Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A year of Big Comfy Sessions

OK, so not exactly a year, but we have no more sessions booked before January so here's a top 5 of my personal favourite Big Comfy Sessions of 2014 and separate top 5 Comfy Covers.
First off, a massive thanks to Rob at Redwood Photography (@redwoodphotos) for being the brainchild (brainman?) behind the idea. Without him none of this would be possible. Also a massive thank you to Richard (@Mr_spoon) Harrison for getting on his knees, contacting artists and begging. And also filming too. The two of them are like an old married couple; arguing all the time but solid as a rock. Finally thanks to Victoria at the Treehouse Bookshop in Kenilworth who very kindly hosted them til The Big Comfy Bookshop (@bigcomfybooks) opened.

So here's my top 5 Big Comfy Sessions:

1. Vena Portae
Richard dealt a major trump card by getting Emily Barker in to record. She was on tour with her new band Vena Portae so they all came along for the ride. It was the most fun interview I did and I could have continued for ages. When we told Victoria who'd be coming to The Treehouse, her email reply was one of many capital letters and much aarrgghhs. Her favourite artist I think!

2. Luke Jackson
I had never heard of Luke Jackson before but Rob swore he was great. He stopped off as he was travelling from Stockport to Kent. He was outstanding. His voice, his guitar playing and his general niceness. He's since gone on to support Marillion on their European tour.

3. artPACKT with Rosie Bans
I had personally known Rosie for about 3 years as we crossed paths at a gig my band Barricades Rise played in London. We'd stayed in touch and when I heard they were doing a small tour I grabbed her, along with Anne McDonald and Mike Nisbett AKA artPACKT. They were hilarious!

4. Chains
I'd heard of Chains as Rich was a fan, and they'd notched up a fair few youtube hits with their covers but I wasn't expecting the duo to be so funny, tight, and downright brilliant. It was probably this session that made me think we're really onto something cool here.

5. Nizlopi
By this point (around 13 acts later) I didn't really get nervous about the interview part, but when Nizlopi came in I had a few flutters. They had a number one in the mid 00's with the JCB song (which incidentally I never heard!). They had regrouped to go on tour and as they're from Leamington they very kindly dropped in beforehand. They were CRAZY! So animated and open with their answers.

So that's the originals, and now here's my top 5 Comfy Covers.
What we've found is that the playing and interview go really well, but the point when we ask the artists to speak direct to the camera and say 'This is my comfy cover...' they get so nervous and crack up!

1. Chains (again)
They did this off the cuff and as 1 take. They'd never played it before and pulled it out the bag. Beautiful

2. Spooky Wagons
Sometimes the artists play covers by bands even less well known then they are! (Looking at you Speak, Brother!), but Spooky Wagons took it the other way and covered a recent top ten tune.

3. Shanade
I knew literally nothing about Shanade as she was a last minute replacement the night before. She blew me away completely, with several other Fargo Village tenants stopping work to poke their heads in.

4. Wes Finch
The very first Comfy Cover. Wes was a gent as he was our guinea pig and he came up trumps with this lovely cover.

5. Roxanne de Bastion
Roxanne was pissed off. The latest John Lewis add had stolen her idea of a cover. But she played it anyway. And it was ace.

We had 19 sessions since April, and have already got 8 booked for 2015.
Thanks to all who played.

You can view all sessions at

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Build up to Christmas

It's nearly that time of year again. To celebrate, we have a selection of events to entertain you. On Wednesday 17th Wes Finch returns to the shop after his opening weekend stint here. He'll be bringing Sam Griffiths all the way from Yorkshire along for the ride too. Tickets can be bought from the shop or here.
On Thursday 18th everyone is free to attend out Christmas sing-a-long in the shop with mince pies, mulled wine and a piano! Emily Coates will lead us into several cheesy Christmas tunes, carols and classics. Feel free to sign a long or just sit and relax.
On Friday 19th I take my very own Bookshop virginity as my own acoustic duo Barricades Rise play. We haven't played for some time but love to throw ourselves in at the deep end. Expect string breaks, songs forgotten and general messyness, but always with smile on our faces. Tickets are selling really well for this so grab them quick as the capacity is only 60.

