'I have heard that this is what he is like - he is really supportive and just wants to make a difference. It's bonkers.'
Unlike most stores that primarily exist to make a profit, bookstores—especially independent ones—represent a much nobler cause: to provide a safe and serene place for readers to immerse themselves in the world of words, stories, ideas and fiction. They actively encourage the nourishment of our imaginary powers and function as gateways to countless worlds and perspectives different than our own. This is what Dan and Leanne Fridd hoped to achieve when they opened their Bookbugs and Dragon Tales book shop in Norwich, England, in 2019. However, they were forced to shut their doors soon after the inauguration when COVID-19 hit the world and nations went into lockdown.
Although they somehow managed to stay afloat through those turbulent times, the ongoing British cost-of-living crisis presented yet another challenge before them; one that might force them to shut their business for good. In a final bid to secure its survival, earlier this month the Fridds launched an online fundraiser appeal to raise £15,000 (approximately $17,000) to give the business "breathing space" and to do more outreach work with children. Within hours of launching the Crowdfunder campaign, the family was inundated with donations from unlikely places, including an individual by the name of Russell Ira Crowe.
Speaking to BBC, Leanne said that she and her husband were "squealing" when they spotted the "Gladiator" star's name among the donations the very same night that they set up the fundraiser. "One of our daughters had to go to work early the next day, and she woke up to us chanting 'Russell Crowe, Russell Crowe,'" she said. "It's going to have a huge impact." Leanne explained that she had been reluctant to seek help for a long time as many in the country have been struggling financially over the past couple of years. However, she as feared that the cost of living crisis could become "the straw that broke the camel's back," they ultimately decided to seek donations to cover bills and rent for six months.
Leanne Fridd said she & husband Dan "squealed" when they spotted Russell Crowe's name in an online fundraiser to keep their bookstore alive. "It's bonkers" and surely life-changing for them. Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich received a £5,000 donation from the Gladiator actor. pic.twitter.com/meMJ41hA5G— GoodNewsCorrespondent (@GoodNewsCorres1) October 27, 2022
"£6,000 will allow me to pay a member of staff to cover the shop for 1 day a week for a year, so I can work on applications for grants and funding to bring our outreach and events to areas that don't have easy access to the city. With the closure of mobile libraries, we hope to be able to bring books to life for children and adults in more rural communities," the fundraiser explained. "£2,000 will allow me to pay facilitators to develop and deliver the outreach programs, as well as bring new and exciting events and activities to the shop. £7,000 will help us to confidently face the next 6 months by contributing to rent, rates, and utilities at the shop. This will allow us some time and space to bridge the gap and move forward on a more secure footing."
"Each donation has been so incredibly affirming," said Leanne. "The last few hours have been people saying to us 'we get it, we know what you are trying to do'. We've had £100 from the customer who lost her house in a fire - I know she can't afford that - we've had £5 from someone because it's what they can afford. The comments... I've been in tears all day." She explained that they believe Crowe heard of the shop and the appeal on social media via a mutual friend. "It's definitely, definitely him, 100%, we know the connection is there, and we had seen the person [who knows him] had retweeted it," said Leanne. "I have heard that this is what he is like - he is really supportive and just wants to make a difference. It's bonkers. Every donation makes us really hopeful for the future and the message is really clear - we are valued - and to have a celebrity has added that bit of sparkle. I doubt he will come into the shop, but who knows, if he is in the area in the future, he might."