All you need is Love

Once known as a hub of bookselling, recent years on Charing Cross Road in central London have seen the closures of the Borders flagship store as well as crime specialist Murder One. Sales have been blighted by a reduction in footfall caused by the ongoing Crossrail roadworks.

But a new endeavour by Foyles and Blackwell, also kicking off Independent Booksellers Week and National Reading Group Day, aims to reverse that trend.

Saturday shoppers stumbling across, or heading for, Love Charing Cross Road, were treated to a circus performer and free Indian food while more strictly literary events included Simon Callow and Ben Aaronovitch's talks at Blackwell.

Foyles tempted in customers with free ice-cream from Covent Garden’s ‘boutique’ ice cream shop, and Mitchell Beazley authors, The Icecreamists and singer/songwriters performing in the café.
Adorning the walls of the gallery were life-size monsterised versions of colourful literary characters drawn by Jonathan Edwards, who has monsterised for the Guardian, the Black Eyed Peas and Glastonbury. Debut author Francesca Segal—whose novel The Innocents is a modern, northwest London take on Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence—gave a talk on what it’s like to be published.

My vantage point was outside Foyles handing out copies of We Love This Book to eager punters—and there seemed to be a lot of them. Those exiting Foyles with those little red bags were the keenest on taking the magazine.

My only gripe would be that perhaps there was too much emphasis on free—I witnessed queues of customers waiting patiently to be "monsterised" but then leaving without purchasing a book. Perhaps the free stuff could be available on showing a receipt?

But it was a good and busy day. The sun was out, which, one festival organiser told me, usually steers people out of bookshops—they’re busier on rainy days—but today encouraged them to linger at the festival.