Calling all lovers of books and reading!

The countdown to the annual south London celebration of both has begun.  Clapham Book Festival takes place on 5th October 2019 at Omnibus Theatre.

The preparations are now well under way.  The CBF stall at the recent Clapham Summer Fete attracted a lot of interest from locals and visitors alike. It’s taken us almost four years but folk now expect the Book Festival to take place, it has become part of the Clapham scene.  Our stall this year had books donated by Clapham writers, especially those who had been prize judges. So they
were, by and large, pristine copies at knock-down prices and some of them signed by the authors as well. One woman was delighted to find the signature in the book she had just purchased. We had a superb hand-made chocolate cake to raffle off as well (congratulations John, I hope it tasted as good as it looked).

Ably assisted by the ladies from The Reading Den another Clapham-based not-for-profit organisation which acts as an on-line central hub of advice and guidance for book clubs, we managed to raise £130 for the Festival, as well as doing a lot of promoting of
the events ( and having fun talking about books and writers ).  Clapham Writers has at least three new members, who we hope to see at the Meet & Greet event after this year’s Fest.

We have also been out and about leafleting around Clapham. We were at Venn Street market on Saturday and our small battalion of volunteers is posting flyers through letterboxes all over Clapham. One may be coming through your door soon.

The Windmill on the Common has again supported the Festival by donating a
voucher for an overnight stay for two in that boutique hotel as a prize in our Festival day raffle.  Last year’s winner was a Clapham resident who, as the occupant of a one-bedroom flat, was able to have his parents to stay by using the voucher.  Thank you The Windmill and Young’s Brewery.

As regards publicity, you will find us mentioned by the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Authors, in the Sunday Times On-line and in a veritable cornucopia of local media of various kinds.  There’s also a podcast coming out on 1st October.  Henry Hemming – Our Man in New York – had a double page spread in the Sunday Mail and Elizabeth Buchan – The Museum of Broken Promises – an excellent review in The Times.  Aida Edemariam and Ursula Buchan won the plaudits when their books, The Wife’s Tale and Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps, respectively, were first published. That’s not forgetting our opener – Professor Kate Williams on the relationship between the Rival Queens, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots – and Frank Gardner OBE, BBC Security Correspondent with his Ultimatum, to close the Festival.

Tickets can be had at Omnibus £16/£13 concessions or £10/£8.  A snip at the price.  Buy yours soon, the events are filling up fast!

For more on Clapham’s own Book Festival try       On The Day….           Books and Walking – A Literary Trail 

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All the Fun of the Fair…with Books!

Sunshine, sports (of the athletic and not so athletic kind – think sack races ), live music and mutts – and plenty of other attractions, including free food and drink – in Clapham Old Town on Saturday 31st August!  Come along to the newly landscaped The Polygon, in SW4.

And BOOKS!

Clapham Book Festival’s stall will, yet again this year, be selling off pristine, donated, copies of recently published fiction and non-fiction at knock down prices.  You won’t find value like this anywhere else in London.  All to raise money for the Festival. This year’s edition takes place on 5th October at Omnibus Theatre ( just over the road from the Polygon ) and tickets are on sale NOW.

The 2019 Festival Programme includes writing on history and historical fiction with Professor Kate Williams, most recently seen speaking about royal publications on This Morning and at the Latitude Festival; biography, of the multi-talented John Buchan, by his grand-daughter, Ursula Buchan; a lyrical memoire which spans the twentieth century by 2019 Ondaatje Prize winner Aida Edemariam, speaking with Booker short-listed novelist Michele Roberts and a reading from a recently published novel by its author ( our mystery guest – a household name – watch this space ). In the evening Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent and war zone veteran talks with fellow thriller writer Simon Berthon about espionage, war reporting and how his knowledge and experience feeds into his writing.

Sign up for our mailing list on the day and get more information, or just come along and chat about the Programme, about books in general and writing and stock up with some excellent books.

It’s all happening on Saturday 31st August from midday at The Polygon, Clapham SW4. Come and join us and have some fun…..WITH BOOKS!

For articles about the Festival and about Clapham Old Town Fairs past try         Clapham Book Festival 2018                   Clapham Book Festival 2017           It’s So Clapham                       He Shouldn’t Have Parked There                   Common Books              The Battle of the Crows and….

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Clapham Book Festival 2019

There are just 74 days to go before this year’s Clapham Book Festival on 5th October and tickets are already selling fast.

