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Temporary bookshops: The Dalkey Festival

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Article by The Bookseller © 21 June 2012.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

Last Sunday saw yours truly venturing beyond the rarefied atmosphere of Dundrum Shopping Centre to ‘man’ a pop-up up shop for some of the kids’ events at this year’s Dalkey Book Festival. The festival was held from 15-17th June and once again, Hughes and Hughes Dundrum were responsible for organising book sales for the busy lit-fest.

We had the help of several enthusiastic volunteers from other branches too, including Steve and Paul from Santry.

When I arrived in Dalkey on Sunday, Jen (from The Green) and Aoife had nicely settled into a rather bijou premises in the picturesque old Tramyard, where we were selling a general range of stock in addition to the event pop-ups. My own pitch was at Harold Boy’s School so I duly set off clutching the cash box and calculator. Andrew negotiated the perilous cobblestones with the trolley load of books. We arrived without miss-hap and I set up camp at the back of the hall. Apart from an emergency call for bags, I was ready for anything.

Chris Judge was the first ‘on stage’ reading from The Lonely Monster. Afterwards, he conducted a master class on drawing your very own Lonely Monster. It looked so much fun that I wished that I had joined in myself. Judge finished by reading from The Great Explorer, which involved plenty of suitably loud audience participation.  Then came the bit when I was required to do some more work; many parents bought both titles, which was good news for all of us. Aoife did the Derek Landy gig at the same time, which was very busy but of course, many children had arrived with their own much-loved copies for the signing session.

Events are fun to do but you really miss having a proper counter with a proper till and most importantly, a proper queue (not that I lack the pioneer spirit!). It can end up being something of a free for all in the customers’ haste to reach the signing queue. Was that change correct? Did I put a tick down for that book? At least on this occasion I did not have to wrestle with the manual credit card machine. There is a great deal to be said for ‘cash only’ at these events. Nevertheless, all went smoothly, except for the loss of one of my Stabilo pens, which I lent to someone for an autograph and never saw again. I wonder if I can claim for it on expenses? Then it was a quick change to get ready for Judi Curtin’s reading, with several titles to put out. It is always difficult to get the right mix and number of titles for this type of event. You are always going to find that just because you are missing one in a series, that that will be the one most in demand. Curtin’s Megan and Alice books proved popular as usual and there was a certain hint that just maybe, she might write another one at some point.

After that, came a talk from Nicola Pierce, author of the very successful novel Spirit of the Titanic.This was the first opportunity I have had to listen to her giving a talk. The content was impressive and I confess to a slight moistness of the eyes as I heard some of the Titanic stories that Pierce has unearthed.

In complete contrast, the final set was a discussion between YA writers Sarah Webb, Pauline McLynn and Anna Carey chaired by Sinead Gleeson. I think it is safe to say that all three writers remain well and truly in touch with their inner teenager. This was a lively and entertaining conversation about the ins and outs of writing in the challenging YA genre.After this session, it was time to pack up, having counted the stock and bagged up the coins. I had noticed rain on the windows earlier, but fortunately by the time we had to remove our remaining books the weather was clear again. I stacked the boxes on a dry patch of car park while waiting for Don and the trolley. At that point, the event was over for me for another year, but the other guys were anticipating the remainder of the evening’s events.

The atmosphere in Dalkey is always lively at festival time and it is a great way of bringing visitors into the area for the weekend. It is also a very pleasant location in which to do extra business. Long may the festival continue!

Chris Mills, Hughes and Hughes Dundrum


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