Alice’s Day

Curious and Curiouser… The Bookshop Band’s debut at Blackwell’s

Curious and curiouser

Things aren’t what they seem…

Last night on the 3rd July, Blackwell’s staff and customers were treated to an intimate but astonishing show from The Bookshop Band.

The Bookshop Band comprises the talents of Ben Please, Poppy Pitt and Beth Porter, who can take as little as a new book and one or two hours to create beautiful songs about books. Normally to be found in Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, The Bookshop Band are currently on tour sponsored by Vintage. In order to prepare them for the evening, we gave Ben, Poppy and Beth two new books for inspiration – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as a pre-Alice’s Day celebration, and Blackwell’s favourite and bestseller New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani.

And I am afloat, on a great sea

In a boat, veiled from reality…

As the last week before the show came round, we realised that only four tickets had been sold… panic! How could we let people know how brilliant this band was? We spent the week creating posters, writing to newspapers and playing their CDs on repeat in Blackwell Music…

The Queen of Hearts is furious

This life is but a dream…

The hour drew closer and we were terribly excited to find out what the band had done with our favourite books – and still panicking that we’d have failed to provide them an audience… we need not have worried! Our lovely customers saved the day, and came streaming through the doors, filling the thirty seats we’d set out in our Norrington Room.

Playing the Norrington Room was particularly significant for Ben Please, as the room is in fact named after his grandfather – Sir Arthur Norrington… or as he was affectionately known in the family ‘Grandpa Eyebrows’.

The band’s first song ‘Curious and Curiouser’, based on Alice in Wonderland, was fast paced, frantic and exciting to listen to, conjuring up all the familiar images of smoking caterpillars and ‘Eat-Me’ cakes.

‘A Sea of Sound’, based on New Finnish Grammar, was slower and more gentle, but still full of intriguing images and capturing the confusion and difficulty of learning language.

Unknown sounds, echo emptily

In my mouth, But I cant repeat

A transitory feat, as they slip back down beneath

But I drag each word, back to the surface to be heard…

Once the new songs were finished, we were treated to a collection of The Bookshop Band’s earlier works, including songs based on The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch. A music-hall tune based on The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack got the entire audience singing along to the chorus (which incidentally, I’ve had in my head all day)…

Smoke over London, looks jolly splendid, I’ve heard…

So, the evening was a complete success, and both staff and audience left not only with great music still ringing in their ears, but also with several new books on their ‘must read’ lists.

 “We felt really privileged to play in such a magnificent and famous room of books. The commissions were great choices too – Alice in Wonderland is a real treasure trove of images and ideas – we had lots of fun writing about that one, and just in time for the Alice celebrations in Oxford too. We’ll try and get the video up online in time! Hope to see everyone again for Christmas. Any Christmas book ideas?” - Ben Please

 If you’re currently kicking yourself for missing out on this amazing evening (and so you should be!) then never fear – The Bookshop Band are still touring the UK, and you can always find them at Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. Here at Blackwell’s, we have a selection of books from the band’s reading lists, and we’ll be keeping CDs and band merchandise on sale – so come and have a listen!

We’d love to ask The Bookshop Band to come back again, so keep an eye on our events page for to see when they’ll pop up next…

Curious and curiouser

Things aren’t what they seem…

Events in July at Blackwell’s Oxford

Another set of cracking bookshop events in July, music, storytelling, natural history, one of oue very best comic writers and Elizebetah espionage! It would be lovely to see you at any or all of these:

Tuesday 3rd July at 7pm

The Bookshop Band

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £5

The Bookshop Band write and perform songs inspired by books and the members of the band take it in turns to describe the inspiration for each song. During last year, they have completed 18 author events, and written 36 songs inspired by 21 diverse books.

The band is made up of three British musician/songwriters: Ben Please – part of indie-folk band Urusen who have recently recorded an album with platinum-selling producer Steve Osborne (KT Tunstall, The Happy Mondays, U2, Doves); Poppy Pitt – an artist and sculptor who also tours with her own band, Poppy and Friends; and Beth Porter – has played with Peter Gabriel, currently tours with Eliza Carthy and has recorded for Newton Faulkner, The Unthanks, and Maximo Park.

This promises to be a stunning evening and one that, we are sure, will be talked about for years to come…

Tickets cost £5 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623

 

 Thursday 5th July at 7pm

Walking the Landscapes of Britain

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £2

Philip Hughes will be joining us to discuss Tracks: Walking the Ancient Landscapes of Britain. This book focuses on eleven iconic walks across beautiful ancient areas in Britain, each expressed through Hughes’ artwork in paintings and drawings as well as maps, aerial photographs and short introductions about the surrounding area.

