Independent Bookshop Week is a yearly celebration of Indie Bookshops and what makes them special. This year we held a week of spectacular events, starting with a book launch!
On Saturday, 20 June we hosted the official book launch for Manda Scott's brand new novel, Into The Fire. Manda was not only an exceptional speaker, talking with absolute passion, but was also brilliantly funny and charming. Manda read from two chapters of Into The Fire and then engaged in a discussion with guests about her intentions and inspirations behind a book that she was so obviously destined to write. I don't think anyone in that room had ever heard anybody speak with such devotion and excitement - Manda's launch was utterly amazing!
On Tuesday, we welcomed Sixth Form students from Much Wenlock into the shop to talk about the books that inspire and interest them. It was incredibly interesting to hear teenagers talking about what they have and haven't enjoyed, and it was also great to understand the reading patterns of those still in education. We have decided to create an 'alternative reading list' for these students so that in between the set texts required for their English A Level, they would be able to indulge in some great YA fiction over the summer holidays. Keen an eye on our YA page for this list!
On Wednesday we held two events; the first was a discussion with author James Hannah. James' début novel The A to Z of You and Me was published in March this year and has since been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews and was long listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize.
It was wonderful to be able to discuss James' book with him and it was so special to hear about his experiences with the publishing process. Everyone gained so much insight about the journey that publishing takes you on, and everybody was made to feel totally at ease - this allowed us to ask deeper and more personal questions about stories within The A to Z of You and Me and in turn, enabled us to connect with the story in a stronger way.
Our apprentice baked a delicious cake to welcome James - a heart shaped Victoria sponge to match the crochet hearts that James' wife, Christine, had made for the book launch. Our shop is still filled with these gorgeous and intricate heart crochets!
The second event that we held on Wednesday was a Random Reading Group focussing on A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. We hold Random Reading Groups throughout the year and are open to anyone that has read the book! This was a wonderful evening full of interesting discussion and new ideas about A God in Ruins.
On Thursday our Children's Book Club focussed on Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan. Our Children's Book Club is run by artist Emily Wilkinson who helps the children create beautiful literary art work. Since Sarah Crossan loves to write in both prose and poetry, this week Emily encouraged the children to write in poetry and create pictures on the theme of 'apples' and 'rain'. Everybody loved this and the beautiful drawings are hung proudly on our shop staircase.
On Friday we hosted a very special The Tiger Who Came to Tea Storytime! With babies and toddlers dressed in orange, tiger decorations were grasped in hands and our apprentice baked a tiger cake, complete with a stripy inside! We always look forward to our special Storytimes and this was just as magnificent as ever.
After Storytime, parents took their toddlers off around Much Wenlock on The Tiger Who Came To Tea Trail. This proved very popular and we very much enjoyed seeing the children have such a fun time finding the tigers.
Wenlock Pottery was the venue on Saturday 27 June for our final event of Independent Bookshop Week: the Muriel Passey Lectures. It was Muriel's fourth visit to Much Wenlock, having delivered a series of poetry lectures to the Wenlock Poetry Festival from 2011-2013, and we were so pleased to be able to host her again.
The first lecture was 'Cappuccino, Espresso, Macchiato – the History in your Coffee Cup' which began at 10:45 am. Muriel gave a fascinating and funny talk about the very beginnings of coffee drinking in the Ethiopian desert, through the birth of coffee houses and their influences on trade, business and the founding of the newspaper business, right up to today's global coffee houses. Meticulously researched, delivered with style and panache, this was Muriel at her very best. We loved it! Luckily, Sheilagh of the Pottery had served our coffee on arrival, otherwise our longing for that pungent, powerful, intoxicating, Pope-endorsed (!) beverage would have made us a twitchy audience! As it was, all eyes and ears were on Muriel!
Following the talk, we had a Glyndebourne-style three hour lunch break, which allowed visitors to Wenlock (they came from New Zealand, Belgium, London, Oxford, Coventry, Staffordshire and Wenlock) to enjoy lunch in one of our charming eateries followed by an exploration of the town and shops. Wenlock was at its best - sun shining on the fruit and veg markets, the Church Green resplendent with flowers and foliage; the ancient Priory Ruins spotted through alley ways, and busy, bustling independent shops displaying pyramids of wool; contemporary artwork; books old and new in our two Bookshops (how many towns can boast two Bookshops these days, both independent?), sweets, a Tiger Trail, and of course - Wenlock's famous queue for the butchers!
In the afternoon, we gathered back in the Pottery to hear Muriel's lecture on the history of children's literature. With her customary verve, Muriel elucidated those very earlier days of religious tracts and primers, followed by the grimmest of fairy tales, moving forward to 'branded' series of collectible stories and on to the vibrant children's stories we know and love today. There was a lot of nostalgia in the room, and the discussion after the lecture was a mixture of shared reminiscences about the books we had all loved as children, and some concern about trends in children's literature, publishing and book-selling today. We ended with afternoon tea - which restored all our spirits - listening to cellist Ruth Henley who accompanied the cucumber sandwiches perfectly!
A lovely end to Independent Bookshop Week 2015.
Thank you to everyone who took part in our events during IBW, we hope you had as much fun as we did!