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Building a Bookshop – Day 1

On Saturday, 2nd April 2016, the 20th Oxford Literary Festival will begin! The festival is a rather big deal for the bookshop I work in, as we are responsible for supporting the 500 guest speakers by selling their books. This year the festival will host several well known names, including Sir Ian Mckellen, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child, Chris Riddell, A. C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, and Mary Beard. Many of the events will be hosted in the grand Sheldonian Theatre which lies directly across the street from Blackwell’s. Throughout the festival my fellow booksellers will operate several tables within the Sheldonian, unpacking, displaying, repacking and then repeating from event to event for a whole 9 days! It’s going to be a busy time for the staff of Blackwell’s Broad Street and the fleet of volunteers who will help keep everything running smoothly through the course of the festival (fingers-crossed). However, as well as selling books on a few tables within the Sheldonian we also create a temporary bookshop directly beside the theatre, where along side the books authored by the guest speakers we display some of the best titles in the book world, all chosen by the expert booksellers of Blackwell’s.

With the Saturday and the opening of the festival fast approaching we were given two days to build a bookshop, this is how it’s gone so far….

First off to get some perspective, this is the view of the Sheldonian Theatre from the bookshop. The big red arrow shows where in respect to the theatre the temporary bookshop is placed.


And here’s the space the shop will occupy.


When I and the other booksellers arrived just after lunch the marquee had been set up and now it was time for us to get to work. We had several things on the agenda which needed to be completed before we stopped for the day. Firstly we needed to build the bookshelves, secondly set up the tables and finally start displaying the books.

I’ll now tell the tale of the day through a series of badly taken photographs, so you can all see the process of building a bookshop.

The sun was out, boding well for the afternoon ahead.


The marquee is looking bare.


Boxes and boxes of books!


Bits of wood with the potential to be bookshelves.


Taking a moment to gather ourselves before we begin.


The shelves are coming together despite a distinct lack of screwdrivers.


We’re moving in!


Table placement is key.


And blue tablecloths are a necessity.


Now the important bit!


Take pride in your work.


The day is done.


That’s the end of day 1! There’s still a fair bit to do tomorrow, including more books, more displays, creating the lounge area, lots of wonderful non-book items to bring in and giving the place some overall and final finesse.

It’s been a hard day, but an eye opening one as I didn’t realise how little I actually use what muscle I have and my back is aching relentlessly.Tomorrow I must remember to bend my legs!

To out more about the Oxford Literary Festival then click: HERE!

To find out more about Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street then click: HERE!

Follow me on Twitter: @ByfordsBooks







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