Art meets literature this summer in London as benches shaped like open books pop up all over the capital for children, families and visitors to find and enjoy. ‘Books about Town’ launched by the National Literacy Trust and Wild in Art brings a unique opportunity for the public to view 50 bench sculptures across the city, created by both local artists and famous names, to celebrate London’s literary heritage and reading for enjoyment.
The BookBenches feature stories linked to London and are based on a range of books from treasured children’s stories such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Peter Pan to classic adult titles including 1984 and The Day of the Triffids. Well-loved literary heroes such as Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Hercules Poirot also appear on benches which visitors can discover by following literary trails around London from 4 July until mid-September.
Books about Town builds on the legacy of the Olympic mascots in London in 2012 and is set to become a major tourist attraction for the city over the summer. After the exhibition, the BookBenches will be auctioned to raise valuable funds for the National Literacy Trust to tackle low literacy levels in deprived communities across the UK.
Axel Scheffler has illustrated a bench which celebrates his work with Julia Donaldson and the characters they’ve created together, including The Gruffalo and characters from their new book The Scarecrow’s Wedding. The bench is being sponsored by Scheffler’s and Donaldson’s publishers: Scholastic Children’s Books and Macmillan Children’s Publishing.
Among the other top artists involved is Ralph Steadman who illustrated Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1973 and has reproduced some of these illustrations on a unique BookBench. Children’s authors Lauren Child and Cressida Cowell have each designed benches based on their own series Clarice Bean and How To Train Your Dragon. Walker Books are sponsoring their very own We’re Going on a Bear Hunt themed BookBench, which will be illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.
“I love the idea of sitting on giant books,” author Michael Rosen says. “With the Bear Hunt big BookBench, I suppose you can say that you can’t go through it, but you can go over it, you can go under it or better still you can sit on it!”
“I am so excited to be designing a How to Train your Dragon BookBench and to be part the National Literacy Trust’s campaign to celebrate the wealth of writing and illustrating talent in this country,”Children’s author Cressida Cowell who wrote the How to Train your Dragon series says. “I am hoping that ‘Books about Town’ will remind Londoners on the streets of the joy of reading books.”