Ever spotted someone on the tube reading the same book as you and felt a little pang of literary affinity? Maybe you thought about shooting them a knowing wink, then swiftly remembered that this is twenty-first-century London and you’ll come off as, at best, a creepy librarian? Well imagine that feeling multiplied by, like, eight million and you’re some way to appreciating the appeal of Cityread London.
It’s essentially a massive, month-long book group, with events to get involved in happening across all 33 London boroughs. To mark the centenary of World War I, this year’s book is Louisa Young’s ‘My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’, a romance-tinged wartime novel that focuses as much on the lives of those in the trenches as it does on those left at home to fret over the fates of their loved ones.
For younger readers (or unambitious adults), meanwhile, there’s ‘War Horse’ author Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Private Peaceful’, which follows a pair of brothers on the front line in Belgium, and has been adapted for both stage and screen since its 2003 release.
Got back from the book shop now? Good. Now here’s our pick of five top events to check out when you’ve finished reading.
Freebies Theatre troupe Look Left Look Right will be giving away 1,914 copies (clever!) of this year’s Cityread book during the morning rush hour (while dressed in trench fatigues and khaki dresses, naturally). They’ll also be assuming the roles of the book’s characters for a guided walk, afternoon tea and cabaret night later in the month. St Pancras Station. Free. Tue April 1.
Film Louisa Young has named Jean Renoir’s ‘La Grande Illusion’ her favourite World War I film, so a screening introduced by the author is sure to reveal all manner of influences and reference points for her work. Gate Cinema Notting Hill. £4.50. Apr 24.
Photography Ever wondered what London looked like before it started building upwards, and long before the Blitz changed the fabric of the city forever? Find out at Cityread’s two-week exhibition of WWI archive photography. City Hall. Free. Mon Mar 31-April 13.
Food Chow down with fellow Cityreaders – including author Louisa Young, who’ll be doing a reading – at this sure-to-sell-out literary dinner. The price includes a three-course wartime feast, with vegetarians catered for. The Papered Parlour. £30. Apr 11.
Family For those with children, war is a tricky subject to tackle. Make things easier with this Cityread Family Day of storytelling, workshops and performance, including a session run by the British Postal Museum & Archive in which kids will write their own postcard home from the trenches. Museum of London Docklands. Free. Sat April 5.
Author: David Clack