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2016 with Dulwich Books

Season’s Greetings from all at Dulwich Books!

Thanks so much for supporting your local independent bookshop during 2016. It’s been a memorable year on many fronts – geopolitically at a macro level, and back here in the micro it’s been busy and exciting. Curating displays and choosing books to sell involves decisions which reflect our values, those of the staff and of the customers. We are impressed and encouraged by your commitment and discernment.

We programmed three events for The Bedford in Balham: firstly around the anthology I Call Myself a Feminist, secondly with David Aaronovitch and Jo Macmillan (who’d both attended political meetings in the pub in earlier days) talking with John Crace about growing up communist, and thirdly with Ben Rawlence, Christina Lamb, Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes talking about refugees, in Calais and in the Dadaab camp in Kenya, the focus of Ben’s exceptional book City of Thorns.

We began the year with a sold-out event for Helen Dunmore, launching the indie bookshop version of Exposure; we ended with The Sellout, a thought-provoking and very funny evening with Gary Younge and Paul Beatty, the 2016 Man Booker Prize winner, reflecting on the power of satire to depict slavery, trauma, racism.

In between we held three Deadly in Dulwich events with outstanding crime writers, and were delighted, in November, to help out our neighbours Orenda Books when they needed a venue at short notice for their two leading Finnish writers, Antti Tuomainen and Kati Hiekkapelto. And the Nordic Berries Finlandia vodka was an added inducement …

We linked up with three other exceptional partners in the spring and autumn. We had fun working with the Hay Festival for a session on sex and death with Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Milena Busquets and Alvaro Enrigue.

We were also proud to liaise with the Nigerian publisher Cassava Republic for their London launch, and had to keep increasing the venue size to accommodate the fans of Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Lele Adenlye and Elnathan John.

Then in September, on the hottest evening of the year, we enjoyed Faber & Fizz, with four exceptional novelists, Louise Doughty, Harry Parker, Richard T Kelly and Francis Spufford. The latter’s book Golden Hill has been chosen in all the round ups as a book of the year and is shortlisted for the Costa Awards in early 2017.

Richard Kelly came back to interview Alan Johnson a few weeks later, launching the third volume of his memoirs with his trademark charm and wit.

It was a year for non-fiction writers to meet their readers and answer questions that haunt us all. Mervyn King and Will Hutton were exceptionally open and accessible at a full event in Alleyn’s school and Rachel Aspden, Paul Mason and Aaron Bastani had us enthralled in All Saint’s Church as we waited for the votes to be counted in the referendum.

And for me the unforgettable highlight of the year was Ken Clarke and Nick Clegg in conversation with Arifa Akbar, in a crowded Great Hall at Dulwich College, just after the US Presidential election, as we all tried to make sense of our post-truth world.

This was just one of the festival events which attracted a huge audience. The inaugural Balham Literary Festival in June featured the nation’s leading landscape writers including Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald, Patrick Barkham, Andrea Wulf, Sarah Hall, Bradley Garrett and China Miéville, and we were delighted by the response of the audience.

The Dulwich Literary Festival in November welcomed writers for children, Matt Haig and Katherine Woodfine, poets from the stable of Bloodaxe and Carcanet, politicians of all stripes, Margaret Hodge and Harriet Harman kicking us off. With historian Hester Vaizey speaking to biographer Rachel Holmes, journalists Tim Marshall and Ian Cobain discussing secrets, flags and the nation state, novelists Joe Dunthorne and Kei Miller investigating the cult of personality, a bookshop and a café, we were all set. Dulwich College provided an iconic backdrop and were gracious hosts.

You were also wonderfully generous in your support of Solace, the local women’s refuge and of Mind and the other charities we have championed this year. We enjoyed Independent Bookshop Week in June, with an Ibizan cookery event as well as Paul Mason in conversation. We loved Bookshop Day in October, with local author Max Porter signing copies of his bestselling, prize-winning Grief is the Thing with Feathers. And Civilised Saturday brought prosecco and home made brownies to contrast with Black Friday as well as a treasure hunt and all the fun of the West Dulwich fair.

The biggest infrastructural news was the refurbishment. Thank you for your patience and for all the lovely compliments on the new layout and design. The children’s area has proved a huge hit, and our story times at 1100 on Thursdays and Saturdays with either our very own Annie or a visiting author have been crowded and lively. The tent has mainly been occupied by Harry, but the kids’ till and easel, awning and cushions have been a hit, as has the yellow chair in the reading corner on the stage.

Looking to next year there will be festivals again, and a new colleague and new displays and stock. Thank you for all your support of the shop. It means a lot to us that you enable us thrive rather than simply to survive, with your comments and jokes and Christmas cards, biscuits, prosecco, chocolates and with the shortlisting for the Time Out Local London Awards.

Have a restful holiday season and a prosperous and peaceful New Year

From all at
Dulwich Books