Words by Smiley Team
Confronted by library closures across the country, cultural historian and researcher Sofia Akel launched a campaign during lockdown to overcome barriers to reading. What started as a fundraiser to hand out a few books to people who couldn’t afford or access them, culminated most recently into a festival promoting equality in literature, Free Books Fest.
Held in South London on 16 and 17 April, the festival will offer free books and events for people of all ages. These will include a free bookshop and reading lounge, creative workshops and talks.
Festival-goers can hear from acclaimed writers such as Candice Carty-Williams and Dapo Adeola. They can attend book signings, story writing workshops and much more.
Describing how she hopes the event will unfold, Sofia tells Smiley News: “I just want people to have a really good time, to get to take some free books home, and hopefully, it might even help someone who has never had the chance to buy a book before.”
Growing up, Sofia’s local library offered a haven of knowledge, stories and characters which in part shaped her into the academic and campaigner that she is today. But now, so few people have access to libraries with almost 800 across the country having closed due to austerity.
“That means thousands and thousands of people no longer have access to books, which is simply going to continue to widen inequalities,” she says.
So during the UK’s second lockdown, she decided to start fundraising to get books to those who can’t afford or access books across the UK and Ireland. As word spread of her initiative, people started getting in touch to offer her funding and with their help the campaign quickly ballooned.
DONATE: Help get more books to people who can’t afford them by donating to Free Books Campaign.
ATTEND: Find Free Books Fest at The Copeland Gallery, Unit 9I, Copeland Park, 133 Copeland Rd, London SE15 3SN.