First up at 2 o’clock we have the award-winning historian and New York Times bestselling novelist Professor Kate Williams, who vividly explores the rivalry between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. Fascinated by powerful women, her biographies have featured Josephine Bonaparte, Emma Hamilton and Queen Victoria, as well as the two sixteenth century Queens. She also writes historical fiction, with her three-part historical saga about the glamorous but doomed de Witt family. You may well have seen Kate on TV, she is the social historian on BBC2’s Restoration Home, the royal and historical expert for CNN and appears regularly on TV and radio. She has also covered all the major modern royal events.

At 3.30 Ursula Buchan, scion of the Buchan clan, draws on new family archive material for her biography of her grandfather, John Buchan. ‘JB’ is an intriguing personality, a scholar, antiquarian, barrister, colonial administrator, journal editor, literary critic, publisher, war correspondent, director of wartime propaganda, member of parliament and imperial proconsul – given a state funeral when he died, a deeply admired and loved Governor-General of Canada. The award-winning journalist  discusses this ‘magnificent biography’  with Clapham novelist Elizabeth Buchan, revealing the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps in a completely new light.

Winner of the 2019 Ondaatje Prize, Guardian journalist Aida Edemariam talks to novelist Michèle Roberts about The Wife’s Tale, her “outstanding and highly unusual memoir” of her Ethiopian grandmother, Yetemegnu, sharing how she came to write this lyrical biography. Lovingly researched, the story moves from Yetemegnu’s birth to her marriage (at the age of eight) to a cleric and poet two decades her senior, through fascist occupation, the rise and fall of ruler Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. Edemariam, who grew up in Addis Ababa, and is of Ethiopian and Canadian heritage, was first drawn to her grandmother’s stories “because of the language and verve with which she told them.

In the evening the BBC journalist and author Frank Gardner OBE reflects on his exciting broadcasting career and upon the tense mix of fact and fiction in his best selling novels.  Speaking with fellow thriller writer Simon Berthon, he discusses writing about a world he knows inside-out: as a scholar of the Middle East and the Arab world and BBC correspondent in the region – he was shot by terrorists in Saudi Arabia, which left him confined to a wheelchair – he initially put pen to paper in a riveting memoir, Blood & Sand. His first thriller, Crisis, was published in 2016 and was a Sunday Times bestseller, followed two years later by Ultimatum.

And, if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, we have a mystery guest, a well-known author reading from one of their recently published works at 5 o’clock.

Tickets are already on sale from the Omnibus web-site.  You can find the Clapham Book Festival pages under Also At Omnibus.

Or visit the Box Office at 1, Clapham Common Northside, London SW4 0QW.  Box Office telephone 0207 498 4699.

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Walk the Walks

As the sun emerges after some very welcome rain, why not go out for a walk? In particular, if you live in or near Clapham in South London, go for a stroll on its wonderful and historic Common.

To add to your enjoyment and exercise your ‘little grey cells’ as well as your calf muscles, you could follow the Clapham Literary Trail (  Clapham literary trail leafletFinal ) a self-guided walk which takes about ninety minutes and includes Clapham landmarks and the places where Clapham authors of renown, past and present, lived and worked.  There are lots of blue plaques to find and works to identify.

It takes the form of a quiz ( answers supplied ), so, if you fancy testing your literary as well as your historical knowledge of Clapham, while taking some exercise and enjoying the Summer, download the pdf from this web-site or from the Clapham Book Festival site and stride out.

For the younger walker, the Clapham Children’s Book Trail ( Clapham children’s book walk final (1) ) is a version of the Literary Trail designed specifically with walkers aged 8 – 12 in mind, this time accompanied by an adult.   As the school Summer holidays approach, take a walk through children’s literature – you’d be surprised at just which famous writers for younger readers have lived here ( clue – there are very famous wizards, and witches, involved ).

If, on the other hand, art is your thing, why not try the Clapham Art Trail ( Clapham art trail leaflet final (2) ). The Common has attracted artists through out the centuries, who have rendered it in various forms of paint and graphite, from the internationally famous masters to the lesser known. Today local artists are still inspired by the urban, but somehow not quite urban scenes.  Another quiz, illustrated by some of the works in which the green space has featured takes you around the Common.

All the Trails, designed by Clapham Writers, begin at Clapham Common tube station, though many of the works referred to in the leaflets were created long before the Underground existed.

All are FREE to download from this web-site or the Clapham Book Festival web-site,  though we would welcome any donations you would like to make using the Paypal button on screen.  All proceeds go towards delivering the Book Festival and associated literary and reading activities.  If you’re out and about at the Clapham Summer Fete on 31st August why not come and have a chat at the Clapham Book Festival stall, where we’ll have books for sale in aid of the Festival.

