Book clubs

In order to encourage Latvian readers in Great Britain to take an interest in Latvian-language texts, that had been written in different countries around the world, Latvian book clubs were established by the Latvian Welfare Fund (Daugavas Vanagu fonds – DVF). An important role in their creation was the initiative and interest shown in the cities in Britain that had larger populations of Latvians.

There were five Latvian book clubs in Great Britain - in Birmingham, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Leicester, and London. The clubs were literary and book readers' groups, the latest books of Latvian fiction were purchased, read and discussed. Club members organized literary events, presentation evenings and literature talks.


Nottingham. The first Latvian book club (1963–2003) was established at the DVF Branch in Nottingham and it held its first meeting on 30 May 1964. One of the activities of the book club was to organize various literary events or meetings. The books that had been purchased and read were donated by club members to the DVF Latvian Library in Nottingham (led by R. Ūsāns-Erts). They were also available to interested parties outside the club.

From 1970 to 1981, the Nottingham Latvian Book Club published the “Latvian Book Club Article Collection” in typescript, which, starting from no. 9, was renamed "Ciba" with a total of 19 issues. The collection of articles reflected the work of the club, documented its work, and popularised Latvian writers and their latest works.

Birmingham. On 21 November 1964, a Latvian Book Club was organized in Birmingham (1964–2001) by Jānis Rolavs, the head of the Birmingham branch of DVF. The book club had the aim of promoting the distribution and reading of works by Latvian authors. The basic idea was to purchase all the newly published Latvian books, starting with fiction and ending with autobiographies, memoir literature and historical works, and maintaining, as far as possible, interest in more significant translations from other languages. In addition to reading books, the club members also organised literary evenings with the participation of individual authors, discussions and readings by club members.

Wolverhampton. On 22 May 1965, the DVF Wolverhampton Branch Board voted to start a Latvian Book Club, which since 1966 was led by Vilis Tiltabrencis. The members of the club bought new books, got involved in friendly reading and exchange, and in later years the club operated a book stall. To raise funds for the purchase of books, members paid a participation fee, as well as seeking donations. The Wolverhampton Club did not hold literary events because there were no writers in the club.

London. In 1967, a Latvian Book Club started operating in London. It met at 72 Queensborough Terrace, London, W1.

Leicester. A Latvian Book Club also operated in Leicester (1965–1981) and the poet Pēteris Aigars called it “a Latvian island in the ocean of central England”. At the beginning its members gathered at the old hall of the Holy Trinity Church, but from the early 1960s they met at the Estonian Club in the northwest of the city.

The main activities of all the book clubs were similar, that is, to maintain interest in Latvian books, to buy the latest books, to read and discuss what was read, to organize literary events, as well as to supplement the Latvian library collections at DVF branches and to make them available to a wider Latvian circle of readers than just the members of the club. In addition to the activities of Latvian culture and literary life, the contribution of the Latvian book clubs was important in popularising the newest Latvian books and organising literary events.