Curious and Curiouser… The Bookshop Band’s debut at Blackwell’s

Curious and curiouser

Things aren’t what they seem…

Last night on the 3rd July, Blackwell’s staff and customers were treated to an intimate but astonishing show from The Bookshop Band.

The Bookshop Band comprises the talents of Ben Please, Poppy Pitt and Beth Porter, who can take as little as a new book and one or two hours to create beautiful songs about books. Normally to be found in Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, The Bookshop Band are currently on tour sponsored by Vintage. In order to prepare them for the evening, we gave Ben, Poppy and Beth two new books for inspiration – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as a pre-Alice’s Day celebration, and Blackwell’s favourite and bestseller New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani.

And I am afloat, on a great sea

In a boat, veiled from reality…

As the last week before the show came round, we realised that only four tickets had been sold… panic! How could we let people know how brilliant this band was? We spent the week creating posters, writing to newspapers and playing their CDs on repeat in Blackwell Music…

The Queen of Hearts is furious

This life is but a dream…

The hour drew closer and we were terribly excited to find out what the band had done with our favourite books – and still panicking that we’d have failed to provide them an audience… we need not have worried! Our lovely customers saved the day, and came streaming through the doors, filling the thirty seats we’d set out in our Norrington Room.

Playing the Norrington Room was particularly significant for Ben Please, as the room is in fact named after his grandfather – Sir Arthur Norrington… or as he was affectionately known in the family ‘Grandpa Eyebrows’.

The band’s first song ‘Curious and Curiouser’, based on Alice in Wonderland, was fast paced, frantic and exciting to listen to, conjuring up all the familiar images of smoking caterpillars and ‘Eat-Me’ cakes.

‘A Sea of Sound’, based on New Finnish Grammar, was slower and more gentle, but still full of intriguing images and capturing the confusion and difficulty of learning language.

Unknown sounds, echo emptily

In my mouth, But I cant repeat

A transitory feat, as they slip back down beneath

But I drag each word, back to the surface to be heard…

Once the new songs were finished, we were treated to a collection of The Bookshop Band’s earlier works, including songs based on The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch. A music-hall tune based on The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack got the entire audience singing along to the chorus (which incidentally, I’ve had in my head all day)…

Smoke over London, looks jolly splendid, I’ve heard…

So, the evening was a complete success, and both staff and audience left not only with great music still ringing in their ears, but also with several new books on their ‘must read’ lists.

 “We felt really privileged to play in such a magnificent and famous room of books. The commissions were great choices too – Alice in Wonderland is a real treasure trove of images and ideas – we had lots of fun writing about that one, and just in time for the Alice celebrations in Oxford too. We’ll try and get the video up online in time! Hope to see everyone again for Christmas. Any Christmas book ideas?” – Ben Please

 If you’re currently kicking yourself for missing out on this amazing evening (and so you should be!) then never fear – The Bookshop Band are still touring the UK, and you can always find them at Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. Here at Blackwell’s, we have a selection of books from the band’s reading lists, and we’ll be keeping CDs and band merchandise on sale – so come and have a listen!

We’d love to ask The Bookshop Band to come back again, so keep an eye on our events page for to see when they’ll pop up next…

Curious and curiouser

Things aren’t what they seem…

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