October was a busy month for the RISE Bookselling team: after having brought 5 booksellers to the Frankfurt Book Fair, we invited 7 selected international booksellers to join us at the UK & Ireland’s Booksellers Association Conference, which took place on 30-31 October in Hinckley, UK.

Over the course of two days, boksellers Dinija Innusa (Janis Roze in Riga, Latvia), Raluca Selejan (La Două Bufniţe in Timișoara, Romania), Cátia Soares (Faz de Conto in Coimbra, Portugal), Eliana Soukiazes (Faz de Conto in Coimbra, Portugal), Robert Albazi (Paperback Bookshop in Melbourne, Australia), Norun Hovind-Breisnes (Ark in Strommen, Norway) and Zaida Pérez (Librería Liberespacio in Madrid, Spain) enjoyed a packed programme organised by the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland (BA).

Following an opening session during which Meryl Halls, Managing Director of the BA, and Hazel Broadfoot, President of the BA, welcomed the international booksellers joining the conference through RISE Bookselling, the first day of the conference kicked off with an afternoon tea session. The afternoon tea was accompanied not only by delicious treats, but above all by a handful of amazing HarperCollins authors who presented their brand-new works to the attendees. Over a cup of tea, our booksellers got a chance to get to know one another and chat about bookselling in their respective countries.

The rest of the day presented multiple networking opportunities. Our international booksellers had a chance to connect not only with each other but also with numerous British and Irish booksellers during the evening drinks reception, and they enjoyed their dinner accompanied by various authors who presented their latest books in a series of short speeches. The evening concluded with a Conference Disco – and some of us brought our dancing shoes!

The following morning, we gathered for breakfast in presence of yet more brilliant authors, and afterwards, it was time for the official opening of the conference! Hazel Broadfoot, President of the BA, delivered a powerful welcome speech in which she emphasised the key role that booksellers play in the book industry and the support that is needed to keep independent bookselling afloat. (Find the full speech on EIBF’s website.)

After a word by the BA Managing Director Meryl Halls and a coffee break, it was time for they keynote author – none other than the famous commentator, comedian and presenter Graham Norton! In conversation with Conference Chair and author Cathy Rentzenbrink, Graham Norton spoke about his books, his love for bookshops and his profession, and with his inimitable charm, he captivated the audience.

The busy morning concluded with a fever pitch session, during which publishers introduced their key upcoming titles to the present booksellers, and then it was time for lunch.

In the afternoon, we were thrilled to join another one of the highlights of the conference: Skills Labs on various topics related to bookselling. Our booksellers were given several topics to choose from: from a session on stock management, through one dedicated to BookTok, to a guide on graphic novels and manga or a session dedicated to disability equality – there was something for everyone! RISE booksellers attended, among others, a session on Running a Sustainable Bookselling Business, during which booksellers Amber Harrison and Karen Brazier from FOLDE Bookshop (Dorset, UK) shared their business model, which puts sustainability at its very core in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Providing several practical tips, they shared their daily good practices and their focus on recycling and repurposing in efforts to minimise the bookshop’s carbon footprint.

We also attended the workshop on Supporting Good Mental Health with staff and customers at the bookshop. Led by Fran Kershaw from The Retail Trust and bookseller Liz Tye (Next Page Books), they shared some great practical tips to help improve our mental health and overall mood when things are not going our way. They also highlighted the importance of bookshops being welcoming and inclusive spaces for all people. In Liz's case, she runs a bookshop that specialises in literature for neurodiverse people, particularly children. Finally, they shared some additional resources for mental health support, such as mind.org and Hub of Hope.

And then it was almost time to say goodbye – after a closing speech and the announcement of BA awards, we concluded the conference with evening drinks and a delicious dinner.

Not only did the event give our international booksellers an opportunity to get to know booksellers from other countries, to get inspired during the skills labs and to hear from interesting speakers – it also allowed them to gain a unique insight into the British and Irish bookselling world. We’re grateful to the BA for opening the doors of their conference to our international guests and being wonderful hosts.