Q: How long have you been involved with the Primrose Hill Lecture Series?
I was approached about ten years ago to help with the series. Audiences were growing and the book sales for some of the speakers were difficult to manage. Publishers prefer to deal directly with booksellers when they supply titles as the sales then get properly tracked and recorded, and ratings on the bestseller lists are more accurate. I was able to secure much better terms and thus able to donate some profits from book sales. Each year these sales are increasing.
It is very satisfying to work on a joint project such as this, which has a real community benefit. The association between the bookshop and St Mary’s works well in other ways too: we have been able to hold some of our own events there and I have been able to help Marjorie out by setting up bookstalls for one-off visiting speakers and by preparing booklists for her reading and discussion groups. (Last month’s topic was Anxiety, this month is Black Lives Matter, next month Loneliness and the Elderly.)
Q: What does the PHLS bring to you, and what do you feel you can contribute?
My contribution to the Lecture Series is mostly to keep fellow committee members up to date with new publications and to help spread awareness of what topics are in the zeitgeist and hence being written about at any given moment. After more than thirty years in the book trade I have many contacts and friends who are authors, agents, editors or publishers, which makes access to writers quick and efficient. I also read very widely and get sent a lot of advance copies for comment and review so can suggest books and topics ahead of publication.
Q: What especially excites you about the 2020 series?
The 2020 online series has posed some challenges, but we are all agreed that it’s very exciting to explore a new medium. Obviously nothing beats sitting with our friends and neighbours in the convivial atmosphere of a live event, but the online experience has other benefits ‒ chiefly that we can potentially reach a much wider audience. It also means that we are using an ‘in conversation’ format, which has the added bonus of presenting two expert speakers on any given topic. This has pleased the speakers too; in some cases they met through our introductions, having previously known each other only by reputation. It has been very gratifying for me to bring people together in this way.
All in all it has been a steep learning curve to get up to speed and organise this series, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow committee members for their dedication and incredible hard work. We’ve had some trying setbacks, but we’ve probably all gained some new skills as a result!