realise their worth, and I suppose it's very timely with the #EnoughIsEnough campaign. Reading and sharing books is a way to learn and rise together. It’s important for the community.”
Alphaville is open 12pm - 8pm Wednesday - Saturday.
Alphaville 5 Davenport Avenue, Withington M20 3EY
Read again: Our gig guide for Manchester: September 2022
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