Thursday, 24 April 2014

World Book Night in London

Books ready to hand out!
For the first time in World Book Night's history, my day off fell on the actual day, so I was able to discover some celebrations across London. I was lucky enough to be selected as a World Book Night giver, so I set off with a rucksack full of my chosen title, After The Funeral by Agatha Christie, to hand out to unsuspecting strangers across the capital. I should at this point say a big thank you to Jon for lugging the books around the city for me!

I was aiming to hand out my books at some famous Christie landmarks in the capital. Fist stop was the Agatha Christie statue just off Leicester Square. Unfortunately this did not seem to be a good choice. A street team from LA Fitness had set-up camp right next to the statue, blasting out loud music and harassing all passers-by to sign-up to their gym. It also became clear, that most passers by were tourists with little English, so we soon decided to move on elsewhere.

At the Agatha Christie statue
While in the area, I just had to make a visit to one of my favourite London spots - the huge Waterstones in Piccadilly. I could spend hours browsing in there (and quite often do!) If I could have a supermarket sweep style moment in any store it would be this one. With so many beautiful books, stationery and unique, quirky gifts, I could spend an absolute fortune in there! Plus, there was a brilliantly quirky window display telling the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory completely with biscuits!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - in biscuits!

After a quick lunch spot and a google, we found out about a Harry Potter alliance holding an event at Paddington Station so headed there on the Bakerloo line. This also fitted in with my Christie themed day as one of my favourite Marple stories is 4.50 from Paddington. We soon came across the London based group called London Loveiosa (@londonloveiosa on Twitter) and we swapped books. I picked a free World Book Night copy of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier and John Williams' Stoner in exchange for a charity donation. If you love Harry Potter get in touch with them to find out how to get involved and raise money for charity with their events.

After the hustle and bustle of Paddington, we decided to get some fresh air and walked up to Kensington Gardens, where we handed out most of the books. The happiest people we met and gave books to were a young lady working on one the kiosks, an elderly gentleman walking his dogs and a lovely couple who were visiting London for the day from Bedfordshire. We spent a long while admiring the Peter Pan statue and talking books and stately homes with them. We event gave copies of the murder mystery to two policeman, who seemed very amused and interested in the story! 
Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens

We decided to walk from Kensington to the World Book Night hub of the Southbank via Green Park, Buckingham Palace and Westminster, taking in all the iconic London sights. Once at the Southbank, we browsed the book fair (another one of my favourite London places) and Foyles. It was then time for the World Book Night flagship event Letters Live!

Southbank book fair

Letters Live is based on the hugely popular Letters of Note twitter feed and books. It aims to rediscover the lost art of letter writing and how important this method of communication has been over the years by sharing letters from historical figures, celebrities and ordinary everyday people. This event saw authors, musicians and stars of the stage and screen reading a wide variety of letters. My favourites were a bizarre letter from Elvis Presley to Richard Nixon requesting to be a federal agent, a touching letter from Iggy Pop to a depressed fan, an amusing letter from Bette Davis to her daughter pretty much putting her in her place, a sweet letter from a young child to Abraham Lincoln suggesting that he grow some 'whiskers' to be President and a letter from Queen Elizabeth II to President Eisenhowar with a  recipe for some scones. There were also a series of letters between two wartime sweethearts, who fell in love during their correspondence to each other. Guest readers included Matt Berry, Caitlin Moran (who also read a very self-indulgent beyond the grave letter to her daughter), David Nicholls, Kerry Fox and two surprises in Stephen Fry and Russell Brand who was hilarious in reading a letter from Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol.

At the Letters Live event

It was a really fun evening celebrating the written word and what can be accomplished from it. I really do have the urge to write some letters myself now, something which I have not done for years in the age of email and social media.

So, all in all a pretty successful World Book Night! I'm already looking forward to next years!

To find out about becoming a World Book Night Giver next year and helping to vote on the titles given away visit

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