Friday, 4 April 2014

Book Launch Party

"You've Got Mail":
Kathleen Kelly, independent book shop owner, attends a
book launch and nearly gets her knife into Joe Fox, wealthy owner of big
impersonal corporate chain Fox Books, which is threatening to
put her out of business. The tension and mutual hostility is fired
by witty repartee and cutting insults.
Is this what a book launch party is like??

Have you ever been to a book launch party? Until last night, I hadn't. I didn't know what to expect. The only ones I've ever "seen" have been scenes on screen, like the one above. Invariably they are suffused with snobbishness and back-stabbing amongst the literary "intelligentsia". And caviar.

Things are different though when the book being launched is not about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg but one about helping more women overcome barriers to and enjoy the benefits of cycling. 

Last night, I attended the official launch of The Girls' Cycling Handbook by Caz Nicklin. I was honoured to be asked by Caz back in February to review this book in advance of the launch - my write up is here

So here we were at Look Mum No Hands! in trendy Hackney (not Manhattan's 'old money' Upper West Side) celebrating the launch of Caz's book. The atmosphere was far from tense, stuffy or competitive. The small group chatting when we arrived was friendly and welcoming. I quickly fell into conversation with Alex Davis, LMNH's brand new (two weeks) social media manager and discovered mutual interests in culture, commuting and bags.

From there, conversations flowed and morphed one into another, punctuated by laughter and occasional hugs and a few photographs.

Baskets of books plus a range of helmets from Bern.

Lavinia Smith getting ready for an onslaught of book purchases!
Lavinia is Caz's business partner at When I had to
exchange something I'd bought from them, Lavinia delivered the
replacement item straight to my workplace herself.
She's a Customer Service Perfectionist!

Caz signing copies of her book.

Caz signing my copy of her book.

Karrie (sp?) from the publishers Quercus introducing Caz.
The idea for the book was Karrie's - she approached Caz asking her
to write it, on the back of the Cyclechic blog that Caz had been
writing for seven years.

The room was comfortably full by this point.
Men and women from all walks of life -- all interested in cycling
and encouraging more people to cycle. 

Speech! Speech! Caz talks about the inspirations, long conversations,
collaborations and hard work that went into the book. 

And of course there are people to mention and thank for their contributions,
advice and support along the way. Special thanks (and bouquets of flowers)
went to Karrie and Lavinia.

One of the highlights of the evening (for me) was getting a tap on the shoulder and turning around to see a face that was somehow-familiar-but-I-don't-know-why... until the young lady jogged my memory with mentions of "train" and "Brompton". It was Sophia Kakembo! We used to be on the same train going into work each morning from south London. She had a Micro Scooter that she used for part of her commute, while I had my Brompton. One morning she spoke to me on the train, asking about my bicycle. We struck up an immediate rapport and had many lively chats on subsequent mornings, but then -- as often happens without one being immediately aware -- we didn't see each other any more. Turns out, not only had I moved away but so had she. And she now has a Brompton of her own and is happily working as Corporate Communications Manager for a small but flourishing start-up business called 'havebike', which provides on-site bicycle servicing (with clients including police, fire and ambulance services nationwide).

Sophia and me.

Jools Walker (blogger Lady Velo, The Cycle Show presenter and Vulpine lynchpin ) made it to the party a little late, having travelled two hours from her office... with a blinding migraine! What a trooper.

Jools and me.

And Rachel Bonney of Michaux was there. Another talented lady living life to the full, all on her bicycle. I am still loving the bag I bought from her soon after she launched. Turns out, that model got dropped soon afterwards. In fact, she told me last night that the one I have is one of only a handful ever made. (Rarity value, anyone?!)

Sophia, Jools, Rachel and me.

On the wall behind us was a slideshow of images including many from the book. I noticed that whenever one of the hand-drawn illustrations went up, a woman next to us struck a pose for a friend with a camera. Turns out, she was the illustrator!  Check out Willa Gebbie. You'll be surprised to see how many places you've already seen her work -- magazines, fashion shows, Boots advertising campaigns. Willa said learning to draw bicycles was a challenging departure from doing faces and clothes, but she enjoyed every minute and is proud of the results. Justifiably, I'd say! Her delicate, precise drawings and paintings are a charming feature of the book, as I said in my review.

"I did that!" says a delighted Willa.

The entire evening was so much fun -- very informal and lively -- and it was lovely to meet up with old friends and meet some new ones. The time flew by much too quickly before we had to say our goodbyes and make the journey back home.

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