Despite holding a fundraising concert earlier this year featuring top musicians, and a crowd funding initiative at the Indiegogo website, popular arts hub, Book Café still needs saving from debt.
The venue which is credited for the rise of many artists among them poets, musicians and comedians, is struggling to combat debt accumulated over the past three years. “They are costs carried over from the old venue at Fife Avenue, coupled with the cost of moving the business to a new venue,” explains Book Café proprietor, Tomas Brickhill. “It is something we are trying to manage but the debt hampers our prospects for development and growth.”
Brickhill said the fundraising initiatives were a good starting point, but the venue is still in the red. “The fundraising show managed to raise our profile in the public eye, but with the magnitude of the venue and the amount of debt we have, one show cannot help us stay afloat,” he said “It was a very good gesture by artists and we really appreciate it.” From Indeigogo Book Café managed to get over a third of the targeted $25,000. “We were not able to cover everything we wanted to but the money certainly helped.”
Book Café was founded by Tomas Brickhill’s late father Paul back in 1997. The development came as an expansion of Brickhill’s independent book shop, Grassroots Books, which was set up in 1983. The hub operated at Fife Avenue shops together with a sister project, the Mannenberg.
It acted as a springboard for many artists through its open mic platform. It was frequented by many famed musicians, including the late Chiwoniso Maraire, Andy Brown, Edith WeUtonga, Dudu Manhenga, Mbuya Stella Chiweshe, Busi Ncube, and Prudence Katomene-Mbofana.
Book Café is celebrated for playing a major role in the birth of standup comedy in the country. Comedian Doc Vikela was given his first chance to perform on stage during an open mic session. It was at this venue that Doc Vikela, together with Simba the Comic King, developed Simuka Comedy, which became the first recurrent standup comedy night in the country. Doc Vikela says, “The financial hardship being faced is a sad situation which needs all of us to chip in and save the lifeblood of our arts.”
Through the House of Hunger Poetry Slam, many talents were identified and groomed, paving the way for the wordsmiths we now have today. A product of the slam, Mazvita Gwangwadza a.k.a. Younique said, “Book Café is like a home to me as an artist. It’s like a home away from home where art is nurtured and groomed, where support is offered freely and artists have a sense of belonging.” The slam is credited for the rise of poets including Momo Bluez, Linda Gabriel, SoProfound, Madzitatiguru, Godobori, PSP, and Flowchild.
Brickhill said, “Book Café is an allegory of Zimbabwe. Yes, things are tough, but we are past the worst and our future is looking up.” He said the hub is stepping in the right di-rection. “We can’t say we are out of the deep though,” he added.
According to media reports, Book Café will not last over a year and half if the situation is not resolved. “The best way to support Book Café is to attend one of our events, be it music, poetry, comedy, or film and spend a bit of money while at it,” said Brickhill. “Let us not wait for a big NGO to come and help. It will be much better if people come to our shows and support us.”