This year’s Book Festival is on Saturday 5th October at Omnibus Theatre, so why not check out the Programme . History, historical fiction, biography, memoir, contemporary fiction and journalism are just some of the topics featured in sessions this year, with household names like Frank Gardner and Professor Kate Williams, as well as this year’s Ondaatje Prize winner, Aida Edemariam talking to Booker listee Michele Roberts.  Tickets are already available and are selling fast, so make sure you get yours at Omnibus.

You can find articles about Clapham Book Festivals past at                    Clapham Book Festival 2018                 Historical Seduction             Clapham Book Festival 2017                   Place and the Writer

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Sponsorship Shout Out

Sponsors, advertisers, all those businesses out there which want to associate themselves with a quality festival of reading and literature – we need you!

Clapham Book Festival is into fundraising mode. Thus far our main sponsor has been This is Clapham, the Clapham Business Improvement District and we will be applying to them again for the Festival 2019, but it’s time for us to be looking for other funding too, specifically from sponsors.

So what do we offer?

Our publicity has a long reach for a small Festival – we punch well above our weight. In 2017 we reached over 450,000 people, through local press, TV and radio and social media.  South London societies and book clubs are engaged as well as prestigious institutions like the Society of Authors and the Royal Society of Literature to circulate our publicity, as well as more recently established on-line organisations such as Book Brunch. The Sunday Times has shown interest in writing about the Festival.

Association with the Festival is association with high quality. Festival events have uniformly high satisfaction ratings (mid to high nineties). The Programme has include literary stars and household names like Dame Margaret Drabble, Kate Adie, Mark Lawson and Deborah Moggach.  The Festival has a track record of attracting rising stars and prize winners.  In 2016 Max Porter went on to win the International Dylan Thomas Prize, while in 2017 Andrew Lownie won Biography of the Year and St Ermin’s Intelligence Book of the Year for his biography of Guy Burgess. Crime writers who appeared at the Festival and were later recognised on Prize short-lists were Sabine Durant, M J Carter and J P Delaney. Vaseem Khan is currently short-listed for a Shamus Prize (Best Original Private Eye Paperback). The Costa Award-winning YA author Patrice Lawrence took part in 2018.

Supporting the Festival supports work on literacy and reading in South London. Clapham Writers, the charitable body which oversees delivery of the Festival conducts out-reach work to children and disadvantaged groups in south London working in partnership with Lambeth Libraries, the Reading Agency, HMP Brixton and National Prison Radio, Age UK and other local charities.

Various sponsorship levels are available

Companies or associations get their logo on Festival literature for only £250.

Accreditation as a sponsor costs £500.

Golden sponsor status is available for £1,000+.

We always acknowledge our supporters, even non-financial ones. So, in 2018, The Windmill Hotel was mentioned in the Festival satisfaction survey and by name, as the donating organisation of the prize. Our tie-ins with local business, for example, with cafe Tart are advertised in our literature. In 2018 Leslie Martin Ceramics featured on our tri-fold leaflet.

Two members of our Board will be contacting local firms and the Clapham offices of national businesses over the next few weeks to ask for sponsorship and/or arrange tie-ins.  Or contact us at claphambookfestival@gmail.com.

For more information on the Book Festival visit our web-site and take a look at the list of authors who have appeared. Or try                   Clapham Book Festival 2018, How’d It Go?                  Clapham Book Festival 2017, It Begins                    ‘Omnibus’ Clapham’s Literary Festival 2016

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It’s just so Clapham……

‘It’s just so Clapham round there,’ said Dave from Streatham, my colleague on the Clapham Book Festival stall at Saturday’s Old Town Fair. He’d just been for a wander around.  ‘All children and dogs… didn’t they call part of Clapham ‘Nappy Valley’?’

They still do (especially the estate agents). Though, to be fair, this was when Clapham Mutts – the fair’s annual dog show – was taking place in the arena just behind our stall. Also, to be fair, I hadn’t ought to criticise estate agents this morning, having enjoyed Dexters’* light-as-air cup cakes at no charge on Saturday afternoon.  It wasn’t just Dexters offering free comestibles, a gentleman wearing a chef’s coat was seen carrying large trays of what looked like delectable nibbles around, which didn’t last long. I didn’t get to try any, but folk who did seemed to like them. Nor do I know from whence the man came, lots of local restaurants were taking part.

Clapham is a good place to live (though it has become unaffordable for many, I appreciate) and events like this one demonstrate why. The sun was shining and it was hot in the open, landscaped space in the Georgian Old Town, adjacent to the Common.  There were plenty of families, but couples, groups of friends and individuals too, out to enjoy the food and drink, the music and the activities.

