The Bookshop Band

The Bookshop Band – 3 FREE shows at The Oxford Literary Festival


Oh, Oxford World’s Classics how we love you. Thanks to their generous sponsorship we will be hosting three evening performances by The Bookshop Band at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival. On Sunday 23rd March, Monday 24th March and Tuesday 25th March they will be playing FREE gigs in our Marquee from 6.30pm – 8.00pm. Leading up to these performances we will be canvassing the opinion of Festival goers as to which Oxford World’s Classic they would like the band to turn into song! So if you have a penchant for Moby Dick, a passion for The Communist Manifesto or a preference for Paradise Lost be sure to register your vote in the Marquee.

The Blackwell’s Marquee at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival




Box-NookWe are thrilled to be bringing back the Festival Marquee! In partnership with Nook tablets and ereaders the marquee will be a vibrant hub for the festival. The Blackwell’s Marquee is open to all; bring your friends and family along to enjoy the atmosphere, the numerous free events and activities and spot a famous author or two. It will be open every day of the festival from 9 in the morning until 8 at night with two late night openings until 10pm on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th. See below for details on the UK launch of Nook Press – an exciting new self-publishing platform

At a new location in the Clarendon Quad, adjacent to the Sheldonian Theatre not only will you find our Festival Bookshop but a wonderful restaurant will be jacobsandfieldlogoroundprovided by Jacobs & Field – if you have visited their Headington deli your tastebuds will already be salivating. Quality coffee will be on hand to keep your energy levels high.

Complementing our handpicked selection of books will be a mouthwatering litographsselection of literary gifts. Litographs creates art from the books you’ve read and loved. Be sure to pop by to their stall and fall in love…

There will be a dedicated activity area where we will host the always popular free VSI Soap Box talks – this year you can learn about a cornucopia of subjects from Ancient Greece to The Ice Age.

A new venture, similar in style to the Soap Boxes, will be our booksellers talking about the book that they most love. Expect some passion!

chris-lloyd_2238834bThe one man force of learning, Christopher Lloyd, will be back to talk us through his series of Wallbooks, including the new Wallbook on Shakespeare. Illuminating for children and parents alike. Christopher will be ensconced in the Marquee from Thursday 27th through until the last day, Sunday 30th.

Three evening gigs from The Bookshop Band, nook demonstrations, a special one-off Stories Aloud (we can now confirm that the authors appearing as part of Stories Aloud are Phil Klay and Emma Jane Unsworth)  and Robert Lipscombe, author of the incredible newspaper-novel The English Project will add dash, flavour and enjoyment to the evenings.

Story Time
Join Blackwell’s very own Jackie at 11am on the first weekend for storytelling sessions for younger children.

Danyah MillerAt 1.15pm on Saturday 22nd we welcome Danyah Miller brought to the Marquee by the frabjous Story Museum (who, as an aside, launch on April 5th with what looks to be an amazing exhibition). Danyah Miller is a storyteller, workshop leader, writer, theatre producer and mum. She shares stories in nurseries, schools, theatres and festivals nationally. She is also a visiting teacher at The International School of Storytelling in East Sussex.

Danyah is currently performing in “I Believe in Unicorns” by Michael Morpurgo – which she brings to the Story Museum on 27th & 28th May “Breathtakingly beautiful and utterly charming… a must see at this year’s fringe” –
Primary Times Edinburgh

For 3 years Danyah was a the regular storyteller on BBC Three Counties Radio. Her first book ‘Kika’s Birthday” was published in December 2012

0552572047Children’s author Conrad Mason will be talking about his exciting adventure series Tales of Fayt on Monday 24th at 11am
Conrad grew up in Oxfordshire and studied Classics at Cambridge. His first novel for children, The Demon’s Watch, was published in 2012 with David Fickling books and nominated for a slew of prizes. The Demon’s Watch is a fast-paced fantasy adventure for children 9 to 11, featuring half-goblin boy Joseph Grubb. More information on Conrad can be found on his website

The Phoenix presents … Make your own comic book! Meet the experts from weekly comic The Phoenix and get started on your own comic adventure. Tuesday March 25th at 11am and 3pm

At 11am on Wednesday 26th we invite you to go on an adventure with Charlie Small! Travel to the Mummy’s Tomb, wrestle crocodiles and visit the city of gorillas. Not for the faint-hearted!

