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New charity seeks to bring books to foodbanks across the UK

13 June 2024


A Bookbanks stall at a community drop-in and foodbank run in St Jude and St Paul, Newington Green, in north-east London

A Bookbanks stall at a community drop-in and foodbank run in St Jude and St Paul, Newington Green, in north-east London

A NEW charity, Bookbanks, is seeking to make books available to users of foodbanks across the UK.

“Bookbanks partners with existing foodbanks to create enticing pop-up stalls of books — free for guests of all ages to browse, borrow, or keep,” a press release says. “The books are donated by organisations such as bookshops, libraries, prizes, and publishers; some are also given by individuals, including foodbank guests.”

The stalls, staffed by volunteers who work in the world of books, are “spaces for conversation, inspiration and community”, it says.

The charity was founded by Emily Rhodes, a writer, critic, and former bookseller, who runs a walking Emily’s Walking Book Club (Feature, Podcast, 9 June 2023), and has written essays for the monthly Church Times Book Club (Book Club, 5 January, 4 April).

She said this week: “Nobody should have to choose whether to ‘feed or read’. By enabling the books industry to work closely with foodbanks, we can change this. Books are a powerful tool not just to improve literacy, but also to build relationships and create communities.”

A Bookbanks stall has been running each week since September 2022 at a foodbank in St Jude and St Paul, Newington Green, in north-east London. More than 2500 books have so far been distributed. A series of author events, funded by the Arts Council, began last month, when the novelist Nadia Kabir Barb read from and took questions about her short story collection Truth or Dare: and other stories (Renard Press).

Another Bookbanks stall opened this week at Wymondham Community Outreach Project, in Norfolk. The charity is seeking funding to expand across the UK.

Its chair of trustees is the novelist Neil Griffiths (Books, 15 June 2018). “The one demographic publishing has always failed to reach is the financially disadvantaged,” he said. “Cost should never be a barrier to books. Bookbanks provides this essential access, but also an important by-product — community. Reading might be a private pleasure, but talking about books connects people.”

Bookbanks ambassadors are the novelists Andrew O’Hagan and Elizabeth Day.

Mr O’Hagan, whose latest novel is Caledonian Road (Faber & Faber), said: “I am proud to be an ambassador for Bookbanks, a fabulous charity aiming to offer books — and conversation about books — to people who could use a bit of support right now. I grew up in a family that needed help, and I’ll never forget how those things formed and enlarged my sense of community.”


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