One evening, a few years ago, I walked past Herne Hill Books on my way to the shops and saw an author and a member of staff sitting alone in the shop. I had vaguely thought of going to the scheduled talk. On my way home, it was still just the two of them. I couldn’t abandon them to their fate, so I dropped off my shopping and came straight back.

I’m glad I did. The author was Colin Babb and the book, They Gave the Crowd Plenty Fun. It was about cricket’s role in forging a West Indian identity for the Caribbean diaspora. It’s an interesting topic and Babb was an engaging speaker. As the talk was a one to one, we were able to have a proper conversation, swapping cricket-watching anecdotes and discussing whether Fire in Babylon, albeit a super film, was a bit patronising to West Indian cricketers in the pre-Clive Lloyd era (I think it is). I bought and had a signed copy for myself and a copy for my brother.

they gave the crowd plenty funBeing a bus ride from the Oval and a five minute walk from the house where CLR James lived, Herne Hill Books ought to have been a great venue. James is arguably the greatest cricket writer there’s been and his Beyond a Boundary is a wonderful mix of cricket, history, politics and memoir. By coincidence, I had been given it a week or two before Babb’s talk, so I read the books in succession.

Anyway, the reason I am writing about this now is that Babb has a revised edition out and is speaking at Richmond Library Annexe on Thursday 20th October, from 7.00-8.00 pm (tickets £3 from Richmond libraries) and more locally at Battersea Library on Saturday 29th October, from 2.45 to 4.15 pm (free booking on 020 7223 2334). The talks are part of Black History and Diversity months.

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