A Schools Reading Festival - Hooray for Southwark!

The last time I was at the Dulwich Picture Gallery was for the launch of Sarwat Chadda's Devil's Kiss and it was dark, raining, and there were knights fighting on the lawn ... oh, and I was still a despairing unpublished novelist.

Yesterday I returned as one of the authors featured in the brilliant Southwark Schools Reading Festival - funded and organized by the borough of Southwark.

The entire event ran like clockwork! They even managed to hire a mad professor to gee up the kids and introduce speakers! Here's a video of how Middleton (the mad professor) started off each event:

Thanks to Middleton Mann for sharing this video. If you are in need of a lunatic at any of your events, here's Middleton's website Publish and Be Framed. He was quite brilliant - only one or two children burst into tears!  (Actually they didn't - they were ecstatic!)

Where was I? Oh yes! I was waxing lyrical about the Southwark Schools Reading Festival. I first heard about it from author pal Steve "Time to inflate the Bogey" Hartley (Danny Baker Record Breaker), who appeared at the festival last year with his giant bogey and world's biggest underpants. Steve, bogey and pants were featured again on Monday I'm sure to the unbridled delight of the children.

Steve Hartley and his world's biggest pants!
The festival's bookseller was none other than Tales on Moon Lane - which only the night before won the Children's Independent Bookseller of the Year and its manager George Hanratty won the Best Young Bookseller of the Year. Many congratulations! (Question: is there an Old Bookseller of the Year?)

Here I am with Leah Chin, education manager of Tales on Moon Lane. Check out the serried ranks of Tall Stories on the display!
I finally met Tamara McFarlane, TML bookseller turned author - her book Esme Miranda's Fairground Circus is out soon. On the right is Lillie McCotter , who organizes the festival for Southwark - including creating teaching resources about our books
Having Middleton as compere raised everyone's energy levels, including mine! I'm sure my voice was several decibels higher than normal after his rousing introduction!
Here I am giving my talk (I always start by showing the children a map of the world with the Philippines right in the middle!). Thanks to  Maria Asensio, gallery teacher at the DPG who doubled as sound and vision technician ... and Daisy, who took photos using my camera! 

My audiences were smart, attentive and rather lovely! I wanted to take them all home with me but what would my husband say?
The children were totally captivated by Middleton. This was at the end when he suddenly announces that  one of them has won a prize!

... and the prize is under one of the seats!!! The children dive ...


Joe's golden ticket won him a hardback copy of Tall Story!
Southwark tries to make sure that schools in the borough get the opportunity to attend an event at the festival - you can download the Southwark programme here. For my two events, I performed before 194 children, Year 5s and 6s from schools in the borough - Grange, St Jude's, St Francis, Langbourne, St John's St Clement's, and Bessemer primary schools. Thank you all - such amazing audiences!

My big bonus of the day was that the author of one of my children's all time favourite picture books SO MUCH was doing the afternoon slot - I got to see Trish Cooke entrance a roomful of sweeties with her magical stories.

Trish Cooke's audience was a room full of adorable! And they knew the words to all her picture books! Typically after reading a story, Trish would say: "any questions?" then call one of the adorables with hand raised and the question?  "I liked your story." Ahhhhh!

You can see what a presence Trish has from these photos!

And when it was time for the golden ticket, the winner was this sweet little boy! Makes me think I really ought to write picture books ...
This is the original cover art of
So Much that my kids grew up with
...it's illustrated by Helen Oxenbury,
no less! 
I got Trish to dedicate a copy of SO MUCH to my now rather grown up children. When I got home and pulled it out of the bag, we crawled into bed and I read it to my daughter instead of watching The Apprentice. Yes, it's that good. Get a copy today.

Thank you Southwark for funding such a brilliant festival ... and thank you to all the cogs and wheels who make it such a fantastic experience for the kids AND for the authors!

I'm doing events at the Hay Festival on the 30th and 31st of May  - if you're somewhere near the Welsh borders, you might want to check it out! What's it all about? Check out this post I wrote for the Hay Festival blog. And if you've never heard of this world famous festival - here's a primer I made just for you! See you there!