The Bristol Conferences are run by Sally Dore and Betula O’Neill. The pair met in 1995 and through their shared love of 20th Century fiction (and for lack of muggle accessible Rooms of Requirements to house their collections!) set up Topsy-Turvy Children’s Books. Having attended previous conferences run by friends, they knew how much fun it is to have the opportunity to meet up with fellow book worms, swap stories and find out more about the authors and the books they love. So, when the opportunity arose, the pair started the Bristol Conferences, first as day events at the Victoria Rooms before moving to a residential weekend at Wills Hall.
I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood, when my particular favourites were historical fiction and school stories. I don’t think I ever stopped reading (and acquiring) children’s books – I remember waiting for the next book in Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series to be published, and for the final Chalet School titles to be produced by Armada. It was lovely when I met some other local enthusiasts a couple of decades ago, and Betula and I clubbed together to produce sales lists starting with our duplicates, which in turn introduced us to other book lovers and to various author clubs and societies. That in turn led to me finding a whole load of new-to-me authors to seek out, and to us coming up with the idea of the Bristol Conferences. These days one of my chief delights in reading older titles is the sidelights on social history, but I still simply read mainly for the pleasure one gets from a good book, whether revisiting old favourites by authors such as Geoffrey Trease , Noel Streatfeild or Elinor Brent-Dyer, or discovering new ones such as Clare Mallory – and so many more!
If you want someone to blame for all this, blame my mother! It’s all her fault! She taught me to read before I started school at the age of four, so I don’t recall a time when I couldn’t read. Mama gave me the freedom of her bookshelves and, as she still had some schoolgirl stories (which I devoured with relish) it never occurred to me that there might be an age by which most adults stopped reading children’s books. It wasn’t until I joined various author appreciation societies and frequently read about how pleased folk were to meet other adults who still loved children’s fiction, as they had been convinced that they were “the only person who still read them”, that I appreciated how fortunate I had been in my choice of mother. Organising the conferences with Sally has been a rewarding way to meet fellow bookworms, to learn about new-to-me authors, share my own favourites with others and to compare and contrast the ways in which authors have portrayed similar themes.
Topsy-Turvy has been running now for over twenty years, and grew out of our shared interest in (passion for ?!!) children’s books. As a result of expanding our own collections, we started to have copies we no longer wanted – and how better to fuel our hobby than by dabbling in a sale here and there?
Betula has now stepped back from catalogues to spend more time with family, but Sally still produces three catalogues a year, usually February/March, June/July and October/November.
We hope there is something here to interest you.