Authors for Grenfell auction closes raising £150k

Authors for Grenfell auction closes raising £150k

Philip Pullman has confirmed he will name a character in his Book of Dust series Nur Huda el-Wahabi, after a young Grenfell Tower victim.

The Authors for Grenfell auction site closed last night (27th June) after bids for Pullman to name a character had soared to £32,400 after almost 500 contributions.

Altogether the Authors for Grenfell auction site has raised more than £150,000 for victims after the “astounding way” that the publishing community “rallied to the cause”.

Organiser and literary agent at the Bent Agency Molly Ker Hawn shared the result after the auction closed at 8pm last night (27th June).

On Twitter she said: "This item has been won by @MrJClements and 448 other bidders, with a collective bid of £32,400. I love every one of you. More than £150,000 has been raised through the auction.” 

Pullman tweeted in reply from his @PhilipPullman account which boasts 70,000 followers: "Great news. Warm thanks to everyone, and I look forward to writing about Nur."

The campaign for the author to name the character after el-Wahabi in the second instalment of the Northern Lights companion series was started by her teacher, James Clements, before 448 others - including authors Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff, David Mitchell and Mark Haddon - bolstered support.

Clements asked for el-Wahabi’s name “to live on" in Pullman's book after she died in the West London tower block fire along with at least 78 others, police have warned the final death toll for the blaze on 14th June may never be known. The donations to the auction will go to the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, which supports victims of the tragedy.

The teacher posted his emotional bid on Sunday evening (25th January): “I expect this will go for a lot more (and I hope it does), but here it goes: £1,500. It this is still the leading bid on Tuesday, I’d like to call the character Nur Huda el-Wahabi.

“The real Nur Huda was an ex-pupil of mine who lived in Grenfell Tower and didn’t make it out of the building that night. A life that was so full of promise has been cut short in the most terrible way. As well as raising some money, this would mean her name would live on. Plus Nur Huda is a pretty cool name for a character.”

He added: “Please outbid me by lots though – it’s an important cause.” Bids to support Clement's original pledge on the online auction page rose to more than £17,000 within 16 hours.

Ker Hawn, agent at the Bent Agency, organised the charity push with Harriet Reuter Hapgood, journalist and author of The Square Root of Summer (Macmillan Children's Books) and included 13 volunteers in the auction team. The collective offered around 600 auction prizes which attracted more than 6,500 bids.

Ker Hawn told The Bookseller: "It’s astounding, isn’t it, the way the publishing community rallied to this cause so quickly and so eagerly. It’s wonderful to be a part of this effort, but these families are going to need much more, so I hope people will continue to give generously and to make their outrage heard in other ways, too."

She added: "We have a truly phenomenal team of volunteers who’ve been helping run this auction, and we couldn’t have done it without them."

Reuter Hapgood said: "I thought after this week I could no longer be surprised by people's generosity, but then, as soon as the auction closed, many of our donors emailed to offer their time to the top two, three or four highest bidders instead of one winner. I think it's testament to the continued collective horror and sadness at what was done to the residents of Grenfell Tower.

"We had more than 6,500 bids, 130,000 visitors and almost 2m page views in a week, with author donations flooding in right up to the deadline, including Jojo Moyes, Judy Blume, Margaret Atwood, and Jacqueline Wilson - bringing us to all ten Children's Laureates."

Pullman announced the Book of Dust companion series, or “equel” to Northern Lights in February sparking much excitement in the publishing industry. La Belle Sauvage, the first instalment in The Book of Dust series, will be released on 19th October published jointly by Penguin Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books in the UK, while Random House Children’s will publish it in the US.

David Fickling, publisher and editor at David Fickling, told The Bookseller that the author's gesture was typically "thoughtful". He said: "What a characteristically generous and thoughtful idea by Philip to offer to name a character in The Book of Dust to help raise money to support those who have lost their homes and loved ones.

He added: "None of us ought ever to forget the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, but lest we do one of the best places to keep the memory always alive is surely in the pages of one of our greatest storytellers Philip Pullman.”

Visit authorsforgrenfelltower.wordpress.com for more information on the auction or follow #authorsforgrenfell on Twitter for more updates.