Authors for Grenfell total rises to £180k

Authors for Grenfell total rises to £180k

Authors, agents and publishers have helped raise £180,597 through the Authors for Grenfell auction - £30,000 more than was estimated when it closed two weeks ago - with a David Walliams tea experience going for £12,000 and a lunch with Jonny Geller scooping more than £3,000.

Following the auction, several donors offered to multiply their donations to the top two or three bidders, rather than just the single winning bid, helping to boost the total.

The collective, successful bids for a character in Philip Pullman's second title in the Book of Dust series to be named after young Grenfell Tower victim Nur Huda el-Wahabia rose to £33,720 after organisers totted up the totals - £1,000 more than originally estimated when the auction finished on 27th June

The 457 bidders for the character’s name include the original bidder, el-Wahabia’s teacher James Clements, as well as authors such as Patrick Ness, Mark Haddon, David Nicholls, Nick Lake, Meg Rosoff, Sarah Perry and various members of the public.

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 80 others, although police have warned the final death toll for the blaze on 14th June may never be known.

Nearly 1,200 people successfully bid for the 600-strong line-up of prizes (including the multiple bidders for the Pullman character). The donations to the auction will go to the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, which supports victims of the tragedy. 

The organisers of the auction, Molly Ker Hawn, literary agent at the Bent Agency, and Harriet Reuter Hapgood, journalist and author of The Square Root of Summer (Macmillan Children's Books), shared the most popular items with The Bookseller after collecting the final bids over the last fortnight.

Reuter Hapgood believes the auction's success “is a measure of how grievously these people have been let down by a system that should protect them”.

The biggest prizes following the Pullman character included tea with Walliams which was snapped up for £12,580, a photoshoot with Rankin which was won for £5,050 while one lucky bidder secured lunch with joint c.e.o of Curtis Brown and managing director of the books division, Geller, for £3,100.

Two original Axel Scheffler drawings went for £1,200 and £750 with books signed by "Gilmour Girls" actress and writer Lauren Graham won for £2,030 from five bidders. Conductor and writer Lev Parikian offered conducting lessons which went for £1,700 across three bidders.

Tim Minchin offered a signed, personalised limited edition hardback graphic novel, Storm (Orion), which went for £1,850 while a bid of £1,200 scooped a signed set of Jon Ronson books.

Other authors who got involved with the charity drive included Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume, E L James, Stanley Tucci, Ben Goldacre, Nigella Lawson, David Nicholls, Matt Haig and all 10 Children's Laureates.

Ker Hawn told The Bookseller that the attitudes of the publishing community and bidders contrasted to many of the official responses to the tragedy. She said: “The donors and bidders have all been so generous. It’s certainly a heartening contrast to the attitudes of the government, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

“I hope that as well as money, we raised some public awareness of how the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire are being treated.”

Hapgood told The Bookseller: "I'm so grateful for the collective generosity of donors, bidders and auction volunteers, but what we've achieved is a very small thing in the face of what Grenfell Tower survivors have lost, and have yet to lose, as the state continues to fail them.”

She added: “I believe the reason for the auction's success is a measure of how grievously these people have been let down by a system that should protect them."

Pullman told the Guardian last month he was pleased to name a character after el-Wahabi in the "equel" series to the popular His Dark Materials trilogy. He said: “Having been a teacher myself, I know how I’d have felt if a pupil of mine had been in some similar disaster … The absolute injustice of it struck home with me, and must have done with so many others. So I’m very pleased to see the success of James Clements’s initiative."   

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.

The Authors for Grenfell offered around 600 auction prizes which attracted more than 6,500 bids and was manned by a team of 13 volunteers.

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