When on a Wednesday evening back in July, my favourite bookshop announced ‘An Evening with Damon Hill’, I immediately booked two tickets without even checking the calendar. It’s not often an F1 World Champion ventures into the wilds of the Shropshire/Mid Wales border and I wasn’t going to miss it!
Booka Bookshop in Oswestry, Shropshire is one of those magical bookshops which contains a vast array of books (including local and signed copies), a lovely cafe (what’s better than to sit down with a drink and a slice of cake to immerse yourself in the book you just purchased?!) and great, knowledgeable staff. For a bookshop in a small town, they also hold some fantastic author events… Upcoming events include An Evening with Alexander McCall Smith, Talking Antiques with Judith Miller, Shetland Tea & Murder Mystery with Ann Cleeves and An Evening with Jeffrey Archer, to name just a few. I’ve been to a handful of their events now and they always put on a good do.
Anyway, the shop is too small to hold an evening with an F1 legend, so the venue for Tuesday evening was the lovely Lion Quays Hotel near Oswestry. Dad and I arrived early enough to be first through the doors when they opened and so we were able to grab two seats right in the middle of the front row. We couldn’t have got any closer without being on-stage with the man himself!
As we sat and waited, we could see Damon outside on his phone. It turns out he’d had a phone call asking for his opinion on the then impending F1 takeover by Liberty Media.
Damon was interviewed by BBC Radio Shropshire presenter James Bond, before a Q&A with the audience.
Damon came to Formula One at a time in his life when many drivers are now leaving F1 for other ventures, having started his motorsport career in motorcycle racing. He didn’t have an easy time of it either, with his teammate being killed at the tragic 1994 San Marino Grand Prix and his team undergoing investigation from the Italian authorities on manslaughter charges.
Damon talked about what it was like to be the son of two-times F1 World Champion Graham Hill, what it was like when he died when Damon was 15 years old and the impact it had on the family, his mother in particular. He also discussed the tragic death of his teammate Ayrton Senna, racing seven-times F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher and Formula One in general.
Due to the amount of people there, Damon had signed the books beforehand, but audience members were invited to have their books dedicated if they wished. Of course, I jumped at the chance of having my book dedicated and, due to being sat at the front, was one of the first people in the queue. Dad just likes an autograph when he has a book signed, so he was happy enough with just Damon’s signature.
It was a lovely evening and money well spent (although I know people towards the back had difficulty hearing and seeing). The tickets were £20 and not only did we get an evening with Damon Hill, but we also got a signed hardback copy of his autobiography, ‘Watching the Wheels’, and to meet the man himself.
If you’d like a signed copy of Damon Hills ‘Watching the Wheels’, head over to Booka Bookshop as they still have some left!