By staging the UK UNconvention of bookcrossing of course.
The weekend of the 28th – 30th September will see lovers of emancipated literature descend upon Sunny Colch to celebrate the freedom that is the act of bookcrossing.
And so what the chuffers is bookcrossing?
It’s basically leaving a book that you have read or finished with in a public place for someone else to pick up and enjoy. It is a philanthropic approach to reading, and one that carries possibilities to help collaborate and share on other projects within a specific hyperlocal patch.
Speaking to The Chronic, Colchester book crosser Karen B explained:
“Bookcrossing is method of tracking individual books once they leave your ownership and gathering reviews from others along the way, willy nilly sharing. Currently around a million people have joined in.”
Two main venues will help to host the Colchester UNconvention in September. The Headgate Theatre and Slack Space will serve as the main meeting points, but the very roaming approach to bookcrossing will lead to other locations around the town also experiencing the love of passing on literature for free.
The Fox pub Layer de la Haye, CO1 Cafe, Purple Dog, The Foresters Arms, The Hospital Arms, Jardine in Wivenhoe and the University of Essex – all will see some bookcrossing action over the course of the weekend in September, and hopefully sew the seeds in spreading the UNconvention model for book distribution.
But why Colchester?
“Each year there’s a vote after local bookcrossers put in their submissions to hold it in their town. Last year we lost by one vote, this year we didn’t. We believe Colchester has a lot to offer and that we can make the UNconvention as quirky as the town.”
Simple though the act of leaving a book behind and then walking away may appear, there is much more of a social element to the practice, something which Karen is helping to organise ahead of the Sunny Colch UNconvention in September:
“We have author talks at Headgate theatre, not so secret (gifts from a wish list), a ghost walk, meals out for 20 or so people at least 3 town restaurants, bookbag game, a little bit of crafts, a book free for all at Slack Space and one other event which will reveal itself in September. Around 100 people will come, mainly UK, but Sweden, Holland, Ireland and Egypt so far.”
But bookcrossing is not just for one weekend of the year. The idea of staging the UNconvention in a different town each time is to hopefully leave a legacy [YEAH, YEAH] and encourage the culture to become part of the identity of the town.
“We want people to see how vibrant Colchester can be, we want people to embrace the idea of sharing, if we get new members then they’ll be able to join in with local Bookcrossing meetings, or not, whichever they choose. It is not an exercise to gather new members, there’s nothing to sell and therefore no hard sell.”
The event even has a fringe element, with a trip out to a red phone box over in Little Bentley. The local Parish Council had the opportunity to purchase the box from BT for a £1. It was then converted into a semi-official lending library for the bookcrossing lovers of Little Bentley.
Just like the act of bookcrossing itself, the UNconference has no hierarchy. Anyone can get involved when the bookcrossing lovers come to Britain’s Oldest Recorded:
“They don’t have to join to take a book although it’s nice for us and they really don’t have to either pay for it or put it back in the same place. We do ask though that if a book or two is picked up from any of these establishments a drink at least is bought to keep us popular with them.”
And so the bookcrossing UNconvention is a bit like Books are Coming Home (or something) for Sunny Colch. It’s a true celebration of the unselfish act of passing on something that you dearly love – look, there’s even Roman Bally, the mascot for when the bookcrossers come to Britain’s Oldest Recorded.
Colchester has a lot of love when it comes to sharing books. The past two World Book Nights have been a tremendous success. The coup of landing the bookcrossing UNconvention in Sunny Colch should help to build upon this.
Share and share alike.
And then hopefully share again.