There’s a lot to be said for trying something different. Yes, sticking to what you know can be comforting, but if you keep doing the same old thing, you’ll get the same result. More importantly, you’re very likely to get bored. And that does nobody any good at all.
Which is why we were so happy to head into Walsall last Saturday and visit Southcart Books to take part in Southfest, a day of music, book launches, readings, conversation, laughter, and crisps. And fresh samosas. And Welsh cakes, as it happens. But mainly it was about book launches and readings, and a bunch of writers and artists and people who are busy trying something different rather than sticking with the same old same old, all gathered together in one place, sharing ideas and experiences and munching hot samosas.
You could call it ‘networking’. But that makes it sound cold and calculated and like a lot of hard work, whereas really it was what we in the West Midlands know as a bostin’ day out, with added chocolate biscuits and cake. Writers, publishers, and bookshop proprietors – like armies – march on their stomach, and Southcart were determined that no-one would go hungry on their watch. In that, as in so much else, it seems they succeeded. Because Southfest was, indeed, a perfectly formed festival in a wonderful little bookshop.
What Southcart show is that, with graft and determination, it’s possible to put on a barnstorming event in the back street of an unfashionable town* and make it a day to remember. They set up book launches by two local authors, then gave other Walsall writers – whose stories and tales were every bit as enthralling – the opportunity to read. Then they added acoustic sets from local musicians to the mix. And on top of that there were samosas and crisps and soft drinks and wine.
Imagine a world where that was happening in every town, all over the world. Then look at what goes on in Walsall, and know it can be done. It was a pleasure and a privilege to take part in Saturday’s event, to talk a little about Ignite Books, to listen to the work of some very talented writers, and to play a small part in encouraging them in their craft. We wish Lucy Onions and James Josiah all the very best with their novels ‘Shout the Call’ and ‘C90’ and we’d urge any of you reading this to buy a copy and support young authors starting out in the world of writing. And if you’re in Walsall, nip down to Southcart Books and help a wonderful small business thrive.
Southfest. One day, all book launches will be this good.
*we’re from Walsall, so we can say this.

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