Word on the Water

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Perched on a leafy bend of the King's Cross canal, sits London's best and only floating bookshop: let me introduce you to Word on the Water. The bookbarge - brainchild of Paddy Screech - was opened in 2011, but has since been forever in flux. Having finally secured a permanent mooring, Word on the Water is now anchored inside Granary Square; up until recently it bobbed up and down Regent's Canal, cruising between Camden Lock, Angel, Paddington, and Hackney, and staying for only up to two weeks in each mooring. Laws are weird. But power to the people! In early June, 6,000 people signed an online petition to save Word on the Water: the Canal & River Trust surrendered, heads bowed and cheeks crimson, offering the bookshop a permanent home in King's Cross.

The bookshop spills onto the towpath and catches its prey like a venus fly-trap; we're lured in closer by the jazz, ensnared by the second-hand paperbacks and finally held hostage by the sofas and the wood-burning stove. But a death, this is not: it's a bookworm's Paradise. 

Step onboard the 1920s Dutch barge to find its inside low-ceilinged but surprisingly labyrinthine. Tell me it time travels and I probably wouldn't bat an eyelid. 

On the rooftop sits a resident saxophonist, whose dulcet tones lull the unsuspecting customer into a jazzy bliss. The barge is also host to poetry slams, live music, and other literary events.

"We're not aiming at what people want, we're trying to make people want what we give them" says Paddy Screech. What a Scream! Probably not the most obvious business model, but it does make a certain sense. We couldn't have dreamed of a floating bookshop, let alone 'wanted' it. But hand it over on a plate, ready-made, and we'll devour it.

 Word on the Water has fought the corporate, the council, and the Kindle, but still it bobs along. The written word floats, I hope.


Word on the Water is open Tuesday to Sunday from 12-7pm. 
They are now permanently moored inside Granary Square, 
near King's Cross station, London.

Find them on Facebook: facebook.com/wordonthewater
Find them on Twitter: twitter.com/wordonthewater

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