Books to the people: this ought to be the mantra in revving up the reading culture. Its resuscitation being critical in this age of social media invasion foists a huge responsibility on stakeholders: publishers, readers and authors alike.
It is for this culture that the Mainland Book Café, founded by Fedeyi Ayomidotun, stands. It isn’t out of place to say that he is a hero from the bookish era of the 1980s, who, knowing what it means to be an ardent reader, has risen up to the occasion of reviving the reading culture in Nigeria.
In 2015, he started the Mainland Book Café with one thing in mind: bringing people passionate about discovering and sharing stories together. The idea struck him after he read Excuse Me by Victor Ehikhamenor, which he found hilarious. Ayo, who longed to share his thoughts, decided to reach out from his Twitter handle to those interested in joining a reading hub on the mainland.
The response gave him the courage to pursue further his idea of starting a community for avid readers for those who lived close to the mainland. Five years down the line, the venue has moved from Spurs, Ikeja City Mall to the Workstation, Maryland.
“The common idea is we are a community of people who share a passion for books, literature and arts. Because of life’s daily commitments, some of us find it difficult to commit to reading regularly, so the book club gives an opportunity for members to read a book per month; and, once in a month, we come together to discuss the book. Sometimes, we bring in the authors to share with us.
“Along the line, we collaborate with publishers, authors, and facilities like the Work Station to promote authors trying to help them promote. We promote the habit of reading. Trying to make reading cool again when you can hang out with readers. We are Nigerian biased and African and then we look into foreign titles too,” he explained.
Ayo, who lives in Lagos, started out with just one request, but he has a bigger plan for the club, “One of the big pictures we are looking forward to is owning our physical space in the nearest future. The thing is: when you start a thing, you don’t know how far it will reach. You only begin to see opportunities, which lead to more doors.”
He talked about finding space in Lagos, and how they have been hosted by various facilities that have shown interest in giving back to the society. “Finding good space in Lagos is difficult,” he said, adding, “we are on the lookout for collaborations for a community like ours. Choosing Workstation as our venue is because they support a community like ours, with social driven activities since it fits in their CSR function. It’s the second year we have been meeting here because it is central for mainlanders.”
Abiodun Awodele has been there since inception. He admitted, “Mainland Café has helped bring me back to rediscovering my love for reading, and I am having a great time dissecting books with the family.”
For members, there is no better place to be on a sunny Sunday afternoon than the meetup point with Iquo Diana Abasi who held them spellbound reading from her latest collection of poetry, Eforiro.
Eyekay Nwaogu, club member and photographer, had this to say of the book, “The book is brilliant. For a lot of writers, there is a certain pressure to conform. It is not easy to come across a story that does not want to be anything but refreshing. She has an unconventional spin on the stories. Her stories have a certain cadence, when they sound like poetry in the way words are used is what I love about her work.”
The Workstation is an infrastructure that enables individuals and corporate bodies have space for work within a fun, lively ambience. The spaces available are structured for whatever work needs. It offers ample advantage for weekenders; more importantly, it is a hybrid environment for co-working and networking.