Central London was once again full of wizards, Harrys, Hagrids and Hermiones last night (30th July) as Waterstones Piccadilly and Foyles on Charing Cross Road held extravagant parties to celebrate Little, Brown’s publication of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – surely already the fastest selling play script of all time – on the stroke of midnight.
Waterstones’ event was effectively a "Harry Potter" lock-in, with almost all the store transformed into elements of the books and films. Here was Hagrid’s motorbike and over there was the golden snitch and Harry’s wand and costumes from the films, and even "the cupboard under the stairs" at 4 Privet Drive – actually the cupboard in the curving stairs to the shop’s mezzanine floor and "guarded" for the night by Waterstones’ Eleanor Stammeijer.
There were many fans in their twenties who had grown up with Harry and the gang, like 25-year-old Alex Harper [pictured below], originally from Sydney, now a high school teacher in London and dressed as Dumbledore. "I started when I was nine," she said. "The books are everything to me. I went to the first preview of the play, and I’m seeing it three more times before Christmas."
Lottie Yearby-Taylor, a 23-year-old costume student at Wimbledon College of Art, said: “As a child, the Harry Potter stories were the only books I wanted to read. It’s the magic – it’s so intriguing to a child.”
But there were new fans too, like 10-year-old Robert McMillan, dressed as Harry and there with his parents. “My Dad read the books to me. He had a different voice for each character.”
Little Brown c.e.o. David Shelley [pictured below, left], slowly touring each floor with sales and marketing director Robert Manser [below right], said: “It’s wonderful to see people connecting with the spirit of Harry Potter again, getting back their childhoods. But there are new fans here too, just like there are at the play.”
He wouldn’t be drawn on print figures, but said: "It’s the biggest print-run Little, Brown has ever done – and we hope it will be the biggest selling play script ever”.
At Foyles, master of ceremonies at its Harry Potter quiz Mark Campbell [below] demonstrated considerable acting and improvisational skills, keeping the audience entertained while the shop was cleared of customers. “Does anyone know a spell to make people leave a shop?” he asked. “Say after me ‘Maximum Get-your-butt-out-of-here!’”
Among the audience was 26-year-old lifelong Potter fan Fionnuala Dubh. “Years ago I had gone to buy Skellig, but the shop didn’t have it,” she recalled. “They recommended Harry Potter and the course of my life was forever altered.” Judging by Saturday night, she is not alone.