Monday, 9 July 2012

All the Fun of the Festival by Ann Evans

Being a Coventry Kid I was really pleased when Coventry came up with its very first Coventry Book Festival. Called Literally – Coventry Book Festival it took place a couple of weeks ago, and much to the delight of the organisers managed to secure a few big names! Amongst them Philip Pullman and Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) ...Hey!!

Philip Pullman made a rare appearance to collect an award for his novel Northern Lights at the 
Coventry Inspiration Book Awards which was a highlight of the festival. These awards are open to anyone anywhere, and this event has been going successfully for a number of years now. Books can be nominated and voted on – and by the way, they are currently accepting nominations for the 2013 awards, so take a look at this link and see if there are any books that you would like to nominate. 

The leading light as festival organiser was Coventry City Council's Joy Court who is such an enthusiastic champion for everything to do with books, reading and writing whether you're young or not so young. And with Joy at the helm, a whole week of book and literary events were organised – daytimes and evenings. There were lots of school events, talks and workshops and something going on every evening. As far as I know all the authors gave their time for free and the nice thing was, all the public events were also totally free to attend too.

From my own point of view it was a busy week as one of my jobs was to help judge the short story competition, which lots and lots of children and adults had entered; then came some school sessions and four evening events to take part in. Although the Wednesday Inspirational Book Awards ceremony wasn't actually a 'taking part' event as I certainly hadn't won any awards, but it was an enjoyable evening of sitting and listening – and it's not every day that you get to listen to Philip Pullman speaking live. Although in the picture below he's sitting listening to someone else.

But let me tell you about some of the fun-packed events during the week. Monday was the evening when I joined up with fellow members of The Coventry Writers Group. We'd compiled an anthology recently (which actually won a national award!!) It was short stories and poems all with a Coventry theme. We called the anthology 'Coventry Tales' and we decided as part of the festival fun we would put on a performance night. Luckily we were able to use a local amateur theatre as our venue, with seating arranged in a relaxing 'cabaret style' . With a selection of tasty nibbles and home made cake on the tables, we managed to draw in a cheerful audience.

Tuesday was a school visit in the morning and a workshop in the afternoon. On Thursday I joined a panel of authors for a bit of a 'chat show'. We faced a friendly audience keen to ask questions about our work, our lives and our connection with Coventry. It was hosted by Pete Walters and others on the panel were Cathy Cassidy, Mark Walden, Graham Joyce, Celia Rees, Alex T Smith, Toby Forward, Mez Packer and Rebecca Hunt. Cathy, Mark and Graham were also launching new books, so afterwards came a launch party with wine and nibbles. Then home to make a start on reading Graham's new novel, Some Kind of Fairy Tale. Which incidentally I've now read and would heartily recommend.

Among the other highlights was Henry Winkler's input into the festival. He did a school visit and a fantastic talk on the Saturday evening. As the famous Fonz in TV's Happy Days, Henry who is dyslexic was speaking in his role as a writer and as an ambassador for a dyslexic charity called 'Achievement For All”.

Thanks to one of the Coventry Writers Group members, Margaret Mather, she presented him with a copy of our anthology to take back to the USA Personally I think it was just an excuse to get up close and personal to the great Fonz! Hey!!

A fun-packed week, slightly hectic for the organisers, great opportunities for all the authors and illustrators who took part, and hopefully enjoyable for the many adults and children who attended the events.

So how about your town? Does it run literary or book festivals and do you like to get involved – or do you keep your head down!

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Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds like great fun, Ann! I'm interested in the book you produced - where can I get a copy, and how did you publish it? Might in future do something similar with the community class I teach.

Ann Evans said...

Hi Sue, Greenstream Publishing did it for us. Our group were lucky because the man behind Greenstream is one of our members. He did all the difficult bits regarding layout, ISBN, he deals with the distribution and getting it onto Amazon etc. His website is:
We publicised the anthology locally with press releases, book signings at Waterstones and (as mentioned in the blog) some performance evenings. Good luck with your venture if you go for it. The man at Greenstream is Mike Boxwell.

Sue Purkiss said...

Thanks, Ann!