Unhappy ending to story of annual bookfair

PUBLISHED: 10:30 28 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:46 06 May 2010

A POPULAR annual Christmas event in St Albans Town Hall will be missing this year. Paton s book fair has been a regular fixture in the old courtroom and adjoining lobby of the Town Hall for many years. And even though Paton s Bookshop in Holywell Hill has

A POPULAR annual Christmas event in St Albans Town Hall will be missing this year.

Paton's book fair has been a regular fixture in the old courtroom and adjoining lobby of the Town Hall for many years.

And even though Paton's Bookshop in Holywell Hill has closed, the owner Richard Child was keen to continue the fair which operates throughout most of December.

But when he applied to use the courtroom - after holding the fair in what is now Merchants Tea and Coffee last year - he was told that it was being refurbished and would be unavailable.

He was also told it would only be used for filming and educational purposes in the future .

Earlier this month Richard was contacted to see if he wanted to go ahead with the book fair because part of the refurbishment could not be completed until the New Year.But the offer came too late to set it up and he had to turn it down.

Richard said: "It came too late in the day. For us to do a Book Fair, it needs a lot of organisation. The very least time would have been a month."

He said there were plans to develop the book fair in conjunction with St Albans Arts - STARTS - which now operates the Town Hall including visits by local and national authors and events for children.

And Paton's also planned to extend the range of books with a particular emphasis on local ones and last year had introduced portable oak shelving to improve the presentation.

Richard said they would be delighted to be able to return to the old courtroom next year, particularly as STARTS had indicated it would be possible to have access to the lobby area as well

But he ruled out a move up to the Assembly Room because there were already a series of bookings to use it and it would be impractical with heavy books.

Richard added: "For the book fair to work it needs to be in a busy central location and the Town Hall works well. We used to have people come from a surprisingly wide area and from all over the county.

"I have spoken to people in the Tourist Information Centre and they have had lots of inquiries."

Cllr Melvyn Teare, the district council's portfolio holder for culture and heritage, said that although the old courtroom seemed a good place for the book fair, it was not the most appropriate location and he urged Paton's to look elsewhere.

And he could not guarantee that it would be made available next Christmas. "It is really dependent on what other uses there are," he said.

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