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Spreading The Printed Word

Like most businesses success depends on finding a niche in the market. The founders of Paublo Books in South Hill Avenue, South Harrow, believe they have achieved just that.

Their business acumen was recently rewarded when they won a prestigious Rubicon Award, organised by the North West London Training and Enterprise Council.

TONY LELIW met with Blossom Jackson, co-director of Paublo Books, to discover what their business had to offer.

More than two years ago Blossom Jackson was approached by her present co-director Paullette Jean-Jacques with an interesting idea. Over lunch the idea germinated into what became Paublo Books.

"Paullette wanted to set up a company to sell black books which were not readily available to the public," said Blossom.

Her idea was that if you did not live in an area of high black concentration like Brixton books of black interest would not be readily accessible.

Blossom liked the idea. Even high street bookshops only had a limited number of multicultural books on their shelves. And so their mail order business was born.

"We wrote our strategy and did our research and found that publishers did not really pay that much attention to black books and did not promote them actively.

"Only two per cent of books published were multicultural so we contacted the publishers for the details of these books and put them in a catalogue under 15 subject areas -- there were 1,500 titles.

"Paullette had a public relations background, while mine was academic. Every entry had a title, synopsis of the book, critical acclaim and age specification."

Paublo Books then sent their catalogue to local libraries, individuals and other institutions. "We were not targetting the black population but mainstream Britain," said Blossom, a former principal lecturer at Oxford Brooks University in Oxford. "We considered that the indigenous population needed to know that these books existed and we got a very good response."

Blossom believes that libraries should have books which "reflect a multicultural society -- it's part of their raison d'etre". And as for the school curriculum, that should "reflect a multicultural focus".

The catalogue has a rich supply of books on all topics, sourced from around the globe including authors from the UK, Caribbean, Africa and the Americas.

The books cover a wide range of ages and topics from nursery rhymes to educational materials for children and literature for adults.

Although it's her business, Blossom is keen that black people read more books. "People have started to read more and I personally believe that black people need to read more so that they can have some understanding of their cultural identity and history.

"When I came to England from Jamaica in the 1950s and went into nursing," said Blossom, "my generation was sure of their identity but children growing up in Britain are more challenged in knowing who they are. They need to bridge that gap of not losing their identity but knowing they are part of British society. If they isolate themselves that would be a problem."

Two years on, the number of books in their catalogue has mushroomed to over 5,500. They have now decided to break up the catalogue and have a Key Stage One and Two catalogue for primary schools. A Key Stage Three and Four for secondary schools should be ready next month.

These books can then be accessed into the school curriculum if for example a class is doing a subject connected to black history or a cookery class is focusing on a specific multicultural cuisine.

For the future, Paublo Books would like to target their books at prisons, detention centres, and young offender institutions, where there is a disproportionately large number of blacks.

"If we could get the funding, we could have drop in centres where children who have not succeeded in school could have books, meet authors and see them as role models."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000.Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.

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