September 14, 2017 posted by Unity Wellington

AFTERGLOW: Unity’s 50th Birthday Party

AFTERGLOW: Unity’s 50th Birthday Party

Friends old and new gathered in Unity Books on the evening of Tuesday 12th September to celebrate the momentous occasion of the shop’s 50th birthday. With glasses full and conviviality high, co-owner and manager Tilly Lloyd opened the night with sisterly words, toasting everybody from customers and staff to couriers and Willis Street tweeters. Jo McColl, co-owner and manager of Unity Books Auckland, then took our thoughts back to 1967, when Alan Preston opened the doors of his bookshop for the first time: “Wellingtonians were offered a carefully curated selection of books with a theosophical bent – brain nutrition is a good description.” As Jo finished speaking, a recording of Alan’s warm, intelligent voice from a radio interview several years ago resonated from the speakers.

Karen McLeod announced the launch of the Unity archives project, which she has been at the helm of for several months. Shop ephemera, from staff Christmas party pictures to amusingly annotated invoices, are now available online here for your viewing pleasure. Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers NZ, spoke fondly about Unity, indies and the trade. Jane Parkin then spoke of her role as a long-time customer and also as editor of our celebratory anthology, Unity Books at 50, which collects work from 16 past and present staff members who are also published authors. Fergus Barrowman, publisher at Victoria University Press, officially launched the anthology, which he said “illustrates something about the life and ethos of this place.” He offered some of his own reminiscences from 40 years of Unity patronage –  including stocking up on green-spined Penguin Classics for his teenage bedroom – and recalled dearly departed friends Nigel Cox, Heather McKenzie and, of course, Alan.

Mayor Justin Lester praised the unique culture that Unity brings to Wellington, and gifted the shop a beautiful ceramic waka. Assistant manager and iconic shopgirl Marion Castree delivered the last (official) toast of the evening, which coincided nicely with Maori Language Week – “Reira, he nui te kaha i roto i te kotahitanga – there is much strength in Unity.” Glasses were drained and refilled, and the next 50 years of Unity, and books, were spoken of wholeheartedly.


Unity Books’ Tilly Lloyd

Jo McColl of Unity Books Auckland

Chief Archivist Karen McLeod

Booksellers NZ CEO, Lincoln Gould

Editor Jane Parkin

Tilly Lloyd with Jane Parkin

Fergus Barrowman of VUP launches Unity Books at 50

Wellington Major Justin Lester

Marion Castree

Strength in Unity

You can purchase a copy of Unity Books at 50 in-store or online here.

Words by Cassie Richards, photography by John Duke

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Unity Books Wellington - Proudly committed to local writing and publishing since 1967, and dedicated to keeping a dangerous variety of world literature too. 100% independent and Wellington owned. Come check us out at 57 Willis St and ask the staff for a recommendation - we know our books.

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