I felt compelled to go. So I went, and I’m glad I did. There was a memorial service for Siobhan Dowd in Oxford yesterday. The Holywell Music Room was a beautiful place to have it. The weather was beautiful. And the celebration of Siobhan’s life and work was beautifully put together.
Siobhan’s husband Geoff and friends started it off by singing Gypsy Rover. Then David Fickling (“the Lancashire Comedian”) and Fiona Dunbar did their Oscars style presentation. Siobhan’s sisters Denise and Oona talked about their childhood, and read from a favourite book.
Bella Pearson read from A Swift Pure Cry and Phil Earle from The London Eye Mystery, which just showed us again how good these books are. Geoff read a poem by Siobhan, and Meg Rosoff read an extract from Siobhan’s next book, Bog Child.
There was a lot of music and singing. Nick Gill played Scott Joplin. Daryl Wells sang Nina Simone. And we had real Bulgarian Gypsy music from Mike Limmer and Morski. There were readings from James Joyce, Irina Ratushinskaya, Henrietta Branford, Ezra Pound and Dylan Thomas.
There were family and friends, and many people from the book trade. Someone wanted me to put together an exciting report on who was there, but I have to admit to only recognising some of the many who attended. Linda Sargent and Linda Newbery. Lee Weatherley and Anthony McGowan. Rachel Billington. Julia Eccleshare.
Afterwards in the Turf Tavern I was introduced to people, and their names whirl round in my head. There was talk of crossdressing. I got some more background on Lauren Child and Pippi Longstocking. Had to admit to people I hadn’t actually read their books, despite Meg R going round saying I read everything. (But Lee, Anthony and Fiona – you are on my next list. Definitely.)
I found I’d already met Nina Douglas from David Fickling Books, without knowing it. And I learnt that David himself let out a secret to us, so we’ve been sworn to silence. Now that I’ve seen how very nice “the Lancashire Comedian” is, I’ll never be brave enough to take him up on his earlier offer of a coffee when I’m next in Oxford. Not that I drink coffee, anyway, but I’d thought I might. Almost.
Meg did that very nice thing, and introduced me to her agent, Catherine. Maybe she knew I don’t have a book to flog, and never will. She even gave me her copy of Bog Child, which I will tell you about later.
Have to mention here, that all my trains ran on time.
A big thank you to Geoff for a beautiful day.