Monday, 2 January 2012

Books and Roses Savita Kalhan

This summer I went to Barcelona for the first time. It’s an incredibly vibrant city, full of cafes, museums, stunning architecture and art, and the food is pretty good too. There is so much to see and do, not least is a stroll up and down the buzzing La Rambla.

La Rambla is characterised by its wide central walkway teeming with touristic stalls, painters and sketchers, dancers and diners. But every year on the 23rd of April there is a completely different type of buzz – a celebration of roses and books which stems from a tradition steeped in history, originating from the myths and lores of bygone centuries, of Sant Jordi, or St. George, the dragon-slayer and patron saint of love and culture. April 23rd was also the day two of the world’s most renowned writers, Cervantes and Shakespeare died. These, combined with the historic symbolism of the rose, representing love and respect, transforms La Rambla into a rose-and-book-lined promenade, with many bookshops and cafes across the city hosting readings by authors. There is even a 24 hour marathon reading of Cervantes’ Don Quixote! It has become a popular date to launch a book as well as to swap a book for a rose. But what a way of encouraging people to read!

Some four million roses have been sold by the end of the day, and eight hundred thousand books have been sold too. That’s a lot of roses, and quite a lot of books too.

In 1995 the UNESCO general convention adopted April 23rd as World Book and Copyright Day.

In the UK, so that schools can be involved, World Book Day will be celebrated on the 1st March 2012 this year. Thousands of events are being planned in schools, bookshops, libraries and other venues across the country. The Quick Reads are being written, and World Book Day £1 Book Tokens will be given out to every schoolchild. World Book Night, however, is on 23rd April 2012 this year. The first World Book Night was held last year in the UK, when a million books were given away all over the UK. This year a planned half a million books will be given away. They are both great events for writers and readers.

But while books are being given away in the UK, at the Books and Roses Festival the focus is on selling books. I wonder how much work it would take for something like the La Rambla festival to happen here and to take off in the way that it has in Barcelona? Covent Garden would be a great venue... Hundreds of writers and books and readers converging in one place for the day – who wouldn’t want to go to an annual event like that?

Perhaps I need to make another trip to Barcelona around the 23rd April, and make notes on how the experts do it...







12 comments:

Penny Dolan said...

Great description and sunny pictures on a cold day. Liked your last point about the contrast between the UK "free books" approach to WBD and the Barcelona book-buying festival.

As far as I understand on WBD UK, it's booksellers that take the hit, especially the small indies. Someone always pays.

Abi Burlingham said...

The La Rambla festival looks wonderful Savita. World Book Day and Night are a great incentive here, especially given the recent statistics of 1 in 3 children not owning a book. It would be lovely if we could having something similar to La Rambla here.

Ness Harbour said...

Oh Savita what a lovely description. I now want to be in Barcelona on the 23rd April too. I just love the idea of it. As you also say what a brilliant idea to bring to the uk. Maybe start in Covent Garden and then each year add a new city so it is accessible to all. Hope you get back there this year

Savita Kalhan said...

Thanks for your comments. I've heard people saying that what happens in the UK for World Book Day isn't sustainable, and when I read about how many books were sold in Barcelona on WBD I was shocked. Yes, it would be great to bring it here, so if anyone wants a long weekend in Barcelona, WBD is a Monday, I'm up for it...

Jennie Walters said...

Lovely! I'd never thought of linking books and roses before. Yes, it would be great if WBD here could be expanded into something more commercial. With the rise of ebooks, booksellers need to be imaginative about the way they operate.

Nicola Morgan said...

Hi Savita
This year I'll be doing a repeat of my Complementary World Book Night from last year, which involved the simple act of encouraging anyone who wants to support the whole reading rainbow - author, publisher, agent, bookseller and reader - to buy any book from any bookshop and give it to any reader, with a co-operative message inside. Last year, without any planning at all, it had a great response (and I found myself on Newsnight!) and this year I'm teaming up with some others to take it a bit further.

And yes, my idea was very much in line with the Barcelona idea. It's an everyone-wins idea, whereas the standard WBN idea is quite unnecessarily exclusive and restrictive. And complicated! Why do some people have to make things so complicated??

Savita Kalhan said...

Yes, I remember that Nicola, and the Newsnight report! Good luck with it this year. Just wondering how you're taking it further this year and how to get involved in it...

Nicola Morgan said...

Well, unlike the "real" WBN, we are unfunded, so it will be incredibly focused on goodwill (of which there is much amongst readers) and will involve NO committees and the spending of NO funds. I will certainly blog about it here and on my blog and I can guarantee some tweeting! And I will make sure that absolutely anyone who wants to be involved can be.

And I promise you one thing: there will be no lists of prescribed books. I mean, WHY would you do that?

Savita Kalhan said...

Sounds very interesting, Nicola! If I don't make it to Barcelona, I'll happily join in - particularly as there won't be any 'prescribed' books or lists, or committees, but just lots of goodwill and readers!

Michele Helene said...

I like the idea of the £1 book tokens, but yep a book festival where people buy books would be great. I loved Nicola's alternative World Book night last year and blogged about it. If the promo starts early enough this year then maybe it could get much BIGGER. Don't see why we can't get those 8 million books sold between us.

Savita Kalhan said...

I agree, Michele, and yes, it would be great to hit 8 million books!

Moira Butterfield said...

Perhaps you should talk to the people who run the Hay-on-Wye Festival, the home of so many books. It's already a book-focussed event in a book-focussed place, and I'll bet they'd love the roses idea!