Find your tribe. Hold them close.
I have finally found mine. And it is all thanks to the proclaimed ‘town of books‘, situated on the Welsh and English border.
The drive to this unique place is a picturesque one and denotes what is to follow. Sprawling fields in a green so vivid as to defy the sky its overcast monotony stand guard on either side of the twisting lane that leads to heaven. Or, at least that is what Hay-on-Wye feels like to any self-confessed bookworm, such as myself.
Reason 1,001 why I want to live in Hay: outdoor honesty bookshops built into castle grounds. . . #bookstagram2017 #bibliophile #bookstagram #igbooks #igreads #instabook #instareads #bookdragon #booknerd #booknerdigan #bookworm #bookgeek #bookgram #booklove #booklover #booklion #booklife #bookish #amreading #bookpic #bookporn #bookphoto #bookphotography #bookshopping #bookstagrammeetup #hayonwye #penguinbooks #classicbooks #vintagebooks
On my immediate arrival to this quaint and isolated little town, I was struck by its remarkable difference to the rest of the world. And this difference isn’t something that any words can describe. It is a quality in the air, perhaps, that makes this place so serene and yet so thriving. It is the presence of so many books on so many topics that make each individual have a smile to give and a pleasantry to pass, even to strangers than come from ‘out’ such as myself. This is a place self-contained and yet accepting of those who infiltrate their tight ranks. It is something that is uniquely Hay. Something that can’t be recreated, retold, or recanted.
In short, this place has a magic to it. And that is without the thirty or so bookshops that give this small town both its notoriety and its appeal to outsiders.
This collection of bookshops was the spot chosen for the first (and hopefully annual!) bookstagram meet-up. This inclusive community of book lovers, of which I am proud to call myself a part of, crossed oceans and travelled thousands of miles to meet fellow like-minded individuals who they had only ever before had the chance to meet over the internet. Or, like me, they hopped in the car and drove an hour or so up the road.
We met amongst the collection of yellowed pages and cracked spines this town is home to. We lost ourselves amongst shelves that mingled antiquity with modernity and found ourselves again in the meeting of others doing the exact same thing. Our excited energy was too much to contain and the town welcomed our liberal outpourings of emotion.
The success of this meeting was as much to do with the individuals as well as the place, itself. For each wonderful bookshop, both small and large, both indoors and out, had a charm that was purely its own but also something purely… Hay!
We attended a welcome meeting, which felt more like being reunited with old friends than meeting new ones for the first time. We drank book-themed cocktails. We attended talks from both a local author and a presentation from a Scottish print-maker, who were equally as enamoured with this place as we were. We learnt from a panel of the most notorious and famed of bookstagrammers on how to hone our craft and to continue to love what we do.
We were gifted with swag from notorious publishers and it felt like the world was watching our meeting. Or, at least the part of the world that counted to us.
We found ourselves in stacks of books…
…and lost ourselves there, as well.
We parted and vowed never to forget each other and the times we shared.
And I know we won’t.
It may feel odd to speak of a place as I have done, but only those who have visited will be able to the understand the feelings this place evokes. We all found a piece ourselves in Hay-on-Wye, and we all left a part of our soul there, as well.
A big thank you to Anne from AddyMan Books, Ruth from Richard Booth’s Bookshop and Siobhan from @thehalcyondaysofusmmer for organising this event. I will see you all next year.