You may have heard me mention that the London Bookshop Crawl is coming up in a few weeks. It's in its 5th year now and bigger than ever and the more I talk to people about it (which I'm still super terrible at doing) the more I realise that it's not actually obvious to everyone what a bookshop crawl is or how you go about participating in one, so here is an introduction to bookshop crawling! I've included everything I could think of that might be helpful, as well as a condensed version of my Bookshop Crawl Guide for the Overwhelmed from a few years back in case you are in any way anxious about the idea of joining in.
How to Bookshop Crawl
- If you're not sure how to choose where to visit have a look at our free resources (coming very soon), some organised by area, some by underground line, some by speciality.
- If you're up for a challenge, plan your itinerary using our Bookshop Explorer Challenge, where there will be prizes up for grabs!
- Once you've chosen where you think you'd like to visit, I usually use Google maps to plan how I'll get from shop to shop. You can also check out the Big List for bookshop recommended cafes and an accessible map. Although all the participating bookshops have been added to the Big List, details of any perks & discounts, accessibility and other specifics are still being added so do keep checking back.
- If you'd like to chat to fellow bookshop crawlers ahead of the event, join us for the 2020 twitter chat at 8pm on Monday 17th February. We'll be using #LondonBookshopCrawl and talking about our plans, wishlists and all sorts of other bookish things.
- For the weekend itself, make sure you wear comfy shoes, bring lots of tote bags to carry your books in (make sure you waterproof them in case of rain!), lots of drinking water and your bookshop crawl ID card which you'll need to claim any perks or discounts on offer.
- Choose if you're going to visit any of the additional events going on during the weekend by browsing our programme.
- Check in on the hashtag over the weekend as it'll be full of bookshop love!
Now that the logistics and practical things are out of the way, here's a little bit about the spirit and expectations of bookshop crawl: The aim of all of our bookshop crawls is purely to have fun, promote friendship within the book community (by which I mean the community of people who love books, rather than any specific group or organisation - you don't have to do anything to do with books in order to join us, just read them!) and discover and support excellent, mostly independent, bookshops.
The only requirement for coming on any of the bookshop crawls is that you want to spend a few hours/days shopping for books. You can be an internet person or have heard about the crawl from a friend of a friend. I can know you or we can have never spoken before, you're equally welcome either way. The relationship between the attendees for these events are based around nothing stronger than being book lovers who are in or can get to a certain location on a specific day.
Depending on how you've chosen to participate in the bookshop crawl, there may be an itinerary on the day and generally most of the group follows it, but if you want to spend more or less time at one or all of the stops or feel the need to go off by yourself for a nap/alone time/to buy sweets during the crawl you're absolutely welcome to do that. If you're on one of our guided groups, you'll be given a contact number or twitter handle for your group leader so you can easily find out where your group is and catch up if you want to. If you're planning your own crawl you can of course do exactly what you like! You are under no obligation to come (or stay) for the whole time, but if you're leaving please let the group leader know in person or via text so they're not looking for you!
If you're worried that everyone else will know each other, see above about the totally random way in which we gather people for the events. It's very unlikely that you'll be the only new person there, but even if you feel that you are, there will be several other people who will take you under their wing and ask you boring questions about your journey and introduce you to other people until you feel more comfortable. Most years most people seem to spend most of the time reminding each other of their names and everyone still seems to have a great time so please don't worry!
A lot of people who have come or are coming on crawls feel like they are bad at meeting new people or suffer with some form of anxiety (myself included). If this is you then please do whatever you need to do to make the situation easier. Our twitter chat on Monday 17th February takes place so that people can get to know more about each other and to make it easier to put names to faces and give starting points for conversation on the day. If you want to bring a partner, sibling or friend(s) with you for support please feel free - the more the merrier! I brought three siblings, three friends and a brother-in-law on the first crawl I organised (just please remember that if you're on one of our organised routes, whoever you bring will also need a ticket - unless they're 16 or under).
If you arrive at a meeting place and have one of those moments a lot of us have probably had, where you're just unable to bring yourself to walk in or come over and say hi, please send us a message on twitter or text your group leader and they will come and find you and say hello so you don't have to walk in alone. This might sound silly to some people but I think it needs saying just in case. One of the major ways I keep my own anxiety in check is by making sure everyone else has what they need, so if you need help let me know!
There are no requirements at all for the number of books you buy on the day. On the first London Bookshop Crawl I bought the most (14) but my friend only bought one. Nobody is judging your budget. If you can afford to go crazy and buy five books in every shop by all means do, but if you can't then feel free to use the day as a way to make new book loving friends, get recommendations, add to your wishlist and discover excellent bookshops to revisit when in more affluent times! It's all about the experience, not how much you buy.
Basically I want to make fun events that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and I want to make lots of new book lover friends. That is the aim of all of our Bookshop Crawls so if you're thinking about coming please bite the bullet and just do it, we'd love to meet you.
Got other questions we didn't answer here? Please ask them in the comments!