Book Café shuts down

The following article was orginally published in The Herald.

3 June 2015

Popular arts and entertainment joint The Book Café has closed down due to financial challenges.

The place had been facing viability problems since it moved from Five Avenue Shopping Centre to the Samora Machel location and finally shut its doors on Monday.

Several efforts to keep the venue afloat proved fruitless over the past years despite various fundraising initiatives.

In a statement yesterday, Book Café director Thomas Brickhill said the worsening financial burden was no longer bearable.

“I have decided to take a step back in order to re-strategise and restructure the business. It was a difficult decision to close the SamoraMachel venue, but if Book Café is to have any place in the future of Zimbabwe’s arts and culture scene, I believe that our current course of action is unavoidable,” noted Brickhill.

“The closure comes after several months of valiant struggle to find support to continue running, including a crowd-funding initiative through Indiegogo which witnessed love and support from people in Zimbabwe and around the world, but was not sufficient to put the Book Café on steady ground.”

Brickhill noted that support from the patrons and artistes linked to Book Café had kept them running for years despite struggling.

“The venue has faced many struggles over the years, and somehow has always managed to pull through, due in part, to the support of its patrons and in particular to the large community of artistes and performers who have passed through over the years. They shaped the very nature of what the ‘Book Cafe’ concept means.”

The closure is a blow to the arts industry at large because the venue accommodated upcoming and established artistes.

Besides music shows, Book Café hosted various discussions on numerous art topics.

It was a hub for writers, poets, filmmakers, comedians, fashion designers and dancers among other artists.

Almost all the big names in local music have performed at the venue. Oliver Mtukudzi, Suluman Chimbetu, and Jah Prayzah, Mbira DzeNharira, Mawungira eNharira, Victor Kunonga and Alexio among others have staged gigs at Book Café.

Through partnership with Pamberi Trust, the venue also had numerous projects dedicated to promoting women under the Female Literary Arts and Music Enterprises (Flame) banner that bracketed programmes like the Sisters Open Mic Sessions.

Female musicians like the Edith WeUtonga, Selmor Mtukudzi, Diana Samkange, Cynthia Mare and Tariro Negitare benefited from projects initiated by the Book Café.

Established dub poets like Albert Nyathi, Chirikure Chirikure, Cynthia “Flawchild” Marangwanda and Batsirai Chigama used the Book Café platform for many projects and performances.

The venue was essential in keeping the genres of mbira and jazz in the mainstream sector despite competition from emerging music styles.

A spokesperson for Pamberi Trust noted: “We are saddened that Book Café has to close the current venue, and recognise this as an end of an era. At the same time, there are opportunities and new possibilities for growth.”