Thanks to all the authors, organisers, customers, Christ Church staff and fellow marquee dwellers who made the Festival such an unqualified, enjoyable event. Here are a few few photos that (I hope) capture some of the atmosphere and bring back some nice memories for those lucky enough to part of it…
Filed under: Bookshop news and events, Oxford, Oxford Literary Festival, Blackwell's Events, oxford literary festival
Ask any bookseller why they remain a bookseller and the stock reply is ‘I just kinda fell into it, but I love it.’ It is certainly not to get rich and it is often seen as a step to getting published or a job in publishing.
Equally, a significant amount of people who leave bookselling stay in touch and say how much they miss the camaraderie, the closeness to the books and the ‘essence’ of working in a bookshop.
We see it as honourable and important – there is nothing like the satisfaction of placing a book in a customers hands that you know they are going to love. It might even change their life. We take this ‘power’ seriously, and recognise that it is recompense for the inevitable monotony of much of the day job.
Most customers who thank us for what we do have no idea just how heartening it is for us to hear that. It validates what we hold dear. Sometimes it is unspoken, but we see the effect that bookseller recommendations can have on sales of specific titles (our current staff choice in Blackwell’s has seen an extraordinary uplift in sales of those books). Blackwell’s Broad St has just received validation on a grand scale.
This week saw the Book Industry Conference, where the great and the good of British publishing and bookselling gathered to talk about the present and the future. On the Monday night of the conference was the gala dinner and the annual awards ceremony. Blackwell’s was proud to have two nominations – Micha Solana for Young Bookseller of the Year and Broad Street’s very own Zool Verjee for Manager of the Year. We were blown away to win in both categories (Micha shared that award with Gorgina Hanratty of Tales on Moon LaneChildren’s bookshop). Will Gompertz wrote an excellent piece on the awards here
Zool winning has given a real boost to the whole of the shop this week – if a 132 year old bookshop can have a spring in it’s step then it has had that and more since the announcement. Zool may be reticent about me saying this but the award was truly deserved – he has been instrumental in raising our ambition as a bookshop. The fabulous collaboration with Creation Theatre wouldn’t have happened without him. He has taken on stunning events with the likes of Amartya Sen, Shirley Williams and Richard Dawkins to name just a few. He has helped to build and build the bookselling activity at the Oxford Literary Festival over a number of years. Two weeks ago he took the Eurostar to Paris to sell buckets of books at an Oxford Almni reunion. His ability to manage detail whilst maintaining an impressive vision for the possible is extraordinary. Of course (and Zool would be the first to insist that this is said) many other people are instrumental in helping us deliver our Events and Marketing activity. That the British book industry explicitly recognised his talents is not only a reflection on Zool, but also a stamp of approval on the direction that we are working on taking one of the great bookshops in the world.
Zool, I salute you. And I love your rather marvellous trophy
Filed under: Bookshop news and events, The Book Trade, 50 broad street, book events, creation theatre, oxford literary festival
“YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE” bellows Tim Smit, the charismatic founder of the Eden project, recounting a previous talk where having arrived late was rushed on stage and unable to think of anything to say. And so begins one of the most inspirational hours of my life. Brimming with great anecdotes and insights into both his own way of going about things and general observations on how people interact, Tim has all the verve and charm of a motivational speaker, while pouring scorn over all the jargon and empty posturing of “innovative” companies, where people “think out of the box”. This is a man who ambles into the Sheldonian Theatre, ruffled hair, creased shirt tucked into his jeans, looking like he could easily be heading over to the garden to do some weeding…although in his case potentially on a massive scale!
The Eden Project is an £80million environmental initiative, and we’re told to date that it has generated £1billion. What do you do when you are trying to bring a project to fruition and you’re stretched to the limit, and feeling like you can’t possibly bring everything together asks Tim. As a rule? Well, you take one more step out on a limb. Getting the funding for the project required some good fortune and Tim largely credits his success to taking risks and the sheer positive power on others generated by believing in what you are doing.