Chrissie’s Owls are a small group of people committed to the care and conservation of Owls. Come and meet some of these gorgeous birds and hear about the work of this amazing organisation on Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd from 2pm

Guy Watson and Sophie Grigson
Jacobs and Field bring you Guy Watson and Sophie Grigson. Guy Watson is the man behind Riverford Farm, his ethos being to put fresh, flavoursome, seasonal food back onto people’s plates. Sophie Grigson has written over 20 cookery books and appeared in numerous television programmes, and she is a keen supporter of organic produce and local food suppliers. Join Guy and Sophie on Saturday 22nd at 6pm

nookpressExperts from Nook will be on hand to demonstrate not only their award winning tablets and ereaders but also how prospective authors can conquer the world of self publishing. Special demonstrations about the newly launched self-publishing platform Nook Press, including talks on “Introduction to Self-Publishing with Nook,” which is billed as “a free, fun and informative interactive session for authors” Presentations take place on Monday 24th at 3pm and Wednesday 26th at 3pm & 6.30pm

Author Signings by some Sheldonian authors
We are delighted to be hosting the following author signings here in the marquee – these signings follow their talks taking place at the Sheldonian Theatre. You are very welcome to join the signing queue even if you have not attended the event
Thursday 27th March at 3pmJeremy Paxman
Saturday 29th March at 1.15pmAC Grayling
Saturday 29th March at 3pmMalorie Blackman
Sunday 30th March at 1.15pm Michael Morpurgo

Robert Lipscombe
englishprojectRobert Lipscombe is the author of the incredible newspaper-novel ‘The English Project’ – a courageous and attention-grabbing political novel about the state of the nation and our moral universe. Expect a mischievous and provocative evening, as the author explains both what lies beneath the novel and why he chose to publish it in this original format. Thursday 27th March at 6.30pm
empathyHow to Start an Empathy Revolution – Roman Krznaric
Drawing on his new book, Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution, cultural thinker and School of Life faculty member Roman Krznaric makes the case that empathy is a radical tool for social change. Should we be using babies to teach empathy in the classroom? Ever been to an Empathy Library? And is it time to invent the world’s first Empathy Museum? Come and step into someone else’s shoes in this talk by the bestselling author of The Wonderbox and How to Find Fulfilling Work. Friday 28th March at 6.30pm

On two evenings we will be keeping the Marquee open until 10pm – Thursday 27th and Friday 28th. The Oxford Jazz Trio will serenade you with a mix of jazz standards from the American songbook as well as some funkier numbers from 8pm on the Friday

For reminders and updates follow #FREEintheMarquee on Twitter

We hope that you agree that our Marquee is shaping up to be the hub of the Festival, it is open to all whether you have tickets for Festival events or not. Do come and play!

The Bookshop Band play Curious and Curiouser

After their fantastic gig in the Norrington Room on Tuesday evening here is a video of the song that they wrote especially for the performance. It is a song inspired by Alice in Wonderland and is called Curious and Curiouser

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…

We can all learn the words and singalong next week

Tickets for The Bookshop Band only cost £5 – they are performing in the shop on the evening of 3rd July and will be unveiling two new songs, one inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and one inspired by New Finnish Grammar. Psst…pass it on!

The Bookshop Band

The Bookshop Band in the ‘Grandad Eyebrows Room’

The tour of independent booksellers by The Bookshop Band is well under way now. On July 3rd they will play the Norrington Room. Yesterday they popped into the shop to say hi and to pick up the book that we are asking them to turn into a song to be premiered on the night.

They will turn Alice and NFG into songs!

Us being us we couldn’t choose just one book so we happily handed over a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and – surpise, surprise – New Finnish Grammar. Our breath is truly baited to see and hear what they turn these two books into.

We are always proud to show off the Norrington Room to visitors but on this occasion I was well and truly trumped – it turns out that Ben, the founder of the band, is the grandson of Arthur Norrington – or Grandad Eyebrows as he was known in the family.

The Bookshop Band turn each ‘season’ of songs into a CD and their collection from their first year will be available in the shop soon. Each ‘season’ has a theme and a reading list:

Tickets (£5 only) are still available for what promises to be one of the most exciting events of our Summer season through our Customer Service desk or by calling 01865 333623. You wouldn’t want to miss a song inspired by New Finnish Grammar now, would you?

Events in July at Blackwell’s Oxford

Another set of cracking bookshop events in July, music, storytelling, natural history, one of oue very best comic writers and Elizebetah espionage! It would be lovely to see you at any or all of these:

Tuesday 3rd July at 7pm

The Bookshop Band

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £5

The Bookshop Band write and perform songs inspired by books and the members of the band take it in turns to describe the inspiration for each song. During last year, they have completed 18 author events, and written 36 songs inspired by 21 diverse books.

