No Reading Alone

No Reading Alone III

Friday night was quite an exciting time down at the Isis Farmhouse, near Iffley Lock. First, if you haven’t been to the Isis Farmhouse – go, go, go! They serve delicious teas, scones, cakes, food and ales/ciders/etc in a great setting with tons of outside seating, perfect for summer.

The Isis hosted the third installment of booky event, No Reading Alone, in the refurbished barn, complete with stage and glass wall looking out on picturesque trees and picnic tables. This was my first encounter with No Reading Alone, although I’ve listed it before on the events posts. It’s meant to be a quarterly event, but its success pushed it forward to to three events in the first six months of the year!

The latest event featured the following acts:

George Chopping presented poetry and comedy, combined
Dr. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst spoke about his new book, Becoming Dickens
Christine Madsen of the Oxford Internet Institute shared her thoughts on the future of libraries
The Arlet Collective, who provided the soundtrack to the film, ‘The Last Bookshop‘, played a couple of songs
Ben Piggott read from his debut novel, set in Indonesia
The Bakery debuted their short film entitled ‘The Last Bookshop‘ (view a ‘making-of’ clip here)
Ian Williams, an accomplished slam poet & comedian who recently wrote and performed in the BBC Radio sketch show Alien Fudge
Niall Slater – music from the singer of Oxford-based band ‘Dallas Don’t

George Chopping was the perfect opening act as we were all laughing and ready to hear more. Lucky for us (and for you), we can! He’ll be performing again on Monday, 4 July, at The Jam Factory, along with some special guests.

However, the highlights for me out of this particular group of accomplished people were definitely The Bakery’s film, ‘The Last Bookshop’, and The Arlet Collective, who provided the soundtrack and played a few songs. ‘The Last Bookshop’ tells the story of a (dystopian) near future where people are more involved in their television and computer holographic toys than they are with reading. Bored with life and a broken television, a schoolboy goes for a walk on empty streets, where he stumbles on the last bookshop in existence. The shop is maintained by an old man who still remembers lining up for his copy of Harry Potter at midnight. He introduces the young boy to the joys of reading and shares the knowledge and power of transportation that simple words contain. The film could have ended on a depressing note, save for the boy’s newfound love of reading and his desire to create his own stories. It’s a beautiful film and if you get the chance to see it, do! At only around 20 minutes, it packs in a lot of humour, emotion and great characterization… with a hint of a warning as to how bleak the future could be without books.

The reading from Becoming Dickens set me alight because I’ve always been a fan of Dickens and next year would be his 200th birthday. Be prepared for lots of Dickensian celebrations in the future!

Christine Madsen spoke about libraries and their future as related to their past. In her research, Madsen discovered that the library’s original purpose was for scholarly research and communication. Around 900 years ago, scholars would travel for miles, rent a room in the library and sleep there, among the books and other scholars. What a great community it must have been! Today, libraries are public warehouses of books. They exist as storehouses and bookshelves are being replaced by computers every day. In order to keep and maintain libraries, Madsen argued, we need to bring back the community structure and provide a place where people can interact and share their ideas, stories and research.

I remember the local library I used to visit as a child and it had this exact same philosophy. We had sleepovers, author readings, book groups, craft days, writing days and more. I loved it and I think that early love and community shaped around books pushed me into my current passion for literature and my pursuance of a career in publishing. Libraries are amazing!

Each and every one of the performers for No Reading Alone brought something they were proud of and wanted to share and the audience was open and receptive. It was a great night and one I definitely recommend more people attend in the future. Well done to all involved!

No Reading alone is presented by Oxwords Oxford. You can follow them on Facebook.

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