There are books I love far more than Harry Potter, but the series still means a lot to me. Although I was in my early teens when I started reading them, I still feel like I grew up with them, and I really enjoyed sharing the anticipation and excitement of each new book with other fans over the years. I never attended a midnight release because none ever happened near me (sob), but I still really enjoyed hearing about them. To me, Harry Potter Book Night was about recreating that sort of experience for readers too young to have been around for the original release parties. It was also about fannish excitement, community, a shared love of stories, and unapologetic bookish enthusiasm — in short, all the things libraries are all about, and are ideally placed to foster.
Also, I got to play dress up for work! What’s not to love? Four of the members of my Pre-Teen reading group were at the event, and I think they particularly enjoyed seeing an adult they know be shamelessly geeky alongside them and dress up as a Hogwarts professor. Also, although our event promotion highlighted dressing up, we didn’t want to make it mandatory for all the obvious inclusivity reasons, and we didn’t know how many people would join in. I’m thrilled to say that the vast majority did, though — we had everything from fancy Hogwarts uniforms to homemade costumes to drawn-on Harry Potter glasses and lightening-shaped scars, and they were all absolutely lovely to see.
Our best wizarding robes.
This was the biggest event I’ve been involved in organising to date, and I was lucky to work with an excellent team of people who are great at all the crafty stuff I’m hopeless at. We didn’t have much in the way of a budget, so all the decorations had to be made with whatever craft materials we already had. I think we did a pretty impressive job of temporarily turning the children’s library into Hogwarts: it’s a big space, so you need a lot to change it in a noticeable way and create the right sort of atmosphere, but I think we got there in the end. In addition to working on the decorations, I was in charge of creating a Harry Potter readalikes poster/leaflet for children and for teens, as well as putting together a book display. Naturally this included ALL the Diana Wynne Jones, and also Ursula Le Guin, some Eva Ibbotson, and the Graceling Realms books in the teen version. I also did an informative leaflet about the Harry Potter fan community and all the things organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance have used their energy and passion to achieve over the years.
The space we had available could safely accommodate a hundred people, and the event was fully booked weeks in advance. I hope its success will give us the opportunity to host more themed parties for popular book series and/or fandoms: they’re obviously popular, and they’re such a fun way to engage with our children and teens. But what did we actually do, you ask? Well, we played Harry Potter trivia and a Potteresque version of musical statues; we had dramatised readings from the first book; we held a Lucky Ticket raffle; we gave people the opportunity to take in the decorations, look at the displays, admire each other’s costumes, and do the crafts and other activities (more on which below); and we finished the evening with a group performance of the Hogwarts School Song — with an imposed tune rather than everyone singing it to their favourite one, I’m afraid, because as much fun as that would be it would probably result in complete chaos (the tune we used is stuck in my head to this day).
Here’s a glimpse of our decorations:
I had a ton of fun asking colleagues to pose for the “Have You Seen This Wizard?” posters.
A flock of Golden Snitches.
Letters from Hogwarts.
Battery-operated candles, as required by health and safety :P
Prizes for our games and for the Lucky Ticket raffle.
My Teen “Done with Harry Potter?” display.
Our “Story Express” was temporarily renamed :D
Because of course. This was a photo posing area and it was busy all through the evening.
Umbridge’s Kitten Plates :D
The Mirror of Erised.
We also asked people to tell us what Harry Potter means to them — I like “loyalty” and...
...“The excitement of waiting for the next book”.
Another thing people enjoyed was taking pictures of themselves with this frame :D
My friend retiring to Hogwarts at the end of the evening. I think by then we all deserved a holiday there.