Tag Archives: John Sampson

Becoming a little retrospective about mcbf 2012

At the safe distance of nearly a week, I feel almost ready to re-visit mcbf. How about the rest of you? I guess that even James Draper might have finished sleeping by now.

MMU

There are things I didn’t do, apart from author events I just had no stamina to attend. I didn’t make it to Cornerhouse for a screening of The Witches. And it would have been so very suitable too. (Swedish witch, and all that.)

I still have the war books exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North in mind, and will do until it ends.

James had a hard eleven days of it. At one point I thought he would have to finish the festival wearing espadrilles, when his pointy shoes gave up the ghost. And was it tired eyes that caused the spectacles to emerge one day?

Kaye did all right, wearing some lovely outfits and still seeming to feel up to starting to plan mcbf 2014.

There were others who did a wonderful job as well. Claudia travelled all over Manchester, and Kevin smiled in the face of exhaustion whenever I met him. Duncan was elegant in his suit until the bitter end, and Iris continued with her bright spottiness. Anyone else I’ve omitted mentioning will just have to forgive a confused old festival-witch.

I’ll leave you with some more photos, chosen with no plan or reason whatsoever.

Holden Gallery

MCBF audience

Jackie Kay

Liz Kessler

Steve Cole

Cathy Cassidy

Jacqueline Wilson and fan

Sherry Ashworth and Philip Pullman

Josh Degenhardt and Julie Bertagna

Michael Rosen

John Sampson

Carol Ann Duffy

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Mothers and daughters, and it’s goodbye from mcbf 2012

Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult

The double mother and daughter thing was too good an opportunity to miss. And a first time is always special, and no matter how many more times you do something, the first one is the only first one you get. So when Jodi Picoult returned to Manchester on Sunday, to sign new book Between the Lines, co-written with her daughter Samantha van Leer, I knew I wanted to be there, and I knew I wanted a chat with the two of them, and I knew I wanted my trusted photographer to make a better job of taking pictures than I have managed in the last two meetings with Jodi.

Samantha van Leer

It all came true, including my weird dream from a few weeks back. (So don’t tell me I’m not a witch.) Basically there were no people waiting at the Arndale. In my dream it had to do with being Good Friday, but in real life the queue had to stand inside WHS, instead of outside. So the fans were all there. Phew. (And I know it’s not Easter.)

Jodi Picoult

Glad to see the fans were as keen as ever, and happy to lay their hands on this great new fairytale-meets-real-life novel. Mum Jodi might have helped write it, but the idea was all Sammy’s. We watched as each fan (and there were a good number of men) sat down next to Jodi and Sammy for a photo and brief chat. Couldn’t help noticing Sammy is lefthanded like her mum, and no doubt she will soon be the second fastest signer in the west.

There was a cute baby, as always.

Jodi Picoult and baby

And then it was my turn. Jodi almost lied, saying it was nice to see me again. (It was obviously nice. It’s the again I don’t believe she remembers.) And at least I got my interview in before the BBC this time. If you’re up early, try Monday’s breakfast show for their version.

Sammy and Jodi had a tea engagement with another mother and daughter team, who had won a meeting with the two writers in a competition. (See, it is a marvellous idea.)

Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson at the Royal Exchange

Our own luck held, and we finished in good time for the mcbf finale, which didn’t come a moment too soon. Any later and James would have expired. As it was, all major players were still upright when Carol Ann Duffy and her best friend John Sampson told the sad tale of The Princess’ Blankets. It was my third time, but it’s still good. And this time I was sitting in a great seat upstairs at the Royal Exchange, while my photographer had the time of her life, clambering all over the central space capsule.

John Sampson

Carol Ann issued orders not to tell her how the tennis was going. John played his unusual instruments and pretended to be Mozart again. We in the audience got to do our shouting, and this time I was Picasso. After the poor Princess had warmed up, Carol Ann read us a new book called The Gift.

Carol Ann Duffy

And finally, James and Kaye could stand in the limelight and declare the last eleven days over, and John provided a classy trumpet solo to mark the moment. It has been really good. Rest a while now, and then get on with planning 2014! You know you want to.

Kaye Tew and James Draper

We’ll be back.

Launching mcbf, again

You can never launch a good thing too many times. You might recall I ‘helped’ launch the Manchester Children’s Book Festival 2012 back in January last year. It was very nice. That’s presumably why they did it again.

Yesterday’s launch at New Charter Academy in Tameside (Ashton-under-Lyne) was properly executed, despite this being the week of throat infections and other kinds of bad throats. The member of staff at NCA who was to lead us to the auditorium had to whisper, hence the few followers. Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy fared only a little better, but was assisted by microphone and water.

John Brooks, Carol Ann Duffy, NCA staff member, Kaye Tew and James Draper

But we did it, and that’s the main thing. With the help of my chauffeur, aka the Resident IT Consultant, I made it to this far flung outpost of Greater Manchester, and it was my very first academy visit. It was nice. No sooner had I braved the cold winds of the car park and made it inside when I was shanghaied into a – mercifully brief – interview with Radio Tameside (I conduct the interviews here, thank you very much!), as well as been begged for a contribution to the mcbf blog.

Carol Ann Duffy with students at New Charter Academy

I was introduced to MMU Vice Chancellor John Brooks, who might be the one who said that well behaved parents could be permitted to accompany their children to the mcbf in the summer. (If not, someone else said it. It’s all a blur at the moment.) Nearly everyone spoke at some point or other. A few specially invited NCA students asked Carol Ann Duffy some extremely good questions. Kaye Tew enthused about their schools programme and James Draper (wearing truly cool socks) introduced the second half of the launch.

John Sampson's instruments

John Brooks, John Sampson and Mozart

Which was Carol Ann Duffy and her best friend John Sampson, doing a similar show to the one I saw last year. But you simply can’t have too much of The Princess Blankets (the end of which I had already *forgotten…) read by Carol Ann and with John playing a lot of different flute-y instruments, including something looking like a walking stick. (The Resident IT Consultant nodded approval for every outlandish and ancient music contraption brought out.)

Noisy audience participation (by this time the audience had grown with the arrival of pupils from nearby primary schools) complemented a successful show. It included much worthy learning, but also a sign bearing the words ‘Bloody Hell.’ And I don’t think that was an accident… Mozart was there, not to mention his older colleague Johann Sebastian Baah, the famous sheep.

Flowers for Carol Ann Duffy

I could go on. And on. But to save you having to switch off your computer, I’ll leave you with the link to the brand new and freshly produced mcbf programme. It contains many witchy favourites. Some only in school events, however. I will work on my witch-to-school transformation for daytime use.

(And I’m sorry, but my photos are as rubbish as last week’s were. I suffered a ‘technical hitch’ which has now – belatedly – been rectified. Suffice it to say I am an idiot. Sorry.)

(*As for my concerns about early dementia, I have looked at last year’s launch blog. It seems Carol Ann never read us the end. Hardly surprising I couldn’t remember it.)

Just One Cornetto…

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!

; )