A Day of Books

Ciara Hickey visits Belfast Exposed for a spot of book binding and an informal take on the Q&A format

To launch the opening of a new art bookshop and library in the entrance of Belfast Exposed, Rachel Brown and Brighdin Farren, the curatorial duo who have recently taken up post at the gallery, held a one-off, day long event celebrating and investigating self publication and various aspects of book production.

The activities on offer ranged from a series of one-to-one sessions with representatives from independent publishing houses and graphic designers; talks with writers and publishers; workshops and a 6 hour magazine challenge where a magazine was made from scratch over the course of the day.

Speakers at the event included Maria Fusco, head of art writing at Goldsmiths, London; James Brook of Bookworks, London; and Daniel Jewesbury of Centrifugal, Sequence IV, a project that brings together artists and theorists from three European cities, Helsinki, Zagreb and Belfast, to explore themes such as urban typologies and the rebuilding of post-conflict urban settings.

The key purpose of the day was to provide access to information and create an unintimidating, unpretentious forum for people interested in the same field to meet and support one another.

A distinctly chilled out Sunday afternoon vibe prevented the day from becoming too heavy and academic. Tea, coffee and snacks were available, and a comfortable seating area; whilst the Belfast Exposed folks encouraged people to browse through the collection at the new shop and library.

The one-to-one sessions, rather than nervous pitches to potential publishers or employers, were fluid conversations where any question, no matter how basic, was met with supportive and informative advice from people at the top of their game. The bookbinding workshop I took part in showed how to make a beautifully bound book from scratch: an eye opening creative experience.

It was also healthy, and worth mentioning, that so many people who work in the arts here in Northern Ireland turned up for the event. As I looked around the table I saw Belfast graphic designers, artists, university lecturers, students and people who had walked in off the street sitting beside each other, working together, asking if they could borrow their neighbour’s ruler.

This event may not be everyone’s idea of an ideal Sunday afternoon, being more of an informal professional development session than something for all the family. However, it is exciting that such an impressive resource was open and available to the people of Belfast, and all completely free of charge.

With the Black Books Fair happening just around the corner in the Black Box, Sunday was a positive day for readers, writers and those interested in getting involved in publishing in Belfast.