Heather Lawton is the creative director of street parties at The Book Club, which will hold Bookstock-on-Sea this August Bank Holiday.
This year Bookstock is bringing a taste of the seaside to Shoreditch with something for everyone; Punch and Judy, a knobbly knees contest, sea salt cocktails, a Prince tribute act and disco band Odyssey, to name a fraction of what’s in store. MouthLondon talks to Heather about organising Bookstock, creating a universally fun vibe and the importance of giving something back to Shoreditch.
MouthLondon: Where did the idea of Bookstock come from?
HL: We first hosted a street party back in 2011 in honour of the Royal Wedding. We created a monster with over 5000 people coming through the gates during the six-hour event. The queues where snaking around Shoreditch and I think we can safely say it was a massive success. We had so much fun and enjoyed it immensely so thought, why not host another one on August Bank Holiday, with the emphasis being on fun, music and good times. We decided on August Bank Holiday as it is widely known for the Notting Hill Carnival, so we wanted to offer an alternative.
ML: How long did it take from its conception to putting on the first Bookstock in 2011?
HL: We had to move quite quickly with the first Bookstock event, conceptualising and pushing it out to press within a month of deciding to go ahead – and holding the event just three months later. I think we were buzzing so much from the Royal Wedding Street Party that we didn’t actually realise the extent of what we had committed to, but the people wanted it – so we cracked on and hosted the first Bookstock in August 2011.
ML: Did you feel there was an immediate enthusiasm for the festival or did you have to do a lot of promotion?
HL: There was so much buzz around the Royal Wedding Street Party that we knew it was a good idea to get straight back in the saddle with Bookstock 2011. Those who didn’t make it down to the first street event were asking when we were going to do it again, and those who did make it were asking the same. The enthusiasm and support was incredible from the first Bookstock and has continued over the last two years. I guess if you are putting on a free fun-filled community event, with great content and slick management, people will enjoy it. What’s not to love?
ML: What was your initial aim with the festival and how has this changed since 2011?
HL: We have always seen ourselves as much more than just a bar operator. We’re an integral part of the community. People use The Book Club for meetings, workshops, and socialising and we want to thank the local people for welcoming us, and give something back. We understand the impact a late-night venue can sometimes have on a community, so we work with them to make sure this is kept to a minimum. We wanted to say thank you to the local Shoreditch residents and host a free event for all to enjoy, whilst showcasing the best bits of what we do.
ML: Just a glance at the line-up suggests there is something for everyone at Bookstock – was this the original idea or does the range of attractions change annually?
HL: The range changes annually, however the something-for-everyone vibe is certainly something we want to stick with. It’s a fun day, accessible to all. It complements our ever-changing events programme at The Book Club. This year we wanted to mix it up a bit so decided on the Bookstock-On-Sea theme to give it a bit of a twist!
ML: In organising the festival, have there been any other festivals or events which you’ve learnt from or taken inspiration from?
HL: I would say perhaps The Big Chill in its heyday, but with bit more energy.
ML: To what extent do you draw on the local area for live acts or attractions?
HL: We contact all of the local residents at the beginning of the planning process and ask if they would like to be involved in Bookstock in any way. Most decide to just come along and enjoy the day, have a few cocktails and party the day away.
ML: Street festivals are becoming ever more popular in London – what does Bookstock offer that makes it unique from other such events?
HL: Bookstock is one of the biggest and we were the first in recent years so we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. It’s free and it’s one of the largest capacity free events in the area. Some other street parties are banging out the house music with no concern for their neighbours, looking to make a fast buck. But that’s not what we’re about. We work with our neighbours on programming and set noise levels that everyone is happy with. If they’re not on side, there’s no point. Bookstock is for everyone to enjoy.
ML: Looking to the future, are there any other features/aspects you’d like to introduce to Bookstock to keep growing and improving?
HL: The list is never-ending! Too long to list here – and we like to keep our cards close to our chest. We may very well be looking for bigger space over the next few years though, so watch this space!
ML: Lastly, describe Bookstock in three words.
HL: Fun. Free. For everyone. (Almost three words!)