Last Thursday night, I only slept for two hours, and felt like crap literall all day. In fact, almost exactly this time last week, I was lying in bed weeping my eyes out. It’s been a long time since I’ve done this, probably three years in fact. It’s no coincidence that this is the same amount of time Bird’s Yard has been open.
I was prompted to write this post by what happened last night. I went to Outlaw’s Yacht Club to see Pete Fowler’s new exhibition, met a load of great artists, had a chat with the Pete and the bar manager about a collaboration, had a few people coming up and saying hello because I work in the Yard and spent the time before falling asleep buzzing with excitement. It made me realise why last Friday was such an awful day.
For most people, I’m sure Bird’s Yard won’t mean much, or is just another annoying phrase you’re sick of hearing me saying. Some of you will have been, and won’t even be fans for one reason or another, whilst some of you will love it, or would if you’d been. Last Friday, through a combination of mistakes and misunderstandings, we had to go public on how close we are to closing down. It’s a combination of a few things, the main crux of which is our street is in a bad state, and we need to renew our contract with our landlord before we spend any more money on being here. We’re also a lot quieter than normal, again partly because of the tearoom moving out and the people who were taking over dropping us in the shit, and partly because we’re losing tenants due to low sales, giving us a viscious circle effect. Trinity opening has made the rest of Leeds busier, and I’m not saying it’s made us quieter, but we haven’t noticed increased footfall, and I think anyone else this side of New Market Street has felt the same. (If you’re unsure where I mean, you know the road which you have to cross to get to the market, where the Greggs is? The one where all the buses go down, and you take your life into your hands crossing?)
Anyway, without customers, we’re going to close. I’m not one for begging – at the end of the day, I’m a business, not a charity, and if I don’t have stuff people want to buy, then having to close may be an inevitable decision – like Borders or HMV. I asked my friends to shop with us, IF there was something they needed, AND they had the money.
Then after I’d done that, it hit me. What if I DID have to close. Where would I go every day? Until I had a shop, I hardly left the house, and if I did it was a major chore. Even now, going anywhere I’m not comfortable turns me into a jibbering wreck. Going to that bar last night is about the most uncomfortable thing I’ve had to do in a while.
Where would I see actual human beings? I used to spend hours chatting online, but now I have proper, real life friends. I’d have to arrange meeting them, and go to different places to see them. Would I remember to eat? No one ever believes this, because I’m so overweight, but I’m terrible at remembering I have to eat and drink. I get so involved in what I’m doing, that I sincerely think without Ian and the other people at the shop, I’d probably end up starving with paintbrushes in my hands and origami paper on my knees.
I had a little wobble after reading comments on Facebook (surprise, surprise) – people who don’t know the whole situation were giving advice on what we should do, and I got angry. Of course we’ve thought of doing that! That takes money though! What’s the point in painting the building if we have to go?! A tenant (quite rightly) got upset because it went onto twitter before we had time to tell the tenants what was happening. In my exhausted state I became upset because this is my business, my job, my debt for crying out loud, and all they cared about was the small space they rented. (I hasten to add I have since apologised for being snappy, and realise this was an over reaction)
I asked everyone to just leave me alone, and I went to bed, and started to cry.
Then I started to get text messages, some were twitter mentions, some facebook messages, and some just plain old texts. It seemed people really didn’t want the shop to close. Support messages about how much the shop is loved, and how much we’ve helped (some) tenants started to come through. My mood started to lift. I got out of bed, I put Batman on the PS3 and I opened the vodka. Yes, drinking spirits alone is bad, it’s been a while since I just got pissed and played video games (Mum’s death I believe) but it’s better than lying in bed, literally wanting to kill yourself (and I don’t mean in that hyperbolic way some people say that).
So, there’s no happy ending to this, I’m afraid. It’s only a week later after all, and a long week at that. The shop is a little busier, it’s been pay day after all, and although after doing the accounts it’s been the worst month in a while, the best selling items are all the new stationery I’ve bought in, meaning I’ve obviously chosen well.
However, I realised that if the shop went, I’d be gutted, I’d be distraught… but I could cope. I’ve learnt so much, gained so much confidence, and met so many amazing people, that Bird’s Yard for me isn’t just a building, it isn’t even just a brand – it’s an attitude towards life.