City Lights: Sky High Reading Nook at Battersea Power Station

City Lights: Sky High Reading Nook at Battersea Power Station

Julie Anderson reviews

‘Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies!’ The first line of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem The Starlight Night could be inscribed around the interior of the chimney within which Lift 109 rises at the transformed Battersea Power Station. Passengers can see the blue, or, in my case, dark grey, disc of sky at the top of the chimney, growing ever larger as the lift passes through bands of coloured light to approach its apogee.

I was at the massive, iconic power station building for a celebration of books and reading at the Sky High Reading Nook, a Lift 109 Late event. A small group of press and media folk were invited to experience this unique book club located one hundred and nine metres above the Thames. Hosted by Battersea Bookshop, an independent offshoot of Stanfords, four very different books, but all sharing a London-theme, were on offer for reading. We also got to choose one to take away with us.

The Man Booker short-listed Brick Lane, by Monica Ali provided the literary heft, while Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and Doing Time by Jodi Taylor, both first books in phenomenally successful fantasy series were there for fun and Norman Collins’ London Belongs to Me, formerly titled Dulcimer Street, provided a slice of 1930s south London realism.


The top of the chimney is certainly a world away from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, a comfortable, largely soundless, eyrie. A very good place for reading and some people did begin to do so, but I found it was difficult not to be distracted by the cityscape before us. Though the night was cloudy there were many pinpricks of light, Manley Hopkins’ ‘bright boroughs’ were exactly that as London was laid out for us to enjoy. Its tall markers jostled for attention, from Crystal Palace mast in the south, to the Post Office Tower in north central and the Shard, the City towers and Canary Wharf in the east.

The patterns of the inner city seen from above drew the eye, like the formal squares of Pimlico, the buildings in the Dolphin Square and Churchill Gardens developments just across the river. Movement also attracted the gaze, light reflecting on the wind-whipped water as a lighted train moved across the bridge to Victoria. As an observation post this is remarkable (and comfortable, I do not like heights, but I felt secure and safe). I could have looked for much, much longer.

Images 2 + 3 (c) Joshua Atkins

There are three exclusive Sky High Reading and Book Tasting events, on 7th March (World Book Day), 14th March and 28th March. Tickets cost £45, to include a book. Standard ascent tickets (with less time at the top of the chimney) cost £17.50. My book choice? The Norman Collins, because my own book, The Midnight Man is set in south London eight years after his, though in Clapham not Kennington.

Julie Anderson’s latest book The Midnight Man is published by Hobeck Books on 30th April 2024.