The trade turned out in force last night (Wednesday 30th October) to bid a fond farewell to Booksellers Association executive chair Tim Godfray as he departed the organisation after 47 years – over 30 of them as the BA’s chief executive.
A range of past BA presidents, including Patrick Neale, Rosamund de la Hey and Graham Rand, joined a gathering of industry figures including former Hachette UK c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson, Penguin Random House chair Gail Rebuck, Mensch publisher Richard Charkin, Blackwells c.e.o. David Prescott and former Blackwell’s chair Trevor Goul-Wheeker, to celebrate Godfray’s career at the London Library in St James Square, London.
BA m.d. Meryl Halls paid tribute to Godfray as “one of the most tenacious and hardworking people I know and a role model of dedication to duty…guided by an unshakeable moral core and leading by example”. She said he was “intensively kind and supportive; whenever things go wrong, there will Tim be, doing the right thing for the right reasons.”
(Left-right) Tim Godfray with Gail Rebuck; Sarah and Peter Donaldson of Red Lion Books in Colchester, Donaldson sporting a red lion on his shoulder
Current BA president Nic Bottomley paid tribute to Godfray’s “incredible diplomacy” in his pursuit of the BA’s mission of representing booksellers within the industry, with parliamentarians and policy-makers, and to the wider world, when facing challenges including the collapse of the Net Book Agreement, attempts to add VAT to books, and the rise of “a globally dominant international competitor”. Every bookseller has seen the benefits of Godfray’s work, he said, with World Book Day – which he helped launch – now entering its third decade, and the Books Are My Bag campaign also going strong. “He has created in the BA a team who are all helpful and wonderful individuals" he said, adding that and if it hadn't been for Godfray's efforts, "many [bookshop] doors which are still open might not be; it may not be a level playing field but we are very much on the playing field and punching above our weight.”
Godfray – who had dyed his hair blue in a festive gesture - calculated that he had spent 130,086 hours working for the Booksellers Association over his 47 years with the body; noting the high points of his tenure, he remembered in particular the Outstanding Contribution to the Book Trade honour given to him at the 2019 British Book Awards; amid the low points was the financial crash of 2008 and its aftermath: “There was lots of media about bookshops being dead, the printed book being dead - we have proved those doomsayers wrong!” he declared.
Thanking those who attended for their support over the years, Godfray called Bottomley “a phenomenal president and wonderful ambassador” and said to Halls: “I am just thrilled you are taking over the running of the BA. You have already shown you are going to do the job brilliantly and have the affection and respect of your colleagues and the publishing community.”
The Bookseller m.d. Nigel Roby presented Godfray with a specially designed The Bookseller front cover in his honour (pictured right).