It’s any book-lover’s, boat-lover’s, dammit London-lover’s dream: a 100 year-old Dutch barge converted into a floating library, moored on Regent’s Canal in leafy, tranquil west London. We’re talking about Word on the Water, London’s only floating bookshop. As well as selling second-hand paperbacks at two for a fiver and kids’ books for a quid (take that, Amazon!), for the last four years book barge man Chris Screech and his crew (including his cat) have been serving up acoustic sets, poetry readings and general good vibes like they’ve never even heard of Jeff Bezos.
But this easygoing, buoyant cultural community may soon be sunk like so many discarded Sainsbury’s trolleys. As we reported back in August, the Canal & River Trust has been reviewing pitches for the area’s rare and precious permanent trade moorings, including one from Word on the Water (photographs of which they use liberally to illustrate their promotional materials). Last week, it announced that the two moorings have been awarded to £12 billion property development company British Land. The winning proposal? A coffee shop and an information centre. Which is all very nice, but in a city with approximately 42 billion (give or take) coffee shops already, we reckon the Paddington Basin should be allowed to hold on to its slice of literary loveliness.
With both spaces going to British Land, Word on the Water will have to close permanently, unless the Canal & River Trust can be persuaded to reverse its decision. Do you want to stand up for independent community projects and the power of the written word? Head to change.org to sign the petition, watch the campaign video here and do what you can to help save Word on the Water.
By Ellen Hardy