Keep Calm and Go to the Book Store

You’ve seen them. We’ve all seen them.

Keep calm and eat cookies.

Keep calm and kill zombies.

Keep calm and call your mom.

Keep calm and hakuna matata.

But do you know the story? How these posters became a viral meme?

It all started with a train station.


The train station in Alnwick, England was built in 1887 but was left abandoned after the train line stopped running here in 1968. Then in 1991, when the building was being used as a small manufacturing plant, the owner’s wife decided to realize her dream of opening a used book store.

Barter Books


Barter Books was born.


Nearly ten years later during another session of ever ongoing renovations and restoration the couple found one of the very rare WWII posters that we’re so familiar with today tucked inside a box of used books.


They liked it so much, they framed it and put it up near the cash register. By 2001 there was so much interest in it they decided to make and sell facsimile copies, and a meme was born.


Brian and I knew my bookworm daughter would love to visit this place. Not only because of the poster, but because of the thousands of books to choose from. Neither one of us can pass up a chance to find a new, good book to read!


Since it’s only about a half hour drive from where we’re staying in Newcastle, it was an easy hop up to spend an afternoon in the historic town.


And we were right. She loved it! We both did. The building is beautiful!


The books are well organized, the cafe is cozy with several fireplaces throughout, the light through the glass roof is stunning, and the small touches that keep the old world feel are perfect, right down to the original restroom signs.


We could have spent the whole afternoon there, and would have if we didn’t have dinner plans. Instead, we shopped and browsed for as long as we could. She bought an intellectual thriller, and I bought a book of Buddhist reflections. We had books in our hands, and smiles on our faces.


And we’ve been to the home of Keep Calm and Carry On.


There’s one more marked off her bucket list, and one more day I got to enjoy sharing a love of books and history with my girl.


Tuesday Around the World

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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6 Responses to Keep Calm and Go to the Book Store

  1. Jade @ Tasting Grace January 16, 2013 at 3:36 am #

    Fascinating!! And what a special place – I would LOVE to go there one day. I’m sure I would totally get lost in there and it would be heaven. Thanks for sharing the historical tidbit!
    Jade @ Tasting Grace recently posted..Coffee ChatMy Profile

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      January 16, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Thanks, Jade!
      I’m so glad we had a chance to take her. She’s a big fan of the “Keep Calm” posters so it was especially fun. :)

  2. Andrew Francis January 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    I’m sure you know this but (if you don’t) the original posters were comissioned by the government during the 2nd World War to boost morale in case of a German invasion. Since the invasion never happened, the posters weren’t used and ended up forgotten for many years.

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      January 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      I did know, but thanks for the reminder! It’s such a great story, and a tribute to the strength of the British people in an unimaginably difficult time. One of the reasons we love to visit historical sites is because of the way so many demonstrate the strength of the survivors.
      akil3655 recently posted..She Got Her WishMy Profile

  3. Kristi {at} Live and Love Out Loud January 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing the history of that meme with us! What an awesome bookstore. I could walk around browsing through books for hours… Stopping by from Communal Global. Have a great day.
    Kristi {at} Live and Love Out Loud recently posted..I Found My Thrill on Blueberry HillsMy Profile

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      January 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Kristi!