Stories Waiting Inside

01 Mar 2021

By Natalie Jayne Clark and Mira Waligora

All good things must come to an end and what better way to end the 2021 Paisley Book Festival than with a celebration of books through the sweet and lovely music of Beth and Ben in The Bookshop Band.

Throughout this festival we have seen events explore the idea of stories and histories. On the relationships between people and families, places, of objects. After a year of limited interactions and real-life connections this was an absolute treat.

The Bookshop Band tells stories about stories. They sing songs about books, sometimes about the whole book and sometimes about a single line or element of the story (as in We are the Foxes which is our favourite song of theirs). One song, once Upon a time, is just first lines of books, how many can you recognise?

Beth and Ben’s music has an ethereal quality about it. Maybe because the stories they tell are so unique and each song is its own microcosm, and the way they perform them transports you straight into the heart of a universe of the book they are singing about. There really isn’t anything quite like it.

Beth’s voice is haunting; the movement from swinging the bow over the deep strings to plucking them individually, and his transitions between ukulele and guitar all add to the experience.

Throughout the festival, it’s been beautiful to see all of the artists perform from their homes. To see inside their stories. The Bookshop Band performed from a space that could not be more fitting of their music - their jumpers, with the fireplace in the background all gave a cosy feel – the feeling that we were all cooried up together sharing these songs, albeit in our own houses.

This blog is being co-written by Natalie and Mira. We’ve been friends for over a decade now and we have experienced countless live acts – music, dancing, comedy – from the tiny five-audience comedy shows in pub basements at the Edinburgh Fringe to the huge heaving music gigs at the SECC in Glasgow and everything in between.

This event, watched concurrently in our own homes in separate cities and discussed live via WhatsApp, made us reminisce the myriad memories we have made together. It was tinged with the melancholy of our current lack of connection – with each other and with others. There are few things that bring back memories as vividly as music – like when we both saw The Bookshop Band a few years ago together at the Mitchell Library in a beautiful room filled with antique books – such a perfect setting.

Neither of us had heard anything like it before. Mira had first heard them in Paris and booked tickets for her and Natalie as soon as she heard they were playing in Scotland. They had a guest book for us to sign and blethered with us for a very long time after and we cannot wait to see them live again soon.

Between plunging us into worlds of books, Ben and Beth kept returning to the theme of this year’s Paisley Book Festival of Radical New Futures. They pondered the future of bookshops. We all have a fondness for a good bookshop, a place where you can ‘sink into a book and settle down’ and where there are ‘stories waiting inside’. That is why Paisley Book Festival’s partnership with has been a phenomenal one. And a hopeful one for the future of booksellers, bookshops and book readers.

Beth and Ben’s performance at Paisley Book Festival 2021 was soul-reaching, reminding us of the power of stories and encouraging us to swing and sway along at home. We must admit, it’s strange to have garnered all of this energy from an event and to have nowhere to ‘spend’ that energy and we look forward to future conversations in the venues and in the pubs again.

We are in awe of Paisley Book Festival 2021. What has been cultivated, curated, cultured and connected via the online space has been extraordinary.

Thank you to Jess and Keira for producing such a wonderful festival, thanks to all the Paisley/Renfrewshire organisations, to the authors and curators and the audience for coming to this event. We can’t wait to share more stories with you soon.

If you missed Festival Finale: The Bookshop Band you can watch again with this link until 26th March. The Bookshop Band's albums are available here to purchase