Tickets cost £2 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623

 

Saturday 7th July

Alice’s Day

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Free activities throughout the day – come and join us!

Join us for a day of frabjous activities taking place in our magical children’s department here at Blackwell’s Bookshop from 11am – 5pm. Loose yourself in our all day storytelling of Alice in Wonderland or take part in our Alice trail in the Norrington Room. Be transformed by our face-painting artist or entertained by our comical Alice’s Day musicians. Have a balloon made by our balloon sculptress and get creative with our range of Alice themed craft activities, there’s lots to do for all the family and we hope you can join us!

Alice in Wonderland: The Big Story Read:

We’ll be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the telling of Alice in Wonderland with an all day reading of the story by a range of exciting special guests including children’s authors Sally Nichols, Steve Feasy, Jen Campbell and MG Harris! Drop in to listen to a chapter or stay all day to hear the story in full, join us in celebrating this wonderful occasion. If you are as mad as a hatter and would like to take part as a storyteller, a sign up sheet is on display in the children’s department, please sign up before Alice’s Day to have a guaranteed place

For further information, please telephone our Children’s Department: 01865 333694

 

Friday 13th July at 1.00pm

Lunchtime book signing:

Jasper Fforde / The Woman Who Died a Lot 

This is the new Thursday Next novel from Number One bestselling author Jasper Fforde.

The BookWorld’s leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you’d expect to be a time of recuperation. If only life were that simple.

Thursday is faced with an array of family problems – son Friday’s lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday’s difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity’s promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn’t exist.

And that’s not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday’s Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday’s retirement is going to be anything but easy.

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring out of the window and chewing the end of a pencil. He lives and works in Wales and has a passion for aviation.

All are welcome, no booking required, please just come along!

 

Wednesday 18th July at 7pm

Hugh Warwick / The Beauty in the Beast

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £2

The Beauty in the Beast is a delightful portrait of some of the UK’s best-loved wild animals and birds and the colourful enthusiasts who champion their causes. Meet the water vole-woman from Shropshire, the owl-man from Somerset and Gordon, the dancing toad-fancier. These and many other fabulously engaging characters carry a deep knowledge of their chosen species within a distinctly quirky shell. Other animals making an appearance include otters, bats, dolphins, dragonflies, foxes and adders. Hugh Warwick, animal enthusiast and hedgehog fanatic, writes a series of affectionate and lively homages to the animals of the British Isles, composed of fieldwork and interviews with the people who love and conserve them.

Tickets cost £2 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623

 

 

Thursday 19th July at 7pm

SJ Parris / Sacrilege

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £2

Perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and The Name of the Rose, the third historical thriller featuring Giordano Bruno, heretic, philosopher and spy. In the pursuit of power, nothing is sacred! Summer, 1584. The Protestant Prince William of Orange has been assassinated by a fanatical Catholic, and there are whispers that Queen Elizabeth will be next. Fear haunts the streets of London, and plague is driving many citizens away. Giordano Bruno, radical philosopher and spy, chooses to remain, only to find that someone is following him through the city. Confronting his stalker, he realizes it is the woman he once loved — she is on the run, having been accused of murder. Bruno travels to Canterbury to help clear her name, and also on behalf of Sir Francis Walsingham. The Queen’s spymaster has long suspected Catholic influence in the ancient centre of pilgrimage, and instructs Bruno to work to expose any enemy plots. As Bruno begins his hunt for the real killer, he is drawn into the heart of a sinister conspiracy hiding in the shadow of England’s holiest shrine!

Tickets cost £2 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623

Which authors should have their own ‘day’?


There are a number of authors / books that have their own day of celebration. For example Alice’s Day on 4th July, November 12th is Carl Sagan Day, Tolkien Reading Day is March 25th and, of course, World Book Night is run on Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23rd

First question I have is are there other days that you know of that are dedicated to celebrating an author or specific book?

And the second question is who do think is worthy of such an accolade?

Let us know through the comments – you never know, you may see your suggestion adorning our windows in the future.

We Love Alice’s Day!

 

Our booksellers love the chance to dress up and entertain. Alice’s Day has become one of our favourite days of the year. Huge thanks to the magnificent Story Museum for ensuring that each year the day becomes bigger and better than previously. A big Huzzah! to all the other organisations across Oxfordshire that get involved. And, of course, a great big thank you to the thousands that turn out and make Oxford feel that little bit more special for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope this gives a flavour of the happiness and buzz about the shop today…