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Outdoor reading event sells out as Norwich bookshop teams up with city museum

PUBLISHED: 17:15 03 May 2019

Joe Hedinger, from The Book Hive, thought up the idea for Page Against The Machine back in 2017

Joe Hedinger, from The Book Hive, thought up the idea for Page Against The Machine back in 2017

Archant Norfolk 2017

As part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2019 this spring, The Book Hive will host a special, sold-out reading event at Strangers' Hall museum in Norwich.

According to a 2017 study by The Reading Agency, two thirds of readers seek out books to help de-stress and relieve anxiety. Picture: GETTY IMAGESAccording to a 2017 study by The Reading Agency, two thirds of readers seek out books to help de-stress and relieve anxiety. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

For just under two years, a city centre bookshop has been encouraging people to read – but not as you might expect.

Every Wednesday, from 5.30-6.30pm, The Book Hive in Norwich hosts an hour-long reading event known as Page Against The Machine. But this spring, for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2019, the team will be trying something different by bringing the books outdoors.

The event will take place at the Knot Garden at Strangers' Hall on Saturday, May 25 from 4-5.30pm, as part of the festival's City of Literature weekend. But if you were thinking about dropping by, you're out of luck as the free, pre-booked places at the event have already sold out – a testament to both the event's pre-established success, and the city's desire to read.

Bookseller Joe Hedinger came up with the idea for Page Against The Machine in 2017, after coming across some research published by national charity, The Reading Agency.

The Book Hive have teamed up with Strangers' Hall museum to host a special reading event in the Knot GardenThe Book Hive have teamed up with Strangers' Hall museum to host a special reading event in the Knot Garden

The organisation publishes a report every year which looks into the nation's reading habits and, in 2017, revealed that two thirds of people listed stress and/or anxiety as a reason they turned to books. But, Joe says, two thirds also listed a too hectic lifestyle as a reason they didn't.

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“Page Against The Machine was thought up as an opportunity to help people find space and time to read,” says Joe. “But it needed to be a neutral space, away from work or home, and it needed to be a regular thing, too, where people could turn their phones off.”

Devices are discouraged at the event as Joe and shop owner, Henry Layte, create a “comfortable, calm space surrounded by books.” On average, the event attracts around ten people each week, from older people to students to small children, who attend with their parents.

Although the event means that the shop remains open for an extra hour every week, the goal has never been about boosting book sales. “If there is a change in sales, it's more long-term,” says Joe. “It's spurred on by what I would call friends of the shop – people who come in and visit as a result.”

Yet Joe acknowledges that the shop is doing well – last year was its most successful year – and that the thinking behind Page Against The Machine – of being interested in getting people to read – is certainly helping. “It's gone really, amazingly well,” he says. “It's a pretty simple idea – but its success is really down to the people of Norwich and their passion for reading and the community.”

The special event on Saturday, May 25 will be a “lovely, collaborative, multi-disciplinary event”, with the aim of bringing what has, up until now, been a sustainable, weekly event to even more people, says Joe. Holding it at Strangers' Hall was an easy decision to make, he adds: “At The Book Hive, we love a collaboration and wanted to use an outside space.”

The outdoor event will also include special guests, such as local author Simon Okotie, and co-founder and cognitive behavioural therapist at Moore & Moore Living, Catherine Moore, who will guide readers through a moment of mindfulness.

Although the event at Strangers' Hall is already fully booked, you can join the waiting list by emailing info@nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk. You can also pop along to The Book Hive every Wednesday, from 5.30-6.30pm.

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