On Saturday 20th at 12pm we have Debbie Greenway back to give a great children's storytime. All can attend and it's free!

In other news, last week we hosted Miranda Dickinson's book launch and it was fab! Here's a few pictures.

Be sure to check the up-to-date events guide.

Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Poetry, music, books and cake

As the shop is just over 6 weeks old I thought I'd write a nice little piece on how it's going. The bottom line is, it's good. I have my dream job! I love it.

There are of course a few niggles to iron out but overall it's been positive, so let's focus on that.
First off, the events held so far have been excellent. The first poetry night, Fire and Dust, was attended by nearly 50 people and was a huge success and we'll be having them back in December (date tbc). We've held a further 2 poetry evenings which have been attended in healthy numbers. The Nightblue Fruit evening was even attended by the Mayor of a Coventry!
Our gigs have also been a great success. We've had Ed Prosek all the way from Brighton, supported by Dan Wilde all the way from Canterbury. This was almost a sell out!
From Scotland, Rosie Bans, Mike Nisbet and Anna MacDonald played a very intimate gig to a captivated audience and just last week we had the Mercian String Quartet (minus 1) who played an hour of music from films based on books. It was such a wonderful early evening and we'll be having them back in the new year.
Alongside the gigs we've been continuing recording the Big Comfy Sessions, Ed, Dan, Rosie et al all recorded a session for us and can be viewed at

Over the coming weeks up til Christmss we've continued to book doe top performers. This Sundat (Nov 16th) we have Roxanne de Bastion from London supported by local woman Katie McAuley. On November 29th we host another London band Ranagri, who are a four piece trad folk act supported by local act Speak, Brother.

December the 6th is a huge day for us as we've managed to snag best selling author Miranda Dickinson who will be launching her new book I'll Take New York in the shop from 1pm! Miranda has sold over half a million books and is a regular on the Sunday Times best sellers chart. She'll be signing and reading from her new novels perfect for Christmas!
In the evening of 6th we have Jinder, an acoustic folk artist all the way from London.
The following day on 7th will be The Legend Of Everwinter day! Local author Tara Behan and Matt Hill will be bringing the Christmassy book to the shop and signing. There will also be the winner of Comfy at Christmas young persons short story competition announced.

There are several more gigs booked so please check the events page and twitter for up to date info.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

I'm Comfy At Christmas!

The first "I'm Comfy at Christmas" short story competition is now open!!
Stuck for something to do this half term? Then get creative and write us a story!
The competition is open to all young writers in the UK and has two categories: 12 -17 years and up to 11 years old.
The theme this year is 'Christmas!' so let your imagination run wild! We're looking for imagination and the ability to take the reader on a journey. Your Christmas themed short story can be up to 2000 words maximum and must be written in English. There is no minimum word limit! Your story can be dramatic or hilarious, we don't mind! It can even be a bit odd!
Entry is free although we will accept just one entry per person, so make it a gud'un! All entries should be original and your own work. The stories should not have won a writing competition previously or been published before.
The competition will be judged by our selected judging panel: Michael McEntee (owner of The Big Comfy Bookshop), Tara Behan, author of children's book The Legend of Everwinter, and a third secret judge. Their decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. Unfortunately, we cannot provide feedback on all the stories entered.
The winner in each category will have their story published on The Big Comfy Bookshop website, receive a special edition winners bookmark, £20 to spend in store and a TBCB T-shirt. Their story will be read at our special awards event in The Big Comfy Bookshop on the 7th of December, 2014.
How to Enter
Email your story to with the subject heading "I'm Comfy at Christmas!" Write at the top of the email your name, address, phone number and the title of
your story. Then either paste your story into the body of the email or attach as a word doc. Our judges will only receive your story and not any personal details to ensure judging is fair.
Deadline: 15th November 2014
Good luck!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

What a week! We are now open!!

