Over the winter, we met a guy who really got us thinking that Books for Everyone could be a reality. Robert Williams is one of the founders of The Kindness Offensive (TKO) which is a movement to, well, be kind to people. TKO are a group of people who carry out selfless, random acts of kindness to benefit others. No money is involved, they don't need it. They simply persuade people to donate things or time for free that would benefit other people who need things, or time, for free. Robert does this through what he calls ‘phone whispering’ (i.e. not giving up).
At Christmas they persuade toy companies to give them toys for free. Then they gather together a bunch of volunteers to meet in a freezing warehouse over a couple of days, wrap the toys up with festive paper (donated by someone, for free); and then deliver the gifts to kids in children's wards at various hospitals.
It’s a great concept which resonated with us. And its why we headed on over to TKO HQ for a chat with Robert, to ask his advice about setting up Books for Everyone.
Their ethos is “think free” and this is demonstrated with their free bookshop at their HQ in Islington, North London. You can pop in, spend some time there, and if there is a book that you’d like, you pick it up and take it home. It’s also another good place to drop off unwanted books if you are in the area.
We dropped by and spent an hour or so chatting to Robert as he was adding some finishing touches to their amazing double decker bus. They won the bus in a competition and Robert has lovingly restored it, using furnishings gathered from phone whispering, including an amazing Wurlitzer juke box. They take people out on day trips, for free, obviously.
Robert was really encouraging. He told us the story of how TKO began, how its grown and what sort of stuff they get up to. He encouraged us to go for it and get Books for Everyone up and running.
It’s really worth stopping by the HQ if you are near. If not, check out their website. And they have a brilliant TED Talk here too!
So, thanks to Robert’s time and encouragement, here we are!