about the bookshop crawl
What is a bookshop crawl?
A bookshop crawl encourages participants (bookshop crawlers) to visit as many bookshops as they feel they can. It could be just 2, or it could be 10 or more - the current record is 15 in one day, but it’s not all about the numbers, more about the discovery, and of course it depends on the location as some cities have more than others!
During our bookshop crawl events many participating shops will be offering freebies, discounts or other special perks with your bookshop crawl ID (available in the Welcome pack) and there may be additional events happening during the bookshop crawl period, both in bookshops and online.
We ask crawlers to post about their experiences on social media (using #BookshopCrawl or #LondonBookshopCrawl (or individual hashtags for each location)). You could tell us where you went, what books you bought or would recommend others to buy, whether you grabbed some amazing freebies or discounts, or met some new bookish friends. Every bookshop crawl has a Welcome Pack and you can use the Big List of bookshops to plan your own route, follow our downloadable itineraries or even join one of our Group Bookshop Crawls.
Although we now bookshop crawl around the country, London is our original event and remains an annual fixture of the bookshop crawl calendar (in February every year). This is purely because of the number and variety of bookshops and literary experiences it offers. This is also the reason that the London Bookshop Crawl runs for a weekend while bookshop crawls in other locations may only run for a day.
Is it free?
Throughout the years we have kept one aim - we do not (and never plan to) charge bookshops to register for the event, and we try to always offer a free option for bookshop crawlers too.
We are an entirely self funded organisation, so if you do choose to pay a few pounds for your Welcome Pack, or to buy tickets for one of our Group Bookshop Crawls or ticketed events you are helping us to pay our running costs and we’re very grateful! Find out more about our current fundraising goals and all the things we have on offer through our Ko-fi page, where you can also support our events by buying us a coffee or 3!
Where Else Do you run Bookshop Crawls?
We’ve always run bookshop crawls in other locations during the Spring and Summer. In 2023 our bookshop crawls have been in Bath (April), Oxford (June), York (August) and Canterbury (October), with our first collaborative bookshop crawls for Cheltenham Literature Festival and Bloomsbury Festival also running in October. Find out more and book tickets or get Welcome Packs for Group Bookshop Crawls here.
If you represent an organisation or event who would be interested in having us run a bookshop crawl for you, please get in touch!
What are the Benefits of Coming on a Bookshop Crawl?
Meeting other people who love books and love visiting bookshops! Being a bookish person can be (not always, but often) be quite solitary, and myself and lots of people I know grew up without many people to talk books with. The Bookshop Crawl exists in part to change this and introduce you to new book loving people. By coming on a bookshop crawl, in whatever way you participate, you’re also supporting bookshops, which is always absolutely essential, but especially in the non-summer months which can often be quieter in retail.
During the bookshop crawl there will also often be discounts & freebies on offer, so at the same time as supporting bookshops, meeting people, sharing book recommendations and discovering wonderful bookshops, you get a little bonus for yourself!
The final benefit (and a big one) of coming on one of our Bookshop Crawls is that we’ll organise the itinerary for you! For the London Bookshop Crawl, whether you come on a Group Bookshop Crawl or use the Welcome Pack to do your own thing, we’ve got pre-planned itineraries for you to follow in different areas, so you just have to pick where you want to go and let us do the rest! Especially in London, the number of amazing bookshops can be overwhelming so a pre-planned itinerary can be a great place to start. In other locations where there are many fewer bookshops we only offer pre-planned itineraries to Group Bookshop Crawls, but the Big List map with all the information is always available in the Welcome Pack and makes planning your day easy!
Why are your groups always full?
We like to keep our groups on the smaller side for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it's easier to feel comfortable and get to chat with everyone in a smaller group, and secondly because often the bookshops we visit aren't huge so a big group would overwhelm them and feel overwhelming for us! Because our Group Bookshop Crawls are always for 10-15 people and we are a 2 person team with a handful of wonderful volunteers, we are always limited on the amount of space we can provide on Group Bookshop Crawls. If you would like to volunteer to help us out at future events, we would love to hear from you. Please email email@example.com.
