Tag Archives: aye write

Children’s Book Festivals

One of the marvellous things about being invited to a book festival is meeting the organisers behind it.

Usually there is a small committee of dedicated individuals who come together as a team to bring books to young readers. Often there is a chairperson who helps keep everything flowing in one direction. Quite a tricky task when you think of the logistics. 

Folk organising Book Festivals manage to be in ten places at once, all the while never once complaining (in earshot), always smiling (in, er, eyeshot). This is quite an achievement. They also have the herculean task of remembering everyone’s names. Or correctly typing out millions of Name Badges. They must ensure we writerly types get to where we are meant to be. Plus keep us fed and watered, calm and focussed.

Some authors can be terrified of the whole ‘standing up in public’ thing, being introverts who’d rather hide behind words or the organiser. 

Occasionally, one or two authors can be grumpy ‘Do I really have do this?’ types. Known to grumble when asked to sign old copies of books that young fans bring in. They reluctantly read out a few sections from their books. Wearily answer ‘the same old questions‘, then scarper to the Green Room to eat all of the chocolate digestives.

The majority of authors get a buzz from interacting onstage with kids. By the end of each session, we are glowing with pride at a job well done. Whether performing in front of four kids or four hundred, we give it our all. Then collapse in a corner…and sign books. Then collapse in another corner.

I am blown away by the energy and enthusiasm that Book Festival volunteers bring to each Book Festival.

When organisers gather together the right mix of authors, illustrators, poets, storytellers, etc., they help generate a fabulous sense of ‘bookfestivalness’ – if that’s a word. (If it isn’t, it should be!)

Organisers lay the groundwork for this magic to happen. Which is why I thought I’d write a few words &  say a big


Islay Book Festival Postcard Alan Dapre Childrens Author Porridge the Tartan Cat
Islay Book Festival
Off The Page Book Festival Dunblane Stirling Library Service  Alan Dapre Childrens Author Porridge the Tartan Cat
Off The Page Festival
Reimagination Book Festival Edinburgh Book Festival Glenrothes Alan Dapre Childrens Author Porridge the Tartan Cat
ReimagiNation: Glenrothes
Ness Book Festival Alan Dapre Childrens Author Porridge the Tartan Cat Inverness
Ness Book Fest
TamFest Festival Kyle Centre Ayr Alan Dapre Childrens Author Porridge the Tartan Cat
Byres Road Book Festival Glasgow Alan Dapre Childrens Author Porridge the Tartan Cat
Byres Road Book Fest

Aye Write 2012 – Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre

I went along to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow last night to be entertained by Mark Billingham & Chris Brookmyre, whose event was advertised as one with strong language, very strong language and a funny story about a chicken. My wife had booked the tickets and I had not read the warning or poster blurb so I was expecting to get the usual read throughs and wry stories. Mark Billingham had appeared in Chipping Norton with Ian Rankin and was an able and witty conversationist and brought the best out of his colleague. We enjoyed that event a few years back.

But what of last night? The language was fruity enough for two audience members to soon leave, having inexplicably stayed for a ten minute intro where they were warned that swearing was the order of the day, er, night. I have a tendency to swear, usually when doing DIY, so I won’t be a hypocrite here. I decided to sit back and let the comic mayhem unfold. Mark is an experienced stand up comedian and this showed – his delivery was easy, warm and very funny. Chris seemed to be nervous initially but supported by his friend he came up with a host of great stories, delivered in a laconic yet pithy Scottish way. Never have I head the word ‘klunge’ delivered to such funny effect.

One section involved the authors reading out e-mails from disgruntled readers, sorry, stalkers. Some were strange and unsettling – particularly those from Chris’s mailbox. Mark had to fend off a barrage of criticism from ‘Fred’ – a member of a mysterious association who took no pleasure in ripping apart and recycling MB’s work. Why? Because of the swearing. Mark apparently should know better and really should not be subjecting his family to such foul language. A defence was ably mounted – chiefly that swearing is used for dramatic effect by certain authors and reflects real life. Also – it can be funny. Throughout the show, Chris and Mark fired off swear words in context, adding and punctuating their anecdotes. I laughed my head off at the reworked extracts from famous novels such as Jane Eyre. ‘Reader, I married the (add rudest word you know)’.

Personally, I felt it was all in good fun, and the audience seemed to agree. We were all far more well behaved than the two writers onstage, mainly because we had been given some brilliant stories about heckles and warned ours would need to be as funny. Mark described one heckle featuring Kirk Douglas’s son – it was hilarious – worth paying the £8 admission fee in itself, but not worth ruining here.

We left, learning nothing about the two authors’ new books, but we went and bought them anyway. Flogging books did not seem to have been the point. It was all about letting us laugh and think (and groan) – entertained by stories about nightmare Book festivals and chickens. I will never go into a bookshop toilet again without picturing a moist Gallus Gallus Domesticus.

Away from the stage, MB was charming as he signed his books. His main character – DI Tom Thorne – features in gritty stories which have a low key humour, which contrasts with MB’s vibrant, very funny onstage personality. Just shows that he has depth. If you don’t agree he won’t give a f%$$ – well, maybe 15.

Check MB & CB out. Brilliant writers, brilliant two man show. It wasn’t big but it was clever.