Last Thursday I went to my first Cityread event and it struck me that an awful lot of Londoners still don’t know about this great initiative. There’s still time to get involved. Cityread is an annual month-long celebration of literature with a variety of different events taking place across the boroughs.
Each year (this is the 6th) there is a chosen novel, the focal point from which the programme spreads from. This year it is Ten Days by novelist and playwright Gillian Slovo. We were given free copies of the book at the event I attended, the aim being that Londoners are brought together to read the same book and open a discussion around the topic.
Ten Days is a thriller focusing on a fictional period of rioting in the capital (though partly based on the author’s research into the 2011 London riots) and looking at the issues through three main characters with different perspectives and agendas – a newly appointed police chief, the Home Secretary, and a resident on an estate marked for demolition. Gillian is doing a related author event on the 19th April at Chelsea Library.
I attended a talk at Westminster Reference Library – London: A City in Turmoil. I was prompted to go due to my interest in London history. It was an interesting look at various uprisings that have taken place over the last 900 years in the city. Unsurprisingly, race and religion have been key motivators in most cases, though there are other examples such as football hooliganism and other rivalries that have erupted into violence. There is another chance to catch this talk at the Kensington Central Library on the 18th April (free but booking required).
There aren’t just talks on the programme. On the 17th there is a guided tour – A Rebel’s Guide to Westminster. This walking tour (2 hours) will investigate how Westminster has not only been the seat of political power for centuries, but also the place for those excluded from power to come to try and force change. There is a virtual cruise and a virtual trip on the tube network, taking in some of the many literary sites and sights of London.
World Book Night falls on the 23rd and there are also several events across London for it. Anyone who has books to give out is invited to go along and hand them out. Check your local library for info.
There’s too much going on to list in a short piece here but do check out the Cityread London website as there is something for everyone: reading groups, story and craft for kids, and exhibitions. Almost all events are free but require booking. Free copies of Ten Days are being made available at events until stocks run out.