Old Possum – Superstar?
Anthony Burgess, giving the T S Eliot Memorial Lecture at the University of Kent talked (with piano accompaniment) about Eliot’s passion for popular music. Apparently he much preferred My Fair Lady to Shaw’s original Pygmalion. There will be no question then of any turning in the grave when Cats, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, based on Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats opens in London next April. Trevor Nunn (of the Royal Shakespeare Company) will direct and Gillian Lynne is to be the choreographer. Get in some extra paperbacks (Faber) and stand by to give poetry a push in the bookshop or library.
Read any good posters lately?
Most publicity about books appears in bookshops, libraries, magazines about books and the literary pages of newspapers where it’s seen by people who go into bookshops and libraries and read about books. Recently Mills and Boon’s romances and Corgi have popped up in some commercial breaks on TV, and Pan have ventured outside the book pages of some newspapers; but these are exceptions. Little attempt has been made by publishers to reach the 50 per cent or more of the public who know little or nothing about books and never visit a bookshop. That is until last month which was Book Poster Month in Brighton. Full colour posters, 5′ x 3’6″ appeared on the streets, each advertising twenty-four fiction titles or twenty-four non-fiction titles. Smaller posters went up in hotels, social clubs and doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms. There was a lot of activity linked with the posters, including quizzes, signing sessions and author appearances. The organisers of the campaign (the Book Marketing Council, who have finally persuaded publishers that co-operating to publicise books could make sense) are also interested to see whether people who already buy books find it helpful to be given a selected short list. (The Good Book Guide chose the books for Brighton).
Getting the unbooky into the bookshop is one of the challenges in schools too. Some large secondary schools with bookshops in less than central locations have been using home-made posters for years and scattering them about the building to attract customers with news of books and catchy slogans. We’ll be keeping an eye on the Brighton results to see if we can learn to do it better.
A Book Bonanza in Barnsley
It was with some surprise – to judge from the tone of the press release – that the thirteen-person delegation from the Book Marketing Council who made the perilous foray north out of London, past Watford, to Barnsley found at journey’s end, not a cultural desert but a town buzzing with activity and inhabited by a fair sprinkling of people who were already doing things with books. There are twenty-four school bookshops supplied by W H Smith (how many supplied from other sources?’), a Children’s Book Group, a thriving library service, a Literary Society. Everyone the delegation met was enthusiastic about collaborating on a ‘book event’ – so, a Bonanza there will be. Provisional dates: 6-16 April 1981.
Unkind cuts are also unfair
According to the EPC (Educational Publishers Council) the majority of local authorities are now giving book provision in schools an alarmingly low priority. What is more, what provision is being made is frighteningly unequal. In Scotland some schoolchildren are receiving twice as many new books as others. If some authorities can find the money to maintain standards and keep pace with inflation, why not others’. Where does your authority stand? If you live in Scotland you can find out in A Guide to Schoolbook Spending in Scotland – a report from the EPC. Get it from, Ms N van der Gaag, 19 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3HJ (send an s.a.e.).
A Right Royal Book
Eleven years ago HRH The Prince of Wales wrote a story to amuse his younger brothers during a voyage on the royal yacht. It is now published by Hamish Hamilton with illustrations by Sir Hugh Casson. The references to shootin’ and fishin’-type activities reflect the book’s original audience, and there is evidence of the Prince’s well-known liking for Goon humour. It’s nice to note that Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were as much amused by jokes about lavatories as all the other five and nine-year-old boys in the country. Royalties (how appropriate!) go to charity.
The Old Man of Lochnager,
0 241 10527 7, £3.95.
School of the Year
As part of Children’s Book Week ’80, secondary school pupils were invited to submit an autobiography of their school in a competition to find the school of the year. The entry had to be in the form of a book.
The first prize of £500 plus the Lloyds Bank School of the Year trophy went to Heathfield High School, Congleton, Cheshire. Second prize (£250) was won by Newland High School, Kingston upon Hull, and third prize (£100) by Islington Green School, London. All prize money will be spent on books for the schools’ libraries.