On September 27th we finally FINALLY opened! The day and whole weekend was a complete success with nearly 10k passing through Fargo, and I think 99% of them visited The Big Comfy Bookshop too! On Saturday Rosie Goodwin kicked things off for us with a signing, then at 2pm Debbie Greenaway did a brilliant story time with loads of kids. At 6pm Paul Le Keux spun the vinyl of classic R&B and Blues tunes til around 9.30. The place was rammed from 12 til about 6 then it was a constant stream of people.
On Sunday it was more of the same as we had a big queue at one point going out the door! Wes Finch and Matt Lakey took to the stage at 6pm to perform for an hour to a lovely cosy crowd.
The week following was a mixture of book pricing, alphabetising and coffee making with it all to start again on Saturday. But first in between that, on Thursday, we hosted the first poetry night entitled Fire and Dust ran by Silhouette press. We anticipated 20 people but had just shy of 50 and it was rammed! Such a fantastic night, with others now requesting details of the next (Oct 22nd!).
The weekend just gone was much busier than I thought and it was steady throughout.
I finally took a day off yesterday to recharge. A massive thanks to Rob and Marta, Jenny and Simon and my wife Heidi for being there so much and helping serve and balloon. Love you all!

Here are some pictures taken on the opening day by my best buddy Jonathan of J S Coates photography.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Open Saturday!!

I've been so busy that this site was neglected. But we open Saturday! Here are pictures

I've also been heralded as one of the top ten places to visit at Fargo by the Coventry Telegraph

So busy!
Speak soon!


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Opening this month!

Since I picked up the keys on Aug 4th it's been very hectic in my life. Firstly, the electrics were not actually finished so there was a week of frustrated twiddled thumbs whilst it all was put in. At the weekends I could get in and paint and I did just that, along with friends, family and strangers off twitter we managed to paint 95% of the shop in 2 days. The following week once the electrics were in I could tidy it up more nd finish the painting. I'm currently in the process of adding a border and counter, then shelves to go in at the end of the week.

One thing I didn't mention is that in the middle of all this, my wife gave birth to my beautiful son Sebastian, so that's been a bit of a blur!

There have been leaky ceilings, hanging wires, water pipes and general haphazardness. But it's still going to open on September 27th.
Here are a few pictures.

We're also full steam ahead with the Big Comfy Sessions and we managed to pull a coup with getting Emily Barker in with her new band Vena Portae. See the video 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

How to open a bookshop: Prologue

On August 2nd it was a full 2 years since I left my job as a civil servant to try to follow my dream of opening a bookshop. There have been many peaks and troughs but I stuck to it and on Tuesday I pick up the keys to my new shop.

The plan now is to document every element of how the shop is progressing from the moment I get the keys to the sale of my first book. On this site I'm hoping to have daily pictures, tell you about the highs and lows, and generally, How To Open A Bookshop.

If I get the wifi sorted quickly then I hope to tweet a lot 'on the job' so if you're not already, follow me on @bigcomfybooks. I'll also be looking for lots of help! If you fancy painting a bookshop, or putting together a bookcase or two, or maybe even putting books on shelves then get in touch.

Here are a few picture from a fortnight ago.


Monday, 28 July 2014

New Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 trailer

The third in the Hunger Games trilogy is released at the end of the year and today the first proper trailer has arrived. The Hunger Games is one of my favourite book trilogies and so far the films have lived up to expectation. Let's hope the third will! The final book has been split into two parts with part tow coming next year.

It's released November 21st.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Happy Birthday to The Tree House Bookshop.

Tomorrow is the first birthday for fellow local bookshop The Tree House Bookshop in Kenilworth. It's been a stormy year and it almost never made it but the strength of the community pulled it through and it's starting, slowly, to turn a corner. The owner Victoria has put her heart and soul into it and is doing it for the love of it and not money, just the reason I'm opening Comfy Books. 

