Event: World Book Night (more details)
Who: WBN is a charitable organisation headed by Julia Kingsford, and supported by a wide range of publishing companies.
What: This is World Book Night’s third year celebrating reading and books. I was amongst the 20,000 ‘Givers’ who chose a book from the 20 titles and was then given 20 specially printed copies to share with the community. World Book Night is celebrated in the UK, Ireland and the USA with the aim to encourage people to reignite their passion for reading, or even pick up their first book! As well as connecting with people in the oldest way known to mankind, the sharing of stories.
In addition to being a giver I went to the World Book Night’ event, at the South Bank Centre, which involved a whole host of writers, authors and poets sharing readings of their latest works. The contributors ranged from Victoria Hislop to Ian Flemming’s neice, Lucy.
Where: This took place all around the UK and USA as givers proffered their chosen books. However, for me personally, my WBN journey took me from my office in Piccadilly, London. via the Victoria Line, then on towards the South Bank, stopping off briefly in Cameroon and the People’s Republic of China (-I’ll explain that bit in more detail later).
When: Tuesday April 23rd 2013 – (symbolic too as it marks the death of Shakespeare and the Spanish novelist, Cervantes, not to mention St George’s Day).
My World Book Night journey began a few months ago when I first applied to be a Giver. I chose ‘The Reader’ by Bernard Schlink, because of its thought provoking and beautiful narrative as well as it being a translated novel – plus I knew people would enjoy it. When I got the news that I had been selected to be a Giver I was over the moon, and chose my local independent bookshop, Clapham Books, to retrieve my literary gifts.
When it came to World Book Night it hit home that I was playing an active part of a huge and important mission, to get people reading. And so I armed myself with 20 books and took to my challenge with gusto.
First stop: ‘Tube Folk.’
This was probably the most daunting of my target audiences, as a London commuter is a fearsome beast at the best of time. Plus trying to make a pitch to someone’s armpit is never going to generate great results. However, not to be disheartened, I found myself in a quiet carriage on the Victoria Line and divested myself of three books. Although, at first, people seemed suspicious of receiving something for free that wasn’t a leaflet the reaction soon turned to one of joy and genuine enthusiasm – especially the sweet old man who proceeded to talk about his childhood during the 1940’s.
Second stop: ‘Work’
Although, I had to repeat myself, a number of times, as to why I was trying to give them a book, I gave away seven books to various departments whose lives usually focused on staring at a computer screen. We have planned to reconvene and discuss whether they enjoyed the book when I get back from holiday – I will know if they are lying.
Third (and unexpected) stop: ‘Writers at Risk’ – English Pen.
Since I was following the progress of WBN on Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice a tweet posted by English Pen requesting Givers to send books to Writers at Risk in the UK and overseas. The charity promotes freedom of reading and writing, a very important cause even today, and I am proud to say I sent three books to writers in the Cameroon and P.R China.
The seven other copies of my book were given away on my walk from Piccadilly Circus to the South Bank Centre where my evening‘s entertainment was to continue. I even tried to give one to Jay Rayner, food critic, but he was on the phone – shame.
‘World Book Night’ Southbank Centre
The official event of WBN in London was one not to be missed, even without the presence of Charles Dance, thespian extraordinaire, it read like a literary feast.
The evening was hosted by writer and comedian, Singh Kohli, who provided witty repartee in between performances. The readings ranged from novelists to poets, spanning a wide variety of genre.
My particular favourite was one by Ian Flemming’s niece, Lucy Flemming, who did a reading from one of his articles entitled, ‘How to write a thriller,’ which was both witty and enlightening. Who knew James Bond was such a fan of scrambled eggs?
Another stand-out act, for me, was Sebastian Barry, I hadn’t heard of his novel, ‘The Secret Scripture, but his performance was absolutely brilliant and captured the essence of his characters beautifully. This book is now on my wish list.
I couldn’t write this review without mentioning the one and only Charles Dance, he commands such a presence on stage and his deep baritone grabs your attention instantly – you may have realised I have a small crush. His reading from, ‘Damage’ by Josephine Hart, was especially poignant since her death in 2011.
The whole evening was brilliant, and there are many new books and authors I will be investigating as a result. The fact the auditorium was packed is testament to how much people love reading and the sharing of ideas is not going to go anywhere anytime soon.
World Book Night is an exceptional cause and one in which I will hopefully be involved in again.
Rating: 10 out of 10 – what better thing to do on an evening than spread the love of reading and then listen to Charles Dance?!