The band is made up of three British musician/songwriters: Ben Please – part of indie-folk band Urusen who have recently recorded an album with platinum-selling producer Steve Osborne (KT Tunstall, The Happy Mondays, U2, Doves); Poppy Pitt – an artist and sculptor who also tours with her own band, Poppy and Friends; and Beth Porter – has played with Peter Gabriel, currently tours with Eliza Carthy and has recorded for Newton Faulkner, The Unthanks, and Maximo Park.

This promises to be a stunning evening and one that, we are sure, will be talked about for years to come…

Tickets cost £5 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623


 Thursday 5th July at 7pm

Walking the Landscapes of Britain

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £2

Philip Hughes will be joining us to discuss Tracks: Walking the Ancient Landscapes of Britain. This book focuses on eleven iconic walks across beautiful ancient areas in Britain, each expressed through Hughes’ artwork in paintings and drawings as well as maps, aerial photographs and short introductions about the surrounding area.

Tickets cost £2 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623


Saturday 7th July

Alice’s Day

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Free activities throughout the day – come and join us!

Join us for a day of frabjous activities taking place in our magical children’s department here at Blackwell’s Bookshop from 11am – 5pm. Loose yourself in our all day storytelling of Alice in Wonderland or take part in our Alice trail in the Norrington Room. Be transformed by our face-painting artist or entertained by our comical Alice’s Day musicians. Have a balloon made by our balloon sculptress and get creative with our range of Alice themed craft activities, there’s lots to do for all the family and we hope you can join us!

Alice in Wonderland: The Big Story Read:

We’ll be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the telling of Alice in Wonderland with an all day reading of the story by a range of exciting special guests including children’s authors Sally Nichols, Steve Feasy, Jen Campbell and MG Harris! Drop in to listen to a chapter or stay all day to hear the story in full, join us in celebrating this wonderful occasion. If you are as mad as a hatter and would like to take part as a storyteller, a sign up sheet is on display in the children’s department, please sign up before Alice’s Day to have a guaranteed place

For further information, please telephone our Children’s Department: 01865 333694


Friday 13th July at 1.00pm

Lunchtime book signing:

Jasper Fforde / The Woman Who Died a Lot 

This is the new Thursday Next novel from Number One bestselling author Jasper Fforde.

The BookWorld’s leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you’d expect to be a time of recuperation. If only life were that simple.

Thursday is faced with an array of family problems – son Friday’s lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday’s difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity’s promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn’t exist.

And that’s not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday’s Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday’s retirement is going to be anything but easy.

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring out of the window and chewing the end of a pencil. He lives and works in Wales and has a passion for aviation.

All are welcome, no booking required, please just come along!


Wednesday 18th July at 7pm

Hugh Warwick / The Beauty in the Beast

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £2

The Beauty in the Beast is a delightful portrait of some of the UK’s best-loved wild animals and birds and the colourful enthusiasts who champion their causes. Meet the water vole-woman from Shropshire, the owl-man from Somerset and Gordon, the dancing toad-fancier. These and many other fabulously engaging characters carry a deep knowledge of their chosen species within a distinctly quirky shell. Other animals making an appearance include otters, bats, dolphins, dragonflies, foxes and adders. Hugh Warwick, animal enthusiast and hedgehog fanatic, writes a series of affectionate and lively homages to the animals of the British Isles, composed of fieldwork and interviews with the people who love and conserve them.

Tickets cost £2 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623



Thursday 19th July at 7pm

SJ Parris / Sacrilege

Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford

Price: £2

Perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and The Name of the Rose, the third historical thriller featuring Giordano Bruno, heretic, philosopher and spy. In the pursuit of power, nothing is sacred! Summer, 1584. The Protestant Prince William of Orange has been assassinated by a fanatical Catholic, and there are whispers that Queen Elizabeth will be next. Fear haunts the streets of London, and plague is driving many citizens away. Giordano Bruno, radical philosopher and spy, chooses to remain, only to find that someone is following him through the city. Confronting his stalker, he realizes it is the woman he once loved — she is on the run, having been accused of murder. Bruno travels to Canterbury to help clear her name, and also on behalf of Sir Francis Walsingham. The Queen’s spymaster has long suspected Catholic influence in the ancient centre of pilgrimage, and instructs Bruno to work to expose any enemy plots. As Bruno begins his hunt for the real killer, he is drawn into the heart of a sinister conspiracy hiding in the shadow of England’s holiest shrine!

Tickets cost £2 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623