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Literacy matters: why we’re crowdfunding to bring more books to more people

Did you ever read a book that inspired a lifelong love of reading, propelled you into a new career or opened your eyes to a life-changing direction? Finally someone understands me. The written word is powerful and it’s for everyone. If you use your local library, it’s also free. Yet access to it and time to savour it feels trickier than ever.

We live in a tech-obsessed world, and like it or not, a slow-page-turning novel feels archaic next to the latest smartphone or stream-and-binged box set. But we can’t lose that power and magic that books have – it might be easily forgotten if we don’t keep sharing it! 

This is one of the main reasons that Literacy Live at Victorious Music Festival is back for a second year in 2019. And this year we have started our first ever crowdfunder so people can join us in starting a book revolution for the next generation.

Portsmouth, Hampshire. Two-thirds of Bookollective are working-class, book-loving Pompey girls and we were tired of the city being woefully underserved when it came to literary matters. Local schools have lower than average literacy rates. A city of over 200,000 people has just one large WH Smith’s and one Waterstones. And ZERO independents. There was very little signposting about how you might start a career in publishing if you wanted to. The city had a thriving writing scene, but we wanted it to reach a wider audience. So, the idea for Literacy Live was born: a miniature book festival comprising best-selling authors and tons of information on getting into the publishing industry. We want to make it an entry point for anyone interested, and make it loud and proud about books.

The Bookollective team at Victorious Festival 2018

The good people of Victorious Festival, who had their own pre-school children who were discovering a love of books, liked our ethos. They said: show us what you can do. So we did! Last August Bank Holiday thousands of festival-goers not only happily stumbled across us, but they actively sought us out and pulled up a hay bale when it was time to hear their favourite authors, such as Daisy Buchanan, Doug Johnstone and Phoebe Morgan. “So lovely to have books as part of a festival.” “You’re an oasis of calm over here. We love it.”

People like stumbling across books at a music festival. There is a surprised delight in their eyes; they have unexpectedly come across an old friend and finally have time for a chat. As they sink into a deckchair with a book and a smile the message is clear – the chance to sit quietly and engage your mind satisfies people in a completely different way. It’s an enriching, magical experience that feels totally different to Netflix and chill, and one we need to make sure we don’t ever forget – and ensure the next generation don’t bypass altogether. Kids ran up to the Bookollective bus and were thrilled to look at covers and select a story they liked: a special package they could take home, keep and savour.

A Bookollective event at Victorious Festival 2018

So, we’re back at Victorious for a second year on 24 and 25 August 2019, right next to the Portsmouth Libraries bus, with our first ever corporate sponsor, LoveReading. We can’t wait! Why are we having a crowdfunder this time? Well it’s simple: we are not paid to do this and neither are the wonderful authors and publishers who supply the free books, creativity and information. Raising money in this way enables us to continue doing what we are doing and providing access and support, as well as giving out free books to local children, via the festival and drop-offs to schools across the South East and West.

So, if you have ever read a book that felt like you, take a second to remember that feeling. Lets keep the spark alive. Join us in August, and you can donate as little as £5 and that money will buy a child a book. Up the book revolution!

Esther Harris is one-third of creative agency Bookollective. You can find details of the Literacy Live crowdfunding project at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/literacylive and the full Victorious Festival programme at https://www.victoriousfestival.co.uk/.

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