Getting involved: The co-heads of the International Bazaar book stand, Catherine Allen and Gisèle Elliott, are bound to have a text for all tastes at this annual tradition. Here’s how you can read for a good cause.
With more than ten decades of experience between them, the two co-heads of this year’s International Bazaar book stand know more about the printed word than just about anyone around Luxembourg. And that is good news for both readers and the charities being supported by the annual event, which has become a holiday season highlight in the international community.
The International Bazaar is a multinational gathering of some 60 stands, run entirely by volunteers. Most represent their home country or region--from Argentina and Japan to Scandinavia and Venezuela--selling traditional food, drink and crafts, with all the proceeds going to charity.
Last year more than 30,000 visitors--including Grand Duchess Maria Teresa--attended and bazaar volunteers raised €570,000 for 97 worthy causes in all the countries represented, such as the Fondation L’Hymne aux Enfants, which helps children with cleft palates in Burkina Faso.
Catherine Allen and Gisèle Elliott have been running the book stand together for the past 12 years and have seen the expo’s growth first hand. Indeed their own stand has gone from four measly tables when they first started to over 20 this year. With a choice of more than 20,000 volumes, ranging from recent epics to 18th century classics, they aim to have a tome for everyone young or old, experienced collector or novice, reading enthusiast or aspiring bookworm.
Both Catherine and Gisèle grew up in Canada and have always had an extraordinary fervour for books, “to the detriment of everything else,” says Catherine. She was so enthused by reading at a young age that she was occasionally banned from reading by her parents and was even banned from her local library. Gisèle started working in her high school library at age 15 and Catherine participated in her first book sale when she was 13.
Both remain passionate about reading and the bazaar, which sometimes puts them in a bind. Catherine quite literally brings her work home, for example. In the run up to the bazaar her house is a chaotic cornucopia of knowledge, with books filling every free space from the living room to the staircases.
With 40-50 volunteers participating, one would think that the two Canadians would have no real problem preparing. However this is very much an “aging team” explains Catherine, who previously injured her back whilst moving a box of books, requiring several operations. So the group is in dire need of some younger, fitter volunteers to do some of the literal and figurative heavy lifting.
Catherine and Gisèle are hoping for another successful bazaar this weekend, with Catherine stating that “we have wonderful books at incredible prices… at a price you can’t beat.”
As well as the fact that all of the proceeds of the stand are going towards the numerous charities selected by the bazaar organisers, they like to think that the distribution of knowledge and understanding to the buyers of books at the bazaar is equally as rewarding and charitable. Gisèle says that “not only are people doing a wonderful thing for other people but they are getting something for themselves.”
The 54th Bazaar International de Luxembourg will be held 29-30 November at LuxExpo in Kirchberg.