The Bookshop Band at Arts Centre

Salisbury Journal: Picture by Owen Benson Picture by Owen Benson

WHEN the delightfully-named Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath held author evenings, the owners wanted to offer the both the visiting writers and their fans something a little extra.

So they approached musician and song-writer Ben Please, and asked if he would be able to read the works ahead of book-signing events and pen a song inspired by each.

Please recruited fellow musicians Poppy Pitt and Beth Porter, and together they formed The Bookshop Band.

That was three years ago, and the group now has more than 70 songs inspired by 39 books in their repertoire, from Hilary Mantel’s 2012 Man Booker Prize winner Bring up the Bodies to classics including Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland to recent bestseller The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse.

They have recorded their works, appeared on BBC1 and Radio 4, and been described by best-selling author Patrick Gale as “charming, clever and quite unfairly talented”.

“The Bookshop Band shines fresh light on books you thought you knew,”

he adds.

The range of books the group members read keeps the work fresh and different and continually engaging, says Please.

“The bookshop chooses some really fantastic books,” he adds. “We never know what to expect or what aspect of the book will inspire the song.

“We read the books and then we get together a bit like a book group and see what comes out of it – some of the songs are funny, some are very serious.”

One of Please’s favourites is a song called Cackling Farts, inspired by Mark Forsyth’s Etymologicon.

The book is an exploration of the etymology and meaning of English words, and the title refers to an old English slang term for eggs.

Even if a book isn’t one he has particularly enjoyed, says Please, there is always something in it that drives the song-writing process.

“You can’t expect to enjoy all books equally,” he said.

“But that isn’t a commentary on their quality just that people have diverse reading tastes. If you did enjoy every book the same, then they’d all be generic and quite boring.”

For some of the authors, the performance by the group has been a surprise, while for others the writers have known that the song was going to be written but haven’t been sure what to expect.

“But the feedback has always been great,” says Please.

“Usually they are really touched that someone has written a song based on their work.”

* Acoustic Café with The Bookshop Band will be at Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday at 8.30pm.

Tickets are £10 and available from or on 01722 321744.


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