As I mentioned in my last post, last Thursday I travelled down from Yorkshire to Oxford with my friend Zoe to attend the Waterstones 25 Years of Bookselling event evening, held in their four story (no literary pun intended!) Broad St store. The invite promised four floors of books, mulled wine, delicious canapes, special guests and a live band, not to mention the chance to have your personal copies of a selection of this years best-sellers and new releases signed by their authors! I was already incredibly excited about being invited, and when I found out that Philip Pullman was one of these guest authors, it was basically a non-negotiable fact that I was going. And I’m SO glad that I did.
There was a brilliant atmosphere in the shop right from the beginning, with the Oxford Student Chorus signing carols outside the entrance, and live band Josie & The Outlaw providing upbeat jazz music inside. Local hotel The Randolph had set up a bar serving all kinds of wine, (most of it mulled!), and there was a heavy buzz of excited customers and book loving individuals mingling with authors, staff and each other alike.
To soak up the wine and provide some party nibbles, food was prepared and offered by Carluccio’s, the restaurant chain owned by top chef Antonio Carluccio who was also an attendee in person, hanging around the cookery section and signing copies of his new recipe book Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy. Scrummy bites of olive, mozzerella, aubergine and sundried tomato nestled in between stacks upon stacks of tempting cookery manuals, accompanied by cakes, muffins, brownies and biscuits beautifully handmade by Outsider Tart.
When we’d had a sufficient mosey around and sampled one or five of the great treats on offer, we headed downstairs to join the queue to meet Philip Pullman and have him sign our copies of Grimm Tales – for my thoughts on this masterpiece, check out my earlier blog post! – which, if I’m honest, was the best part of the night for me! The Northern Lights trilogy is my second favourite work(s) of literature in the whole world, and Pullman one of my absolute literary heroes. Queueing up, I was determined not to say anything too embarrassing or gushing, and in my excitement/nervousness actually ended up blurting out something about umlauts and unusual names and grammar, to which he kindly engaged in and then wrote me a lovely greetings message in my book! Even though I’d have loved to listened to a talk from him, or had the chance to ask about the progression of his upcoming title The Book Of Dust, I was thrilled to have met him even if only for a few minutes; something which definitely made the long journey and time queueing worth it.
Due to having to get a train home at 8pm, we unfortunately couldn’t stay for the end of the evening or queue for any other author signings (I’d have liked to have had a Katie Fforde novel signed for my mum!) but we did buy a few bits and pieces from Outsider Tart for the long journey home before leaving hugging our newly embellished copies of Grimm Tales. I also had a quick play on the Kindles before we left (I’m getting a bit more open to the idea of owning one, since joining NetGalley and setting up as a reviewer…) and managed to add at least 6 new books to my Christmas List.
Overall, the evening was a lovely example of why bookshops are still so important in this ever increasing ‘ebook age’, and how special and exciting it is to meet the authors of your favourite books. The atmosphere was brilliantly festive and lively, and as for being able to have food and wine and socialise in a bookshop for an evening – well, it was basically my idea of heaven. Massive congratulations to Broad St Waterstones on their 25th birthday, and for arranging such a fantastic event – and many thanks to the authors, staff, bakers, cooks and barmen for your presence and contributions to the party! I shall definitely be looking out for any similar events across the country, and would encourage anyone who is thinking of attending a bookshop promo event or who gets invited to one to do so; they’re my new favourite thing to do EVER.
Happy 25th @WaterstonesOxford!
Did you attend this event? What did you think to it? Would you have liked to meet Philip Pullman, and what would you have asked him?
- Philip Pullman: ‘one of the greatest storytellers of our time’ (guardian.co.uk)