For the first time in its three-year history, World Book Night's main event is taking place outside London. Liverpool has been chosen to host Tuesday evening's celebrations, which will be held in and around St George's Hall in a collaboration between World Book Night, the BBC and Liverpool City Council. The night will also launch Liverpool's brand new literary festival, In Other Words, in which 350 events will take place all over the city until 19 May.
Next door to St George's Hall is the Liverpool Central Library, which will be re-opened on 17 May after a major restoration project. The building was closed to the public in 2010, and it took three months to move 40km of fragile and rare collections of library and archive material. It will be relaunched with Wi-Fi, MP3 and MP4 facilities, double the number of public computers, a café and roof terrace … and, fortunately, lots and lots of books.
Tuesday is Shakespeare's birthday. It is also St George's Day in Britain and Catalonia, where men traditionally give women roses to mark the date and women respond by giving a book. On World Book Night, 400,000 copies of 20 books will be given away across the country. Another 100,000 will be distributed to homeless shelters, prisons, hospitals and care homes. The aim is to encourage reading among people who don't have regular access to books.
Authors including Philippa Gregory, Jasper Fforde, Jeanette Winterson, Patrick Ness, and Jackie Kay will be appearing at St George's Hall, along with local author Frank Cottrell Boyce. In and around St George's Hall will be readings, discussions, debates and a literary café and marketplace.
Liverpool is an easy choice as a bookish capital of Britain. It was the European Capital of Culture in 2008, and has a long literary history.
Clive Barker's Weaveworld is based on Liverpool. "I wanted to write a novel in which the world of magic and the world of the real collided," said the author, who was born there. "I also wanted … to write a novel which was both very realistic in its dealings with the fantastical and very mythological in its dealings with the real. So, Liverpool was a world I had enough experience of to attempt something like that. Liverpool has gone through some very bad economic times, and yet it retains a flavour and a poetry. I tried to get that across ..."
Linda Grant grew up in 1960s Liverpool, and used to go to pubs after O-level revision to listen to the Liverpool poets. Her first novel The Cast Iron Shore (1995) begins there. The Liverpool Poets, including Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten, could only really have emerged in such a city – not least because they knew that "grass" rhymes with "ass" and not "arse".
Helen Walsh is one of the 21st century's most famous Liverpool novelists. Her gritty first novel, Brass, was based in the city, and involves drug-taking and prostitution. When the Blagger met Walsh, it emerged that she is secretly from the Wirral.
As one of Liverpool's most famous writers, Beryl Bainbridge wrote surprisingly little about Liverpool, and actually grew up in Formby. Her 1998 Booker-shortlisted novel Master Georgie begins there.
Tickets to the Liverpool launch of World Book Night are free. Go to www.worldbooknight.org for details.