Reading can get kinda lonesome, sorta onesome – just you and a book having a good-enough time, sure, but sometimes when a good line gets your attention, or a character in a novel suddenly speaks to your imagination, wouldn’t it be good to nudge someone for attention, whisper the words to a sociable companion? There’s the guy beside you on the bus, plugged into his earphones and you guess he’s not bouncing to an audio book; there’s the woman opposite you in the subway carriage reading ‘The Girl on the Train’ who won’t appreciate a spoiler conversation; there’s the kid in the street seriously immersed in an X-Men comic; and what you are aching to do is… share.
That’s why they invented book clubs; that’s why they invented book festivals; that’s why they invented bookstagram, an instant book fix on your phone, tablet, laptop or Kindle. And now, combining all three – club, festival and internet – there is Bookstagram 2017 in Hay-on-Wye. To the virtual insta-bookgram experience, now just add readers – people – for an immersive experience in Booktown.
Over two days, from 31st March to 1st April, the first international Bookstagram Meet-Up coincides with the celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of Hay-on-Wye being declared an independent Kingdom of Books by the founder of Booktown and the King of Books, Richard Booth. The flagship book store in Lion Street that still bears his name is gearing up for an enthusiastic invasion of book lovers, many from the USA as well as the UK and Europe, all avid to talk books, buy books, meet book writers, book sellers, book readers and companion Bookstagram addicts.
On the Friday night, the 31st, between 6pm and 7.30, Bookstagrammers will be welcomed to an after-hours drinks reception in the iconic Richard Booth’s Bookshop where local author Oliver Balch will be talking about ‘Under the Tump’, his recent book about the pleasures and pitfalls of living in Hay-on-Wye. As a guide to the character (and characters) of the little market town, the book – and its author – will delight and distract all Bookstagrammers who love country life.
On 1st April, Hay-on-Wye puts on its party face and turns into a circus for the day, with tents and book-themed parades and a fancy-dress ball, celebrating the spirit of anarchy and fun that Booth and Hay both embody, in the evening. Also on 1st April, from 10 am to 3 pm, at Baskerville Hall, just a little outside Hay, in the village of Clyro, Emma Balch launches her new museum devoted to The Story of Books with a celebration of bookmaking as an art and a craft, from writing to printing, to binding and decorating the book as an object of beauty and pleasure. The day is a Wayzgoose, a traditional holiday for printers and publishers, a day for happy celebration of all things bookish.
Bookstagrammers are all welcome also at The Globe, a comfortably informal arts and social venue in Hay where, from 2pm, there will be a seminar session about instagramming about books as well as advice and answers to your questions about how to make the most of Bookstagram. Later, Bruce Robinson, who lives locally but is internationally famous for ‘Withnail and I’, the cult movie, will introduce another of his films, ‘The Rum Diary’, about gonzo journalism and Hunter S. Thompson.
So – roll up, roll up, for a weekend of wonders, of new friends, favourite books, good food and the warmest of welcomes in the first, original, and forever Booktown.