“As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.”
I’m particularly glad to be celebrating literature and Leeds this week – especially after a rather thoughtless remark was posted on the Guardian (see HERE for the original article and HERE for an excellent defence of the North by Jess) seemingly deriding the cultural offerings in Leeds. Having lived in the city for 11 years – albeit only becoming truly involved in the broader community more recently – I am constantly delighted by the variety of events taking place in the city. Despite the recent economic downturn, or perhaps in spite of it, this city in particular (though I’m seeing tweets suggesting that the trend is county wide) has rallied to set up and create a plethora of niche interest groups from Clandestine Cakes to Meeples to Coffee Crawl to literary festivals, to Maths Jam across the city to Leeds Playlist online. Far from becoming disheartened, we are finding ever more creative ways to express ourselves and our interests.
Makes a person proud to live in the area, to be honest.
World Book Night
The 23rd of April is often referred to as ‘Shakespeare’s Day’ as this is the date attribute to both this birth and death. While there is evidence that this was in fact the date that he died; his birth date is not recorded (though he was baptised on the 26th of April). It does have a rather pleasing symmetry to it though.
Additionally, this date is used in the UK as St George’s Day.
World Book Night was launched on the 5th of March in 2011 – specifically set up to encourage literacy in adults –a grown up version of the pre-existing World Book Day, if you will (which focuses on creating opportunities for children and young people to read).
The whole idea is remarkably simple. We all love getting something for nothing. And the best advocate for any book is someone who already loves it. So WBN give book lovers 20 copies of a story they have previously enjoyed, with strict instructions to distribute these free of charge to new and emerging readers. Each book also includes a ‘bonus’ poem chosen by the books author to add to your reading experience.
*This* is my heaven.
In 2012, Don Paterson matched a Shakespearean sonnet to each of the 25 titles participating in WBN. The Player of Games was allocated Sonnet 91 which I thought was pretty darn perfect. You can download an ebook with all the sonnets selected HERE)
Although I wasn’t a giver that first year, I did become a little involved in a WBN and book swap hosted by the Travelling Suitcase Library at Arcadia Bar. Not that it matters in the slightest; but it is rather fun to be ‘in on something’ from the start’…even if that is more due to up to speed friends than any self awareness!
The following year, the date was changed to the 23rd of April – the UNESCO International Day of the Book. Even more people became involved and there were events the length and breath of the country in book stores, shops, libraries, universities and even pubs (!) to celebrating books, literacy and free-ness. The Guardian’s Northerner’s Blog noted that it was particularly embraced ‘Up North’ (cough). A tremendous giggle was had by all and we gorged on books, buns and that sense of deep satisfaction that comes from chatting both to fellow bibliophiles and with those who are only starting to open up to literary wonders!
Over a million books were handed out in 2011. That number doubled during the 2012 World Book Night events. Here’s hoping that this will be the biggest year yet and that – as long as people need support into reading – WBN continues to grow and evolve in the future!
“Take no heed of her…. She reads a lot of books.”
Our WBN Events
This year, I’d like to invite you to pop down to one (or more) of the following bookie events.
In 2012 – all fired up and inspired – we organised a Leeds Book Club event at the White Swan in the City Centre. As cakes have become an integral part of my book clubbing (I know, weird right?) we decided to hold ‘Books, Booze and Buns’ night which was a huge success. Ten different book titles were dispensed as well as dozens of second hand books including an almost complete Point Horror collection – which flew off the shelves in a manner that was truly creepy.
This year, we’re planning the same but BIGGER and BETTER. Leeds unofficial party starter Kirsty (@Gazpachodragon) will be the host for the evening. Maths Jam is happening at the same time – so those of your with a numerical fondness should definitely check that out and from 9pm there will be the best book-based quiz that has ever been conceived of, with prizes that are so cool…I can’t even describe them.
Outside of the city centre, I’ll be handing out The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (co-incidentally one of our upcoming White Swan book choices) and will be joined by other World Book Night givers in Medusa Bar in Horsforth. This is the second year I’ve been able to distribute my first choice WBN book – last time I handed out Iain M Banks’ The Player of Games – and I’m as giddy as a mayfly about the whole thing. On top of that, we’ll be holding the Epic Book Based Quiz with exciting prizes to win – yes it’s the same quiz described above as I do *NOT* share Kirsty’s talents!
The third annual World Book Night at Arcadia is on track to be a fantastic event with a huge range of books available. Jess will be distributing Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, which I haven’t read… yet!
To join in our celebration on Twitter, feel free to use the following: #WBN2013 #WBN #MedusaLBC #WSwanLBC #LiteraryLeeds
Personally, I’m a Stratfordian – while I appreciate the varied and often compelling arguments that are made against Shakespeare’s’ having penned these works; I chose to believe that these poems and plays were written by this man of humble origin, whose own father was likely illiterate (Kit Marlowe emerged from a similar background…though perhaps I could have picked a character less embroiled in his own conspiracy theories as a better example). Nevertheless I do enjoy a good conspiracy and the questions of authorship (which first emerged out of 19th century snobbery) and the resultant articles, book and films will no doubt keep me entertained for years to come!