I've been over several times to the shop as they currently play host to The Big Comfy Sessions. Between Rob Bridge at Redwood Photography, Richard Harrison and myself we are eternally grateful to Victoria for being such an amazing host. The sessions consist of an act playing one original and one cover. The acts we have so far claimed are so good, we are blessed. Last weekend saw Radio 2 young folk nominee Luke Jackson play and he was phenomenal. His session will be online this weekend sometime. My favourite cover so far is this by London based Chains, covering Carol King's Will You Love Me Tomorrow.
The Tree House birthday plays host to TWO sessions tomorrow. Turn up from 11 to watch recording. The shop is open as normal and we don't ask you to be quiet or anything!


Thursday, 24 July 2014

New Fifty Shades Of Grey trailer arrives

The biggest book of all time comes to the big screen valentines day 2015.
Here's the first trailer released today! Watch it HERE

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Man Booker Long List

Today saw the launch of the 2014 Man Booker Prize as the long list of 13 books was revealed. Usually I'd wait for the short list then read as many as I can but this year I'm so busy with the shop that it's going to be difficult BUT, it'd be great to run a Man Booker Prize night in the shop on the night the winner is announced.

Have a look at the list HERE. There are some noticeable absentees, for me The Goldfinch by Donna Tart, which was nominated for several prizes and also won the Pulitzer is a great surprise. It's also the first year that nations outside the Commonwealth are invited. It's proved controversial as there are four American novels in the 13 long listed. Over the next few months these will be whittled down to six when the short list is announced on September 9th, with the winner announced October 14th.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Opening September 27th!

Hello you
September 27th will finally see the shop open it's doors for the first time. We'll be based at Fargo Village in Coventry with other like minded people. There are several events booked in the shop for the first month, with three happening on the first weekend.
On Saturday 27th at 10.00 the shop will be opened by local best selling author Rosie Goodwin, who took over the official reigns of Catherine Cookson and now has over 20 books under her belt. She'll be signing too!
Later in the evening we have Paul Le Keux who will be spinning blues and jazz vinyl whilst you enjoy the array of cake (and more) on offer.
On the Sunday the brilliant Wes Finch will be playing in the evening, along with Matt Lakey and hopefully another top local artist. Wes and Matt have both recorded a Big Comfy Session so to get them in the shop is fab!

There are more events over the following weeks but these will all be announced very shortly. There's a poetry open mic, Q and A's and of course, signings!

I'd love to see the shop packed to the rafters so please come down for the opening, then keep coming back! If you're on Facebook, you can add yourself to the Facebook event HERE.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Target SMASHED! New target to get to in 2 DAYS!

In a little under 2 weeks the £1500 target for the crowd fund was hit, then some more came in.
I was contacted by the Crowd Funder people who said "This is the best crowd fund ever in the history of crowd fund" (I possibly over reacted there) but anyway, they encouraged me to go for double. So I did!
The extra money raised will go towards more events, more bookcases, joining the Booksellers Association and just a general set up of the shop.
They even featured me on their blog right HERE in which they call me enterprising. I KNOW!
I've updated the Crowd-O-Meter (which they lovingly called) and it looks like this.

There are only 2 DAYS LEFT to pledge. If we manage to get to £3000 then I'll host a big party just for pledgers with music, food, drink and more.

There are a few new pledges added too.
You can get a slice of the action by going to:

Please pledge, pledge some more, then share with the world.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

An update on Crowd Funding

When I started the Crowd Fund I was quietly optimistic I could hit the £1500 target in 8 weeks.
Well blow me down by a feather, in 4 hours of it going live there was over £1000 pledged!

This had me dreaming of raising over £50000 in a month and using a grand on the shop then sodding off to the Caribbean.

Alas, the pledges are coming in but it has slowed down a lot. As I write this it stands at £1272 with 22 days remaining (as the time was shortened from two months to one). Still plenty of time but there is a teeny bell in the back of my mind that gets louder by the day.

I've drawn a diagram to show how it's going.

