Wellington Scoop

A celebration at Unity Books, and other favourite places

by Lindsay Shelton
Wednesday will be a day of celebration at Unity Books in Willis Street, marking the end of months of renovations. Bigger! Brighter! Even better! The new Unity Books has a wider, more welcoming facade, a lot more window space to entice pedestrians to stop, and a lot more space for browsing and buying.

The months of reconstruction seemed to drag on much longer than expected. During one of the more challenging days, I walked in with a group of American tourists, but you couldn’t hear yourself speak because of the jack-hammers behind the temporary walls. Or were they drills? The Americans browsed happily anyway. And the staff were being staunch though they probably needed ear-plugs.

The new Unity Books makes a convincing statement about the survival of bookstores. As CD shops and DVD stores fade away, some people claim that bookstores face the same fate for all the same reasons. Unity is proof that this cannot be true.

It’s one of the places that you want to visit every time you’re in town. And I’ve learnt from experience that you don’t need to shop for books if you’re overseas – because all the most worthwhile new titles will be on the shelves at Unity when you get home. As for online browsing for books – it doesn’t work. Unity offers the pleasure of discovery which is only possible when the books are in front of you to be opened and sampled. And now of course there’s also the new carpet, and the new furniture, to make the experience a richer one.

You can tell that Unity Books is one of my favourite places in Wellington. And on the subject of favourite places: there are two others which are worth visiting tonight (Tuesday).

At Sandwiches, the magnificent Roger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra is back in its regular last-Tuesday-of-the-month slot, starting at 8pm. And at the reinvigorated Happy, the passionate Brazilian singer Alda Rezende continues her weekly Tuesday shows, with four brilliant musicians – Lucien Johnson, Patrick Bleakley, the multi-lingual John Rae and Noel Clayton. Start at Happy at 7, for the first hour of Alda’s wonderful performances of bossa nova and samba. Then hurry to Courtenay Place to hear Roger Fox’s musicians play great arrangements of standards from the American songbook, in the brilliant acoustics of Sandwiches. At the end of the night, you’ll want to put a note in your diary to hear Alda again next Tuesday, and to hear the Roger Fox band again at the end of next month.

Roger and Alda and their musicians, and Tilly and all her colleagues at Unity, are some of the people who make Wellington a better and a happier place.