'Waterstone's diaspora' out in force at Piccadilly flagship store last night to toast Sir Tim Waterstone's memoir, The Face Pressed Against a Window
Launching the book, Waterstone thanked his staff, with many former colleagues in the audience, including Robert Topping, John Mitchinson, Julian Tolland, Patrick Neate, Harry Wainwright, Kate Gunning, Paul Baggaley and Martin Latham. Referring to the chain's early days in the 1980s he said: "It was such a group effort, we were a family, it was an exhilarating drive through to the try line."
He also thanked publishers in the room, including Peter Roche, Robert McCrum, Gail Rebuck and Nigel Newton, for their support and paid a warm tribute to the late Peter Mayer. "All these publishers were really really kind." Authors present too were picked out for thanks by Waterstone: Julian Barnes, Antony Beevor, AS Byatt, Jung Chang and Helen Fielding.
He recalled early days at the first store, on Old Brompton Road. "Ava Gardner - who never bought a thing - and Laurie Lee. He used to turn up absolutely, totally plastered, and go to the table that had all his books, and he would sweep all the other people's books on the floor, and then lay his out perfectly."
Waterstone concluded with a passage from the book, an extract of an article by Sathnam Sanghera, published in The Times in 2017.
"Waterstones' survival really matters to Britain. I am not talking here about the whimsical romance of what books mean for writers, but what a bookshop means for any community, economically and culturally. The survival of a really great branch of Waterstones in my home town of Wolverhampton, for instance, even as the city centre suffers from an epidemic of empty shop units, is more than an important cultural symbol, it encourages reading, literacy and intellectual exploration in a way that the web will never be able to do."
Will Atkinson, md of the book's publisher Atlantic, introduced Waterstone, saying: "There are hundreds of years of friendship in this room, and joint endeavour, even now if you meet someone who worked at Waterstone's in the 1908s or 90s there is an immediate connection: we were there, and we were there together. Working at Waterstone's was extraordinary, we were given a lot of freedom and opportunity and experience. I learnt lessons from Tim that I try and put into my company today."
Pictured: Sir Tim Waterstone is joined by former colleagues at the Waterstones flagship store on Piccadilly last night