A Book-Themed Concert and Goody Bag

On Saturday my husband and I headed to Hungerford to see The Bookshop Band for the second time. A year and a half ago I first had the chance to see them live at the 2014 Hungerford Literary Festival, when they gave a performance tied in with Rachel Joyce’s release of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

The band formed about five years ago to provide music for author events at their local bookshop, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, England. Since then they’ve written somewhere between 120 and 150 songs inspired by books. Their basic genre is indie folk, with plenty of guitar, ukulele and cello as well as a bunch of improvised percussion and three intermingled voices. Depending on the book in question, though, the feel can vary widely, ranging from sweet to bizarre or haunting. Especially when I’ve read the book being sung about, it’s intriguing to see what the musicians have picked up on – often something very different from what I would as a reader and reviewer.

Bookshop Band Curious and Curiouser coverThis year the band (now down to two members) is making an effort to record and release all their songs in 10 albums. I participated in a crowdfunding project so am lucky enough to receive all their new releases in digital format before they’re available as printed CDs. The first album is Curious and Curiouser, the title track of which was inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Other sets of songs are based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the steampunk novel The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder, while “Once Upon a Time,” a commission for radio, strings together famous first lines from fiction.

My favorite Bookshop Band song (so far) is “Bobo and the Cattle,” inspired by Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. Two great ones new to me from Saturday’s performance were “Faith in Weather,” based on Central European fairy tales, and “You Make the Best Plans, Thomas,” about Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies.

You can listen to lots of their songs on their Bandcamp page and dozens of videos of their performances are on YouTube and Vimeo (I’ve linked to several above). When performing events they often get the authors to play with them: Louis de Bernières pitched in with mandolin on a song about The Dust that Falls from Dreams, and Yann Martel played glockenspiel while promoting The High Mountains of Portugal.

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We had started off the day with lunch at a Berkshire country pub, The Pot Kiln, where we didn’t mind the 40-minute wait for food because we had books and half-pints of beer and cider to while away the time over as sunshine poured through the windows. The menu is mostly based around game shot by the chef himself in the fields opposite the pub, so we indulged in a venison and wild boar hot dog and venison Scotch eggs before setting off on a windy several-mile walk near Combe Gibbet and then continuing on to Hungerford.

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Now for the goody bag: on the venue tables the owner of Hungerford Bookshop had placed a ten-question literary quiz to work on and hand in during the intermission. I was fairly confident on some of my answers, had a guess at the others, and after literally about 45 minutes of wrestling with anagrams finally figured out that “Lobbing Slates” gives the name of novelist Stella Gibbons. We won with 7 out of 10 correct; an elderly lady joked that we’d Googled all the answers, but I pointed out that we don’t own a smartphone between us! Now, I suspect we were actually the only entry, but that doesn’t diminish our accomplishment, right?! I was delighted to win a couple of free books I hadn’t necessarily intended on reading but now certainly will, plus a metal bookmark and a notebook, all in a limited-edition “Books Are My Bag” tote designed by Tracey Emin.

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All in all, a fantastic and mostly bookish day out!


If you live in the UK and get the chance, don’t hesitate to go see The Bookshop Band play; they’re touring widely this year.

 

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10 thoughts on “A Book-Themed Concert and Goody Bag

    1. As I passed the other tables I saw a lot of blank answer sheets or only 3 or 4 lines filled in. Maybe I’m just super-competitive, but if you have a chance to enter a giveaway, you just do it! Anyway, with 7 right I think we would have won even if others had entered.

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  1. What a fantastic idea for a band! It would be so cool to hear books you’ve read be ‘played’. I think I might have to spread that idea around here, and see if anyone picks up on it.
    My daughter’s dance recital is book-themed this year, so their dances are going to be inspired by books – I’m really looking forward to seeing them.
    The rest of your day looks and sounds equally wonderful. I do have to ask – what is the round thing you’re eating?

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    1. That’ll be neat to see how books are translated into dance.

      Ha ha, my mother had to ask too! It’s a Scotch egg, which must be a purely British phenomenon: a soft-boiled egg coated in sausage meat (in this case venison sausage) and bread crumbs and flash deep-fried.

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      1. Well, no one ever said it was healthy 😉 Especially with all those salt crystals over the top. Luckily, we only eat that kind of food (or meat in general) once in a blue moon.

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    1. Yes, I think it came out late last year. I knew his name from the “October Sky” film but didn’t know much about his books. This sounds like a fictionalized biography about a humorous incident from his parents’ lives. In all honesty, it’s not one I’d have picked up on my own, but now that I’ve won a copy I’ll give it a go.

      I enjoyed your review of the D.J. Taylor — a book I’ve been daunted by because of the length, but I think would be well worth dipping into. Always good to connect with other SNB reviewers! I’m proud to be a part of such an erudite bunch.

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