There are EXCLUSIVE items on offer to those who pledge. You can get a Cushion, a T-shirt, a Tote Bag and a Bookmark! Maybe join the Comfy Club? How about giving the big red chair a name for life?

Please help by pledging what you can.
See all the rewards and watch an ace video written, acted, directed, edited (and even music played by) me at

Thank you


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Crowd Funding is Live!

Although I've been beavering away for some time now I still need help, so I've set up a Crowd Funding scheme to help with the set up of the shop. Have a look here >>

And please donate. There are some exclusive perks for pledgers!

It has 28 days to run and if I don't hit the target, I come away empty handed (with your funds being returned to you) so please spread the word!

Fingers Crossed!


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Big Comfy Sessions

At the end of last year my good friend Rob at Redwood Photography suggested recording some videos in the shop of musicians. This is firmly in my territory as I am also a musician in a duo called Barricades Rise and all my studies were in music. Useful. Of course I said yes and then Rob went away and refined his idea. The refinement brought along another fellow friend Richard Harrison who I met on Twitter a few years ago. Rich is passionate about local music, underground music, and basically shoves his oar in everywhere, plus is really handy to press record on a stationary camera. With the wonder team together (and me tagging along) we had a list of artists we wanted to work with. A half day run through with my own band at Robs house was an OK effort and smoothed out six dozen problems, ready to start with the real talent.
The major problem was of course venue. My shop opens September 27th so instead of waiting so long, we approached The Tree House Bookshop in Kenilworth and Victoria very graciously housed us.
In early April, Wes Finch, a local folk singer-songwriter, took the plunge first. I've known Wes a few years through the gigging circuit and he's such a down to Earth gent. The idea was to ask a few questions about books, then play a song. The whole thing was really relaxed. Wes then decided to play a cover too so we ended up getting that down as well which led to The Comfy Cover, where now each act will record a cover too. You can see all the ones recorded so far at

Here is Wes with his own song Ring on the Riverbed.
We followed that up with the trio Speak, Brother. I had to turn up, record an interview, then leave within 15 minutes due to my own gig so didn't hear the actual song, but I love what Rob and Rich have captured. As it's early days, the interview was a tad too long so Rob cut it, a wise choice I think. We're still working things out with format, but listen to this anyway!
With two local acts under our belt we aimed further afield and were actually swamped! With the initial idea of 1 act per 6-8 weeks we ended up recording 2 acts in 2 weeks and have 2 more lined up next week. Last weekend saw Chains travel to Kenilworth from London to film for us. This duo are blindingly fabulous and have received hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits for their weekly cover songs. Their video's will appear online next month.

Rob, Rich and I are over the moon with the response from the public and the calibre of bands requesting to film. One act lined up is International! A vary big thank you to Victoria at The Tree House Bookshop for her hospitality, and to all who have popped in to say hi (and buy a book) whilst we're recording.

Follow us on twitter at @Redwoodphotos, @mr_spoon and @BigComfyBooks.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The progress of The Big Comfy Bookshop

On Monday the tenants of Fargo Village including myself, invaded the place to start measuring up all the units. It was the first time we could all see our units with the partitions in them as before it was one large space. I could finally see what was in my head and start filling in all the gaps. Although only in for half an hour, I still manage to take 56 photos. I measured every bit of space imaginable so now can go back to the drawing board and properly see how to make a shop. I took along my sisters boyfriend Richard, who is a plasterer, van driver, handyman and all-round nice guy. With his expertise we discussed ways to treat walls, coat old beams, lay floors and basically be the most masculine I have ever been. Richard was also a hit with a few other tenants as they dragged him away to view their units! Below is a selection of photos from the visit.

I'm now scouting through various flooring departments (including secret ones known only to Rich!), plus trying to figure out the optimal layout. Alongside this I'm also looking into the catering licenses needed, the music licenses needed, the cost of X,Y and Z which have all been researched to high heaven but now it's coming to the final stretch I feel I need to familiarise myself with what I need once more.

