Walking Book Club raises funds for Ukraine appeal

Emily's Walking Book Club started out on Hampstead Heath in 2012 and has grown to have 1,000 members

Emily's Walking Book Club started out on Hampstead Heath in 2012 and has grown to have 1,000 members - Credit: Courtesy of Emily Rhodes

Emily Rhodes started her Walking Book Club a decade ago while working in Hampstead's Daunt Books.

And her monthly walks on the Heath have grown to nearly 1,000 members and inspired similar ventures worldwide.

Her next two events feature a novel by a Ukrainian author with proceeds going to the humanitarian appeal for the war torn country.

"I was working in Daunt in South End Road and wanted to find a way of bringing the books onto the Heath," said the Islington resident.

"I got the idea for a walking book club that works just like a normal book club, but rather than sitting around someone's table or living room, we walk and talk."

After leaving Daunt she continued the club which "really thrived over the pandemic".

Emily Rhodes

Emily Rhodes - Credit: Maria Pogorzaly

"What was great was we were able to meet outside when the rules allowed but also grew an international crowd online who can join in over Zoom."

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Members meet outside Daunts, having read the nominated book, and pay a £5 voluntary fee "although it's for everyone so if you can't pay it's fine".

"We have a lot of people now and it can be hard to walk in one massive group, so I get the conversation going by asking a question or suggesting a theme and people split naturally into groups of four or five.

"The Mixed Bathing Pond is a great spot to catch up and start the next topic, we have five or six stops. It's wonderful because it means no one person can dominate, everyone contributes, and if there's someone you don't much like, you can escape - although some amazing friendships have formed which is lovely."

Emily's Walking Book Club will discuss Andrey Kurkov's Death and the Penguin

Emily's Walking Book Club will discuss Andrey Kurkov's Death and the Penguin in Regent's Park on May 20 and Hampstead Heath on May 22 - Credit: Supplied

The Hampstead Heath walk on May 22 and another in Regent's Park on May 20 as part of the Daunt Books Festival in Marylebone will discuss Andrey Kurkov's surreal tragicomic novel Death And The Penguin.

"It's set in post Soviet Kyiv in the '90s and is about an aspiring journalist who has a pet penguin and gets this job that seems like a brilliant opportunity writing obits, but which transpires into something darker. It's written in a black comic style with horror and absurdity.

"Everyone wants to send money and help the people of Ukraine but it's also important to have some cultural awareness about the country, and celebrate its writers. Reading place names like Kyiv and Odesa in a different context makes the landscape of this novel quite powerful."

Emily's Walking Book Club is in Regent's Park on May 20, on Hampstead Heath on May 22 or on Zoom on May 23. Sign up to her newsletter at https://emilyswalkingbookclub.substack.com/ or book online atwww.eventbrite.com/e/emilys-walking-book-club-may-death-and-the-penguin-tickets-302596252537