phew! Well we had our first event last night, a joint one hosted by Rosalind and me, the Bookclub Fest. Around 40 people came, all enthusiastic readers and some clearly Bookclub regulars. It was excellent. First the practicalities: we had a great space, at the Free Word Centre, with plenty of room for everyone, plenty of seating, and refreshments. We had a lovely handbell to bring people to order, and mikes so we could have a whole-group discussion at the end.

We were nervous, Rosalind and I, it has to be admitted. Has anyone done anything like this before? With this number of people who didn’t know each other (and some of them didn’t know us)? It was all a bit experimental. But the numbers who registered and the feedback we got as people participated and the nice things they said as they left, all encouraged us to believe that this is a winning formula. Lets do it again sometime!

This is how it worked: four existing Bookclubs who read translated literature, respectively, from Spanish, Swedish, Chinese and Russian, each produced a short story (translated into English) which participants read beforehand. Each Bookclub group had a discussion-leader and people circulated between groups, spending time in each talking about the story. The time we had – a maximum of two hours – meant that participants could spend twenty minutes in each group. The bell was then rung, and they changed to another group for another discussion. Everyone then got together for a whole-group recap of the discussions, and there was time at the end for announcements (of other book-reading groups and events). Judging by the lingering and chatting afterwards, the chance to network and talk to fellow book(club) enthusiasts was as important to everyone as the discussion of the stories which preceded it.

Rosalind and I spent the evening dropping in on the various groups.  I was extremely impressed by the kind of contributions people were making – thoughtful, informed, uninhibited. Personally, I’ve never been to a Bookclub before. I’m seriously considering joining one now!

* Edit as of October 7th – Jessica from young people’s creative reading and writing project MyVoice, who attended Book Club Fest, has kindly written a review of the event – you can read it here. Thanks Jessica! Glad you felt inspired to read some more translations after our event – let us know how you get on!

**Edit as of October 31st – another great review of the event by Steve Wasserman, who attended the Fest and also runs his own monthly book club reading short stories. Read all about it here.

The Spanish and the Chinese groups discuss their short stories

One big group rounds up the discussion at the end