We do always do our best to make sure that there is an option for you to join in on your own, or with family and friends if the groups are full, with a Welcome Pack that is full of additional resources to help you plan.
Why do I have to pay for the Group Bookshop Crawl?
The short answer is, because they take time to plan and lead, and we deserve to be paid for our time!
Our Group Bookshop Crawls are ticketed events which run over a period of 2 - 4 hours depending. You are paying to come along to meet other bookish people, and to be led around a pre-planned itinerary of bookshops & bookish locations and to have the time and space to chat with other book lovers about books and explore a location in a different way. This takes a lot of planning as well as the time it takes to actually lead a group, and the ticket costs of our group bookshop crawls have always been a major way that we are able to cover the costs of running our bookshop crawls, so by booking a ticket you're helping us to continue being able to run our events and introduce you all to bookshops all over the UK, as well as giving yourself space and time to indulge your love of books and bookshops!
If you would like to join in with the bookshop crawl but don't want to pay for a group, that is fine and you can always download the Welcome Pack which exists (as a free, or pay as you feel download from our shop) exactly for this reason. The only exceptions to this are bookshop crawls that we run as collaborations with festivals or outside organisations, where we do not produce a Welcome Pack as they are individual events within a bigger programme.
How did it start?
London Bookshop Crawl started in 2016. Having moved out of London after growing up there, I realised I hadn’t really explored the bookshops of the city beyond Foyles, and I sent out a tweet asking if anyone would be interested in exploring the bookshops of the city a bit more with me. People did, and thus the bookshop crawl was born!
In that first year, 30+ bookshop crawlers took part all in one big group, visiting 7 bookshops. This was followed by our first Bath bookshop crawl in the summer with many of the same people and some new ones. In our second year some lovely human’s somewhere on the internet shared the event and suddenly we had over 1000 people wanting to join in! A mad scramble to organise followed and the first Group Bookshop Crawls were born. Having them all meet in the Foyles cafe while also trying to do an interview for student radio is something I will never forget, and was a definite learning experience! That year’s summer bookshop crawl happened in Oxford with a stop for pizza for lunch, an ice cream break in the afternoon, and ended at Tolkien’s pub with friends and family.
By 2018 the London Bookshop Crawl as we now know it was born - I emailed all the bookshops I could find asking them to join in, we expanded to start on the Friday with our Bunk off and Book Shop event, and ended on the Sunday with our now traditional behind the scenes tours of the British Library, and so we continue. In 2018 we visited Canterbury (my local city) for the Summer Bookshop Crawl and had a pretty unforgettable experience on the roof of Waterstones as well as a brilliant chat from a local archivist with all kinds of exciting literary tidbits.
In 2020 the London Bookshop Crawl celebrated its 5th birthday at the end of February, with lots of events and exciting plans for the future… which promptly had to change as we got to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic. Our 2021 bookshop crawls were all online or socially distanced, as we ran the first 10 location bookshop crawl in the summer. They were so much fun and gave us valuable insight into running hybrid events which we now try to bring to all our bookshop crawls so you can join in in some way wherever you are!
Our return to in person bookshop crawling happened in 2022, but the arrival of Storm Eunice on the Friday of London Bookshop Crawl meant our plans had to change, fast! We made up for it later in the year by running the 2nd of our multi location Summer Bookshop Crawls, and the Big Welsh Bookshop Crawl, with Groups running in Hay on Wye and Cardiff.
2023 was our 8th year and during the London Bookshop Crawl we were able to run our full programme of wonderful events, including our first ever offline attempt at the Big Bookish Quiz, raising money for literacy charities. We will have run more bookshop crawls than ever before by the end of 2023, and to continue to travel, explore bookshops and introduce them to new fans is incredible.
The bookshop crawl is currently an event funded solely through ticket sales and kind donations from those who like what we do. You can support us on a pay as you feel basis when registering for your Welcome Pack, and/or on a one-off donation basis by buying us a coffee (or three)! We also have membership tiers available for those who'd like to become monthly friends of the bookshop crawl. Proceeds from any ticketed events also go towards covering our running costs, and if you'd like some awesome bookshop crawl merchandise, you can find that in our shop as well.