Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A visit to The Book Barge

Many will know I'm a big fan of social media. In January sometime a friend posted a picture on Facebook of a bookshop van from Spain. I retweeted this picture and received loads of comments about other quirky places you can find a bookshop. One such place was The Book Barge. 'That's really cool!' I said out load to my cats then after browsing a bit more, found out it's docked just 45 minutes drive from me. I made plans to visit but never made it to Barton Marina where it was docked. Nevertheless I followed The Book Barge on Twitter and soon found out that the owner, Sarah, was releasing a book and having the launch on the barge!
There really was no excuse now. I contacted Sarah to see if it was OK to pop along and a week or so later I pulled up at the Marina with my wife in tow.
The book in question is The Bookshop That Floated Away and documents Sarah's undulating adventure across England and Wales for 6 months in the barge trying to drum up support for her bookshop and others in a time of financial uncertainty, at the same time figuring out what the hell she was doing. I'll have a book review posted later this week but I can honestly say it's my favourite book I've read this year.
My wife Heidi and I arrived at the Marina dead on time (a McEntee trait) and headed to the 60ft vessel. I peeped through the windows first as outside it was quiet and deserted but I soon saw the barge was packed like a can of sardines from front to back (bow to stern?). We ambled down the steps and was welcomed by Stu, Sarah's boyfriend along with a big table filled with teacups ready to be filled by the dozen or so gins on offer.
I've never been on a barge let alone a converted bookshop one and the feeling was of slight amazement and slight terror. I've always been very claustrophobic but I was too consumed taking in my surroundings to realise I was stuck in the middle of the barge with no way out unless I barged (HA!) past lots of people. It wasn't until my wife mentioned the confined spaces that I came to realise this. I let it slide though and introduced myself to Sarah.
Sarah was a delight, she was stunned by the amount of people there, consumed by the event and looked generally like it was all a dream, but she took it all in her stride. We managed to grab 10 minutes chatting about the book and the barge, the press and the future between the melee of eager punters. She signed my book and I went off to grab some food.
The barge is moored right next to the pub The Waterfront so Heidi and I grabbed a lovely meal there then waited for the group of keen readers to pour out of the barge and into the pub. Part of the pub had been earmarked for the group as an 'after party drinks venue' so we stayed for half an hour waiting but it seemed like the barge was a too packed, too comfy venue as everyone stayed on board! We headed back to the barge to talk some more but then had to escape back to Warwickshire.
Sarah Henshaw AKA Captain
The Book Barge is a truly wonderful bookshop and venue and Sarah is such a warm and friendly book seller I hope that I can emulate the environment she has created, albeit in a more regular bricks and mortar shop!
There will be a second book launch in London on April 22nd on the barge starting at 6.30 then heading to The Narrow Boat Inn, Islington.

You can normally find the barge at:

The Book Barge
Barton Marina
Barton Turn
DE13 8AS

I'll be returning very soon to have a proper chat with Sarah and do a bit of shopping.


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