My head is swimming with dozens of questions, and my to-do list, that I keep on my phone, is getting longer. Every time I cross something off, something else pops up.

I also last week met up with Alison Smart who will be, along with Claire Avery, making me cakes. Alison is a friend I've known for around 10 years and she's just started to venture into cakes and they taste delicious. I also contacted Claire as last week she had a baby! Cakes and babies don't mix so it's good there are a few months before she'll need to bake for the shop.

One major decision I have taken is to close the online shop. Although initially it made a great start, it did dwindle and the past few months it's been hard to find the time to keep adding stock. I was invited to try eBay free for a while and already it's been great so I'll be selling online through that for a while instead. If you now type in you'll find yourself straight back here on the blog although a new website will be coming soon. Have a browse of the eBay shop HERE.

Overall it is picking up pace and I don't think I have enough hours in the day. I'm now off to post a book order, buy some graph paper, get a haircut ready for a video, call my new bank...



Wednesday, 7 May 2014

My day at the Earlsdon Festival

On bank holiday Monday I took part once more in the Earlsdon Festival, Last year it was the best experience I'd had as a bookseller so this year had some way to go to beat it.
That's my wife it is
Did it beat it? Weather wise no. I came home bright red last year yet this year the sun only broke in sporadic outbursts, but it didn't rain! How about bookselling wise though? Well, YES! My stall was a little bit more organised and I could even show off my Big Comfy Bookshop banner. Once more I spent 6 hours the day before working on the set-up and creating bunting, whilst my wife cut out home made bookmarks, and it was all worth it. Even before the gates opened for the public I had sold half a dozen books to other stall holders and it continued none stop til around 1pm, where the lunchtime lull kicked in, for 10 minutes!
The afternoon heaved with people up until around 3.30, then it started to trail off. One mistake I made last year was I didn't bring enough replenishing stock, so this year I bought 4 boxes worth, and by the end of the day all that was gone! My wife Heidi came along for the ride and helped out and I'm so glad as it was ridiculously busy.

The highlight for me though was meeting so many new people who new about the shop. Every 10 minutes someone would say "I recognise that logo!" or "So when are you moving to Fargo then?" or "I saw you on twitter and have come to say hello". The whole experience filled me with even more optimism that the shop will be a success. 

I hope to attend next year too!


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A long overdue update

There has been quite a lot going on in the past 3 weeks since I last blogged. Apart from Easter, my birthday, my wife's birthday and a lot of time spent with my family, I have been trying to cram in as much bookshop work as possible. So first and foremost the shop.

We've been told by the lovely Fargo Village people that we should be able to enter Fargo in July. Just 2 months away! I'll then have X amount of weeks to get the empty shell up to scratch to house thousands of books, delicious home-made cakes (from Clairey's Cakes) and teas and coffees. Since I found this out I've been scouting for bookcases. So far I have around 7 that I've managed to pick up cheap (or even free) from eBay and Gumtree. I've travelled to Coventry, Market Harborough, North Leicester somewhere and Solihull to collect them then store them alongside my mountain of books, my desk and other titbits. I've yet to solidify the design of the interior but have roughly estimated I'll need 24 bookcases. I have my eyes on a few tables and chairs too, as you need to sit down in a comfy shop! The big red sofa will be purchased close to opening as I have nowhere to store it! 

I have a stall again at this years Earsldon Festival. Last year it was THE best experience and also where I met Jo from Fargo Village. The festival is currently ongoing and culminates in a street long celebration of local traders with loads of entertainment on May 5th, Bank Holiday Monday. Come along and say hello (and buy a book).
Last year at Earlsdon Festival
Back to the shop, I will be looking for local people to chip in to help with several things. First off the basics like painting the shop, but also people to make signs (and fit them), help organize events (anything be it music, comedy, clubs ets), artists to design posters and other things, plus volunteers! Just 2 days ago I had a brainwave to have local artists create a bookmark for the shop so I'll have around 6-10 special ltd edition bookmarks that both showcase their work and promote the shop. I've had a great response too!