Another principle Tim lives by is seeking out the great potential in unexpected situations. Organisations and institutions obsess about gathering together the “great thinkers” in “centres of excellence”, but what of the untapped resources bubbling away within us all? And who knows what spark can ignite when you get people in situations they never planned? Well funnily enough I didn’t know who Tim Smit was before today and (rather shamefully) I knew nothing of the Eden project. So I came to the Sheldonian Theatre with no expectations, and I left having been treated to a fantastically stimulating event. I’ve had my mind energised by a vision of how this country could invest in sustainable energy and move into a new age of industry and production, an “exciting” time, which Tim believes could prove to be as historically significant as the age of enlightenment. And why not, if we can show some of the drive and commitment which has been on show today?
Tim has a cunning little method to encourage novel situations: he accepts every third invitation (providing there’s no clash with family commitments). So was Blackwell at the mercy of Tim’s social invite roulette wheel when we asked him to appear at the Oxford Literary Festival this year? I never thought to ask him. But I do know that all of us here at the Sheldonian Theatre today were very lucky to have been able to spend a little time in the company of this inspiring man.
- Tom Osman
Filed under: Bookshop news and events, Oxford Literary Festival, book events, oxford literary festival
The unpacking begins – this might take a while
You can’t create a masterpiece with out making some mess
The Nerve Centre
The shelves are up but empty – watch this space
Will the unpacking ever end?
Coffee needed as things take shape
Remember those empty shelves
Occasionally Zool will yodel to keep spirits high
Build it and they will come
Jemima on the till – she is Queen of Everything at #oxlitfest
Keep bang up to date with all things Festival by following us on Twitter www.twitter.com/blackwelloxford
Filed under: Oxford Literary Festival, blackwell bookshop, bookseller, oxford literary festival
Once again we are delighted to be the onsite bookseller at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. Whilst the amount of time and nervous energy that this takes up is huge we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world from 2nd-10th April. Logistically it is the biggest operation that we run outside of the shop. This year will be the 15th installment of the Festival, growing from a very small affair into arguably the third most important literary festival in the UK behind Hay and Edinburgh.
Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, cuts to cultural programmes and the oft-predicted demise of the traditional book are we at the pinnacle of festival fever?
The growth of literary festivals over the past years has been much commented on, my observations on this are as follows:
- whilst writing and reading are essentially solitary pursuits our general need for sociability and communality have not diminished over the years, but the opportunities for them have. Whereas location and family used to be the natural drivers of collective behaviour this is being supplanted by groups drawn together by common activity e.g. football and festivals
- book festivals are seen as having an intellectual stamp of approval – being seen at them is a positive statement, and it gives a definite feelgood factor to attendees
- whilst authors are not necessarily the best ‘presenters’ in the world they are often unnervingly honest and they are amazingly accessible at these events. To see the real person on whose printed words you have feasted on can be truly inspiring, especially those unexpected nuggets that shine new light on a book. I remember seeing David Mitchell a few years ago when he mentioned that, having written each of the narratives in Cloud Atlas separately, he hadn’t seen the finished structure of the book until it was published.
With our position at the geographic heart of festival means that we often see, feel and hear the ‘buzz’ when a particular event is so good that the enthusiasm of the audience spills out into the marquee and grabs the attention of everyone there. If you ever doubt the power of books then you should experience this – it is truly uplifting.
Books matter and this most communal of activities for book-lovers are the perfect place for you to renew your vows. So, who are you going to see?
Filed under: Oxford Literary Festival, The Book Trade, 50 broad street, book events, oxford literary festival
Apologies for the lull in proceedings from our maiden post. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw; there are a thousand reasons but no excuses.
There has been no lack of activity in the shop over the past months with a frantic ‘last-minute’ Christmas (runaway bestseller for us was A History of the World in 100 Objects) and the first ever play to be hosted in the shop. We will be talking more about the joys of Creation Theatre in a future post.
Our main focus at the moment is the upcoming Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. Top of my list of events to go to is Sarah Bakewell talking about Montaigne and the incomparable Kazuo Ishiguro – surely one of the greatest literary craftsman of our generation?
If you are attending the festival do come and talk to our booksellers – we are a very friendly bunch…
Filed under: Bookshop news and events, 50 broad street, blackwell bookshop, creation theatre, oxford literary festival