We have really enjoyed looking at all the fantastic events happening up and down the country this week for Independent Bookshop Week. There is a great sense of camaraderie between independent bookshops and seeing all the celebrations being shared across social media, national and local news just shows how important local bookshops are to their communities. This is the first in a series of short posts where we take a look at the ways we celebrate our Booka community.
Supporting Local Writers
The landscape and history of Shropshire have a long legacy of producing great writing talent. Mary Webb, A.E Housman, Ellis Peters and Wilfred Owen are among the writers who have lived and worked nearby. Since our opening in 2009, we have provided many new and established local writers a platform to share their work. During our Independent Bookshop Week celebrations we were delighted to have local author Alison Layland join us for the launch of her second novel Riverflow.
In Layland’s own words, Riverflow is ‘a novel of family secrets, community tensions and environmental protest against a background of fracking and floods on the River Severn.’ The ‘book trailer’, made by Layland’s daughter, is available on her website and paints an atmospheric picture of a landscape threatened by human influence. Scenes of the tranquil Severn are cut with angry moments of environmental protest and the sense of menace is ominous. The work is a timely reminder of the local impact of destructive human activity, especially when the news coverage is often so global.
Local yet fictional
Riverflow begins with a drowning in the River Severn, mainland UK’s longest river. At 220 miles it stretches from the Cambrian Mountains in Wales and travels through Shropshire, on its way to the Severn Estuary and the sea. Although the novel is set locally, the village afflicted by fracking is fictional, giving Layland the freedom to both create a place, yet ground it in reality. Her fictional setting in the Yorkshire Dales in her previous work, allowed her the same creative freedom.
Layland travelled widely before moving to mid-Wales in 1997. She is a keen linguist, having studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Celtic and Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge University. Working first as a chartered surveyor, she decided to pursue her passion for languages by setting up as a freelance translator. Her first novel Someone Else’s Conflict was published in 2014, where the settings were similarly critical, moving between troubled Croatia in the early 1990’s to the idyllic Yorkshire Dales. Both her books have been published by Honno, who promote the work of female writers, born or living in Wales, and champion strong female characters.
Layland at Booka
For writers, publishing a book for the first time is a great achievement; writing a successful second book even more so. To have a local author who has written a book embedded so firmly in our familiar landscape was certainly something we wanted to include in our events this week. Independent Bookshop Week allows us all to connect with likeminded readers across the country, as well as perhaps discover new writers and new works closer to home. We were delighted to welcome Alison Layland to Booka on Wednesday 19th June, where she introduced her book with live music and visuals. An environmental protester herself, Layland used the opportunity to talk about the climate crisis facing the world and the role it played in her book. This was one of Booka’s free events and very well attended. If you missed out on your chance to see her, there are still signed copies available in Booka for you.
Community at Booka
Promoting local authors is one of the many ways we aim to support our local community. Coming up in future community posts Bookablog will sit in on one of our most popular book clubs and take a look at how Booka encourages its youngest community of readers to keep reading during the summer holidays!
There may only be a few days of Independent Bookshop Week to go, but we are not finished yet. On Thursday 20th June at 7pm Mick Herron will chat about the next book in the Slough House spy thriller series, Joe Country; on Friday 21st June Ed Docx hosts a workshop for aspiring writers on Friday 21th June at 2pm where attendees will also get a signed copy of Ed’s book Let Go My Hand.
Thank you for everyone who has joined in with our week so far. Bookablog will be reviewing the highlights of the week very soon and talking about what you can look forward to at Booka in the next few months.