I'll shortly be launching a crowd funding scheme to help give the shop a massive boost when it opens. I've come up with some great rewards for those that donate. That'll be active in a few days.

The bookshop music sessions have already started. The Big Comfy Sessions was hosted at The Tree House Bookshop in Kenilworth with Wes Finch playing the first one, filmed by Rob at Redwood Photography along with Richard at TheSpoonPlayer blog. These will be regular sessions filmed exclusively in the shop and we'll be getting local and touring bands and solo artists in to film one song. A larger blog is coming very soon about this but in the meantime check out Wes doing his thing on the website

There will be several book reviews coming soon including two of my favourite books I've read this year. 

Finally this site will soon be transformed. The online shop ( and this blog will be amalgamated into one brand new website. All this while the shop is creeping ever closer!
Please like the Facebook and follow me on Twitter too.

A final thank you to my beautiful wife for getting me the BEST birthday presents!


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A visit to The Book Barge

Many will know I'm a big fan of social media. In January sometime a friend posted a picture on Facebook of a bookshop van from Spain. I retweeted this picture and received loads of comments about other quirky places you can find a bookshop. One such place was The Book Barge. 'That's really cool!' I said out load to my cats then after browsing a bit more, found out it's docked just 45 minutes drive from me. I made plans to visit but never made it to Barton Marina where it was docked. Nevertheless I followed The Book Barge on Twitter and soon found out that the owner, Sarah, was releasing a book and having the launch on the barge!
There really was no excuse now. I contacted Sarah to see if it was OK to pop along and a week or so later I pulled up at the Marina with my wife in tow.
The book in question is The Bookshop That Floated Away and documents Sarah's undulating adventure across England and Wales for 6 months in the barge trying to drum up support for her bookshop and others in a time of financial uncertainty, at the same time figuring out what the hell she was doing. I'll have a book review posted later this week but I can honestly say it's my favourite book I've read this year.
My wife Heidi and I arrived at the Marina dead on time (a McEntee trait) and headed to the 60ft vessel. I peeped through the windows first as outside it was quiet and deserted but I soon saw the barge was packed like a can of sardines from front to back (bow to stern?). We ambled down the steps and was welcomed by Stu, Sarah's boyfriend along with a big table filled with teacups ready to be filled by the dozen or so gins on offer.
I've never been on a barge let alone a converted bookshop one and the feeling was of slight amazement and slight terror. I've always been very claustrophobic but I was too consumed taking in my surroundings to realise I was stuck in the middle of the barge with no way out unless I barged (HA!) past lots of people. It wasn't until my wife mentioned the confined spaces that I came to realise this. I let it slide though and introduced myself to Sarah.
Sarah was a delight, she was stunned by the amount of people there, consumed by the event and looked generally like it was all a dream, but she took it all in her stride. We managed to grab 10 minutes chatting about the book and the barge, the press and the future between the melee of eager punters. She signed my book and I went off to grab some food.
The barge is moored right next to the pub The Waterfront so Heidi and I grabbed a lovely meal there then waited for the group of keen readers to pour out of the barge and into the pub. Part of the pub had been earmarked for the group as an 'after party drinks venue' so we stayed for half an hour waiting but it seemed like the barge was a too packed, too comfy venue as everyone stayed on board! We headed back to the barge to talk some more but then had to escape back to Warwickshire.
Sarah Henshaw AKA Captain
The Book Barge is a truly wonderful bookshop and venue and Sarah is such a warm and friendly book seller I hope that I can emulate the environment she has created, albeit in a more regular bricks and mortar shop!
There will be a second book launch in London on April 22nd on the barge starting at 6.30 then heading to The Narrow Boat Inn, Islington.

You can normally find the barge at:

The Book Barge
Barton Marina
Barton Turn
DE13 8AS

I'll be returning very soon to have a proper chat with Sarah and do a bit of shopping.


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