Tag Archives: Frank McCourt

Fair memories

The Gothenburg Book Fair starts today. And no, I’m not there. I did consider it, and at one point recently I thought maybe I could combine it with going to the dentist. Your ultimate ‘buy one, get one free.’ But I dare say books and dentistry aren’t ideal bogof partners.

Gothenburg Book Fair

I’m very fond of the Gothenburg fair. It’s not quite where bookwitch was born, but seeds were certainly sown. At the start, it felt like I’d be going every year. When I’d been going for three years it definitely seemed like I’d be returning faithfully every September.

But then other things happened. It wasn’t always an ideal time to travel, and when lots of other book festival type events closer to home became more and more important, I actually had to choose. Shame, but we can’t always have everything. In fact, I’m too decrepit to cope with doing everything.

There are always interesting people invited. But for it to work for me, it now needs to be people whose work I know, and who I’ve not already seen somewhere in the UK.

Nice furniture

They are probably better than most at offering Nobel prize winners. And there is something about the way you accidentally come across some very famous people. The comfort and design of some of the hidden away seating areas beats Edinburgh any day. No mud. No rain. But interminably long and uncomfortable queues for the toilets, which Charlotte Square seems to cope with surprisingly well.

Frank McCourt

You’re allowed to pop in and out of author talks, as and when you like. The auditoriums are very comfortable. But the tickets are expensive unless you buy a pass for the duration. It’s still pricey, but you get a lot for your money.

If you don’t want to do that, you get a lot of short, informal talks ‘down on the market floor,’ absolutely free. In fact, one of my favourite Swedish blogs is supplying its teen bloggers to chat to Cornelia Funke at one of the stalls this year.

They haven’t yet invited Meg Rosoff, and I really think they should. I’ve told them often enough.

Fan with Jacqueline Wilson

But Amos Oz, Desmond Tutu, Sara Paretsky and Philip Pullman aren’t bad names to be getting on with. And although we initially went for Mr Pullman, I think one of the valuable things for Son was meeting half the people he knew in Sweden at the fair. We went with School Friend and needed somewhere to sit down for lunch. It was very crowded, so I sent Son ahead to scout for seats.

He came back saying he’d run into Pippi and her companion, and they were saving their seats for us until we got there. So School Friend and Pippi finally met, courtesy of books. And there was Librarian Husband of Cousin popping up all over the place. The Cousin herself popped as well. And eldest Cousin-Offspring. And the artist who makes our favourite calendars.

I know. You’re not impressed. It’s just that we have spent years chasing round to meet up with people on our ‘holidays’, and here they were being served up just like that, ‘all’ at once.

And now we have facebook (what’s left of it) and I am friends with people I saw at the fair, and the ones in Sweden are busy getting ready to jump in and enjoy the books for the next four days. And I’m a little jealous.

That’s all.

MCBF 2012 has launched

Prof. John Brooks with unknown and Carol Ann Duffy

Although it will be eighteen months until it arrives. Some of us gathered at MMU last night to watch the Poet Laureate pull a curtain cord to unveil the very beautiful banner for next year’s children’s book festival in Manchester. I’m not one for banners generally, but I do like this one by Dai Owen.

The photo shows Carol Ann Duffy (for it was she) discussing the merits of different ways of pulling curtain cord with the MMU Vice-Chancellor Professor John Brooks.

There was wine and tea and mingling, and when I tired of that I went to the side and sat down in one of the exceedingly deep, blue armchairs next to the blue (post-your-coursework-here) bins, only to find everyone following me there. It seemed the speeches and curtain-cord-pulling was over that way. It explains why there were these enormous green curtains on the green wall, a problem which had occupied my thoughts a little.

James Draper, Prof. John Brooks and Kaye Tew

Professor Brooks came straight from a meeting with the government, which he hopes won’t be here for much longer. He’s tired of all the money disappearing off, including funding for the Mcbf. (To the small child who wondered why all the adults applauded: One day you will understand.)

Like the banner, the 2012 Mcbf will be bigger, bolder and better. Yes! The banner will be a fixture in the Geoffrey Manton building, as will the festival at MMU. After John Brooks’s speech the assembled women, men and children (but mostly women) repaired to lecture theatre three where James Draper and Kaye Tew of MMU/Mcbf told us what they hope to do. It’s going to be good, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival had better look out. The 2010 festival was ‘just’ a small pilot event. (But lovely, as warm-ups go.)

They will cooperate with the Manchester Literature Festival and the Manchester International Festival. There will be a reading relay in connection with the Olympics, the Manchester Art Gallery have an Oliver Jeffers art exhibition planned and the War Museum will be doing wartime children’s books.

As for me I can barely wait for the Flash Mob event outside the Town Hall…

Manchester Children's Books Festival Banner

After the plans and serious stuff, Carol Ann and her best friend John Sampson did their combined poetry and music show. John played more instruments than you can shake a stick at, pretended to be Mozart, incited the audience to shouting, and played the cornetto (or similar…).

Carol Ann read The Princess’s Blankets, interspersed with some of her other poems. I’m not a poem sort of witch, but there is something about having a poet reading her poems aloud. And then she went and stopped, telling us to buy the book if we want to know how it ends.

She must have been taking lessons from Frank McCourt.

Now I’ll never know if the poor Princess will stay cold forever, or if she will find true love, or anything.

Poet Laureates! Pah!

; )

Bye, Frank

I didn’t know why Bookwitch got all those hits for Ellen McCourt early on Monday morning. Thought it might be a fluke.

Frank McCourt in Stockport

Now I know why, of course. Frank died on Sunday, and he’ll be missed by many. Offspring and I met him twice, and he was great both times. Very funny, but slightly impatient with his moderator in Gothenburg three years ago. Frank sort of took over and did her job as well, and I’m not sure she noticed. She was so flustered at sitting next to the famous Frank McCourt.

Then it was Frank and Ellen in Stockport in November 2007, with tales of crispy chicken and ticks. Very friendly and really lovely. It felt like they were personal friends instead of visiting stars.

It’s not always Daughter pays attention when I report having seen in the news that someone has died. She did this time. It’s the personal connection which makes all the difference.

Frank McCourt in Gothenburg

Here is Daughter, being pushed ahead of all those chancing autograph collectors who couldn’t even be bothered to buy a book. Little did they know that her book hadn’t been purchased there, either. But anything for queue jumping.

Frank, we’ll remember your way of spinning a funny tale around what someone was having for dinner. Crispy chicken!