The mural Dogs Of Bookmongers, commissioned by Patrick Kelly, the founder of Brixton’s favourite bookshop almost 25 years ago, has finally emerged, having been hidden behind scaffolding for much of the past year.
The piece – a trompe l’oeil window into the bookshop – was painstakingly painted by Wendy Coyne in honour of Leo, Patrick’s beloved dog who has since passed away, and also of Rosa, his current companion and best friend to all Bookmongers’ customers.
The building works either side of the bookshop are part of the wider redevelopments which have been rapidly changing the face of Brixton, though the essential character of Bookmongers has remained undiminished.
Rob, Wendy’s husband, who has worked alongside Patrick for 15 years said: “The shop is very well loved by our old customers and we are seeing an increasing number of new regulars.”
With books on every subject, the shop caters to all tastes and provides a quiet haven for all booklovers – a respite from the local hustle and bustle.
The painting’s reappearance on Coldharbour Lane is a welcome one, adding vibrancy to one of Brixton’s central arteries.
Wendy’s work also features in the shop, and she continues to draw inspiration from places and people in Brixton. For those familiar with the presence of Rosa, the ever-watchful dog in the window of the store, her next project is a lifesize canine sculpture designed to stand guard when Rosa’s off greeting customers.
Reflecting on the painting and on Brixton life in general, Patrick said: “So heart-warming to see Bookmongers’ and Brixton’s longtime canine companions portrayed in such a loving, thoughtful manner. I would like to say ‘for posterity’. But if living in Brixton during the last few years has taught me anything it’s that nothing lasts forever.
“A wise friend once said to me ‘you can find a silver lining in anything if you look hard enough’. Me being a cynical bugger dismissed my friend without serious contemplation. But maybe I was wrong. If there is a so-called silver lining here perhaps it’s just a simple thing called appreciation.”
The next time you wander through Brixton take a closer look, a longer look and marvel at the subtle beauty of this unique place because – like Wendy’s painting – these precious things may not last forever.
With the onwards march of change, it feels all the more important that we treasure local institutions such as Bookmongers and the vital space they occupy in the neighbourhood. Why not pop in to browse the shelves for reading material this summer, and say hello to Rosa while you’re at it.