Frome Small Publishers’ Fair

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On a drizzly Saturday in Frome, like-minded creatives – from small, independent presses and writing collectives to illustrators and local writers – gathered in the Silk Mill for the return of the Frome Small Publishers’ Fair.

Having started in 2016, this event runs annually, but 2022 was its first year back after lockdowns – and it was also my first time attending. I went in not quite knowing what to expect, and came away with incredible connections in the industry, some fascinating insight into areas I wasn’t familiar with (like creating hand-bound books!) and a bag of free bread. Granted, the latter wasn’t entirely connected to the actual event, but it did fuel me through the day – go carbs!

While I was volunteering, I did the rounds and spoke to as many of the stall-holders as I could. Here are a few of the highlights.

Frome Society for Local Study (FSLS)

The aim of the FSLS is to ‘record Frome’s past and protect its future’, so amongst the collection on display at the fair were essays and stories about the local area and its history, books by the stall-holder and FSLS Vice Chair David Lassman, and various iterations of the society’s annual yearbook, which comprise articles about Frome and the surrounding areas.

Here’s what David had to say about the event:

“It’s absolutely fantastic what Frome Writers’ Collective do, and it’s so good to be back at the Small Publishers’ Fair. Long may it continue!’

Mendip Children’s Book Group (CBG)

Set up in 2018, Mendip CBG are part of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and their aim is to get children enthused in reading from an early age. They run a monthly Proof Pudding Book Club (an idea kindly borrowed from Hunting Raven, Frome’s wonderful independent book store), which is a great space for teenagers to read and discuss Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of books soon to be published.

For an extra slice of awesome: if you’re local to the area, you may have heard the story of the Shepton Mallet library being under threat of closure back in 2019. The news rallied the locals and the town ended up saving their local library – exactly the kind of good news we need in these times. And now Helen Heaton (Chairperson of Mendip CBG) and her husband Rob are creating a picture book to commemorate the event, which has been funded on Kickstarter.

The Write Place

Writers are, arguably, some of the most skilled procrastinators going. Our ability to let even the most minor distractions lure us away from our work is unparalleled. As such, there is a dire need for somewhere for writers on a deadline to hole up and Get The Words Written! Fortunately for Frome, we have The Write Place, a peaceful studio space open every day with space to work distraction-free.

What’s more, when you sign up to join, not only do you get to meet other local writers using the space, you can take part in the monthly WriteDay workshops that dedicate a whole day to writing, including prompts to get you started and a soup lunch to keep you going.

Thread Tales

Jaxy and Jasmine on the Thread Tales stall had a variety of their literary-themed gifts on display, from stickers and hand-bound notebooks to leather pouches and bookmarks, all designed and made within the family.

The duo also run regular workshops on all manner of fun, creative activities, such as making your own bound notebooks, story cubes, ‘jelly painting’, and even creative writing workshops, all centred around the idea of promoting well-being through art.

Jo & Nic’s Crinkly Books

Jo and Nicola have created an amazing range of sensory toys in the form of ‘crinkly’ newspapers, and they have over 50 titles based on nursery rhymes. Chatting to Jo at the fair, she talked about the importance of early development and how children learn to read and talk using tone and rhythm, something these toys help with (and they’re machine-washable – bonus!).

Jo also does the illustrations for Clare Vowell’s Nurdle books, a wonderful series that aims to teach children about recycling and the dangers of microplastics in the sea.

Sally Barnett

Sally is an illustrator and designer using pen and ink as her primary medium. She has done commissions for the National Portrait Gallery, National Trust, Mendip Health Connectors, and our very own Frome Writers’ Collective.

Sally has attended the Small Publishers Fair four times now, and here’s what she had to say:

“I love it! It has such a fantastic atmosphere and I always get to meet lots of interesting people.”

Website: https://sallybarnett.co.uk/

Instagram: @sallybarnettart

Adele Deane – The Dormouse who got Half a Million Pounds

Oh, to be such a lucky dormouse! This wonderful children’s book is based on a true story. When the author, Adele Deane, relocated to Somerset in 2020, a property she liked the look of in Crewkerne came with redevelopment plans for the land opposite, and within those plans was a surprisingly large sum reserved for protecting the wildlife.

From this, Hazel Dormouse was born into a story for young children that aims to highlight how important it is to look after wildlife and protect endangered species.

Find the book on Amazon and in local bookstores.

Sam Grant

Sam Grant is another local author who writes across a whole mix of genres, from sci-fi (Galactic Mission) to romantic thriller (Dancing on the Beach) to plays, poetry and short stories.

Website: https://samgrantpublications.wordpress.com/

Find his books on Amazon and in local bookstores.

Liz Hutchinson

Whether you’re looking for books with a local flavour or those set somewhere further abroad, Liz Hutchinson has something for you. Her historical fiction captures 17th Century Frome during a time of religious and societal upheaval (Dissenters), and the story of a woman desperate to find her own destiny in Byzantine Greece (Sigura).

Find her books on Amazon and in local bookstores.

John Chandler

Historian and publisher, John Chandler, sees himself as playing an enlightened part in the development of local history publishing, which is now, he says, entering a new and exciting phase. Through Hobnob Press, he aims to serve the local history community in the west country, by enabling them to see manuscripts which might not attract a commercial publisher into print.

Website: https://www.hobnobpress.co.uk/

© Jess Lawrence 2022

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