Queen Consort Camilla visits Coldharbour Lane charity

man and woman talk in book warehouse
Book Aid head of operations Harry Boughton explains the work of the charity’s warehouse on Coldharbour Lane

Her Majesty Camilla The Queen Consort today (2 February) visited a South London charity that last year sent more than 1m new books to people in need of them across the world.

She is patron of Coldharbour Lane based Book Aid which, in an average year, gives an estimated 23.5m people access to books in more than 25 countries. The books are donated by publishers.

A regular year also sees the charity buy more than 25,000 books from local publishers.

two women look at display boards
Queen Consort Camilla views images of Book Aid’s work with Dr Alice Prochaska, chair of the charity’s board of trustees

As well as providing free books, the charity, supported by 185 partners around the world, trained 361 teachers and librarians and set up 456 school libraries.

Its Camberwell headquarters houses 28 fundraising, communications, finance, programmes and operations staff as well as a warehouse, which holds 200,000 books at any one time. The 12 members of its operations team are supported by volunteers who make “an extraordinary contribution to our work by helping us pack books,” the charity said.

Each book sent is selected for the community it will reach in response to partner requests. 

Books are for people of all ages and range from leisure reading through books to help young people learn to read, to further and higher education and medical textbooks.

Books on display during the Queen Consort’s visit included some of  the latest UK-published children’s titles, leading medical textbooks and best-selling fiction and non-fiction titles – all donated by the UK publishing industry.

two women talk in a warehouse
Queen Consort Camilla with Book Aid head of programmes Samantha Sokoya

Lord Boateng, the charity’s vice patron who accompanied the Queen Consrt on her tour, said: “Her Majesty has long championed reading and today’s visit sends a clear message about the importance of books and reading for everyone, whatever their circumstances.

“We thank Her Majesty for her unfailing support for readers across the Commonwealth and around the world.”

Also on the visit was former mayor of Lambeth Christopher Wellbelove, who is Representative Deputy Lieutenant for the London Borough of Lambeth.

During her visit, the Queen Consort met Book Aid International staff and trustees and representatives from its many volunteers and supporters.

She heard from the charity’s president, Bloomsbury Publishing founder Nigel Newton, and viewed photos of the charity’s work.

They included young readers in Malawi and Uganda, refugees in Kenya, pupils in Zambia and Zimbabwe, midwives in Somaliland and staff from the recently rebuilt university library in Mosul, Iraq.

She helped to pack a box of books which will be sent to one of Book Aid International’s key partners in Rwanda, the Kigali public library, which Her Majesty visited in June last year.

Book Aid International chief executive Alison Tweed said: “We know that books give people power. That’s what drives our work every day. So we were honoured and delighted to welcome The Queen Consort, who so clearly loves books, and the great adventure of reading.”