I spent an interesting day at the British Library, where I was speaking at Reading and Being Read: Readers, Writers, Publishers, an event put together by the BL in association with the Insitute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster.
I was the final speaker and opened my presentation with a reading of my short story ‘The Holborn Cenotaph’, before speaking in more detail about Piece of Paper Press, the artists’ book project that I started in 1994. It felt a great honour to have been able to take ‘The Holborn Cenotaph’—and the people that it calls upon readers and audiences to remember—into an institution as august as the British Library, to have been able to present it under their aegis, as it were. I am grateful to the many audience members who took photographs during the reading— including this one from my book trade colleague Sheila Bounford—and to those who tweeted during and after the reading. Here are a couple of those (more tweeted reviews of the story are collected here):
My presentation followed what had been a number of fascinating presentations, by author Susie Nott-Bower and publisher Lynn Michell of Linen Press, by author Alex Pheby and publisher Sam Jordison of Galley Beggar. There were also some very well-handled demonstrations of innovative publishing projects from students of the London College of Communication, who were introduced by Frania Hall of LCC.
As well as being asked to speak about Piece of Paper Press, I was invited to wrap up the day. There was even the suggestion that in so doing it might be possible to engage the audience in some sort of collaborative act of publication. Unsure if that was even possible in fifteen minutes, I suggested that if so it would need to be quick and punky; about ideas rather than craft.
A quick survey of the audience at the British Library revealed that a number had been making notes. Had anyone, I asked, underlined something, or put a ring around it? Had anyone made a special note of something that had been said? I was grateful to Sally Willow of the University of Westminster for acting as a note-taker herself during this session. We gathered the audience’s choicest notes and quotes, and held a quick vote to select the four most memorable lines. Sally then rendered these in the style of newspaper hoardings, which were immediately run off in editions of fifty for people to take home. Here are my copies.
The Contemporary Small Press project has been awarded Arts Council funding for a series of future events. They will be taking the project on tour to selected libraries around the UK throughout 2016-2017.