This was the third September shindig and the Festival has taken part in all of them ( see At The Polygon and He Shouldn’t have Parked There for reports on earlier events ). The event is arranged by This is Clapham – the estimable Jeremy Keates, its’ elected officer, was in evidence taking photos during the day –  in partnership with Omnibus Theatre.  It continues to thrive and grow and has a good, community feel, with lots of local societies taking part. Charitable bodies, like our own, are permitted free stalls, a noted difference from other Fetes and fiestas. This year the event spread from The Polygon into nearby Omnibus Theatre, where a Local History Fair took over that space, as part of the month-long Lambeth Heritage Festival.

Inside there were stands from the Cinema Museum, from Lambeth Palace Library and the Clapham, Brixton and Streatham Societies with historical displays and books for sale. I didn’t see them – too busy on our own stall – but there were talks in the theatre, including one about the history of Clapham Library and its conversion to Omnibus Theatre, and guided local walks.  The Clapham Literary Trail free leaflets on our stall had plenty of takers.

We gathered lots more e-mail addresses from people interested in being informed about the Festival and a few people came along who had been to this year’s edition. One of them, David, the winner of this year’s Prize Draw, dropped by to say hello – and buy a book. In all we sold well over a hundred books, all donated by local authors and publishers, and raised several hundred pounds for the Festival, as well as its profile.

‘Oh I can’t buy any books. I’ve got far too many already,’ was a common refrain, though I must say that every single person who said this ( bar one, who was on a bike ) went on to buy at least one book. Some bought four or five. Others asked us to put some volumes aside while they went off to get cash and then returned to purchase their books. But these were bargains and if you’re a book person, well, you can’t walk away from good books at bargain prices.

My one gripe – I missed the Penalty Shoot-out.

For more about Clapham try                  Common Books                        The Battle of the Crows             A Walk on the Wild Side                    Amazing Grace

*For those who don’t know, Dexters is an estate agents and one of the sponsors of the Old Town Fair.

A version of this article appeared on The Story Bazaar web-site earlier the same day.

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Out of the Hat

The final, happy action from 2018’s Clapham Book Festival was to draw the name of the lucky winner of our prize raffle. Many of the management committee gathered, most appropriately, at The Windmill on the Common last Wednesday evening to do this very thing.

The draw was made by Ben Evans, General Manager of The Windmill, as the star prize was an overnight stay for two with breakfast at said Windmill, the boutique hotel in the old coaching inn on Clapham Common which, some claim, is the inn at which Lydia and Wickham from Pride and Prejudice were last sighted as they took a hansom cab into London.

The winner, Mr David Cambridge, is a resident of Clapham and it was his first visit to the Clapham Book Festival where he attended Walls Have Ears, with Clare Mulley, Henry Hemming and Simon Berthon.  He said that he enjoyed it and will definitely be back next year.

It wasn’t all fun and larks on Wednesday, though it was very enjoyable, as we hadn’t met since the end of May. We also had a full Board meeting, discussing the comprehensive due diligence exercise that needs to be undertaken in the late Summer/Autumn to prepare for next year’s Festival, which is likely to take place in the Autumn. This means reviewing all our options as regards venue or venues, how we sell books, what our marketing strategy should be, as well as how we reach out to the local community.  As part of this exercise we have been speaking with the organiser of Balham Literary Festival, (and owner of Dulwich Books) which also takes place in south London in Spring. There’s also lots of learning to be had from other literary festivals in the London area.

That will be happening later in the year, but the search for sponsorship and funding continues year round and two of our number are already determining their strategy to approach Clapham businesses. I, meanwhile, will be drafting a bid for funds from our local authority (hot on the heels of appearing at their Country Show, see photo, left, of The History Girls event). We will all be searching for other funding opportunities, including approaching some national companies with an offer for them to be single major sponsors. It really is a fallacy that organising an event like a book festival isn’t an all-year-round job, because it is!

In the meantime, up-coming Clapham Writers events include a book stall at Clapham Fete on 1st September and a visit to Brixton jail later that month.  We’ll also be checking out how we might bring the Festival, or elements of it, to people who would like to go, but cannot get to it, e.g. in a local hospice. The outreach work also continues.

A version of this article appeared on The Story Bazaar on 6th August 2018.

For more about the Clapham Book Festival, visit its web-site, or the web-site of Clapham Writers, or why not try some other posts, like                 Clapham Book Festival 2018: How’d it go?                                Clapham Book Festival 2017                           Omnibus Edition: Clapham’s Literary Festival 2016

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