For this summer only the National Literacy Trust has paired with Wild in Art to create the BookBench Trail, commissioning stunning book-cover inspired benches to litter the streets of London for your wonder and delight.These benches will later be sold in October at auction and the money raised will be used to improve literacy for disadvantaged children in the UK. I’m a huge supporter of this cause so I’ve made it my mission to see at least two of the four BookBench trails before they’re gone.
As I was in London to see the 1984 play at the end of last month, I decided to go on the Bloomsbury trail so that I could observe my favourite novel in this new and unique form. I was most disappointed to see that it had been taken away to be repaired.
But I did find the building that inspired the Ministry of Love close by.
Although I missed Peter Pan and Pride and Prejudice due to limited time and a debilitating lack of direction, I did manage to find the majority of the benches on the trail (apologies for the poor quality of some of these images, but I am not a photographist):
I also found the Jules Verne bench inside Stanfords at Convent Garden. This is possibly my second favourite after The Lion, the Witch and the the Wardrobe:
You may have noted that I didn’t take photos of the front of some of these benches. This is because the general public are irritating pricks.
I don’t mean to sound like a crotchety old woman (although those three words are an accurate portrayal of my personality) but I truly believe the average human being can’t be trusted with nice things.
These benches are on a plinth with a small informative plaque to the side. They are also a weird curved shape, made from fibreglass (the most uncomfortable material to make a bench out of), most are placed in a central location and they are all carefully and beautifully painted. So why would anyone sit on them?
I know what you’re going to say. “Erm…but they’re benches.” But they’re on a plinth. From childhood we are taught anything on a plinth is not to be touched, is probably expensive and may be some sort of art. I sat on one of the benches to see if it felt as uncomfortable as it looked, and I can confirm that they are not designed for perching on. It felt fragile and strange and I was on a plinth.
But okay, to a certain extent it is to be expected that people would sit on them to pose or to irritate those wanting to look at them. However, I got the oddest reaction when I asked people if they could move so I could take a photograph. I was nice, perhaps even creepily polite (I didn’t ask anyone to move who were eating their lunch), but I was confronted with shock, glances of disgust and appalled, nervous laughter.
The worst was the Importance of Being Earnest bench. When I apologetically asked whether two men in their early twenties could stand for a moment, they looked at me as if I had just asked them to take their trousers off and provide their best Roger Moore impression. They gave each other a confused glance to determine whether they should bother to comply or not before, huffing and puffing in annoyance, they finally stood, ensuring to hover impatiently beside me to really make sure I knew how much I had put them out. As I thanked them and walked away their eyes followed me, apparently both completely vexed at my impertinence.
Other than encountering the kind of people that manage to effortlessly ruin other people’s fun, this BookBench trail was a lovely way to spend the day. Especially as I ate this afterwards:
And experienced this tree:
So, all in all a good day. If only there weren’t so many people in London…
If you would also like to have a look at the benches on the Bloomsbury trail click here for the map. There are a total of four maps to choose from Books About Town (Greenwich, City, Riverside and Bloomsbury) and you can visit them until 15th September.