My first festival foray was to a Schools Read Aloud Programme event. Like Gulliver engulfed by a chaotic hoard of Lilliputians, I braved the collected masses of Avonhead, Hoon Hay and Merrin primary schools to hear Gavin Bishop, Mark Carthew and Jill Marshall talk about their work as children’s writers and illustrators.
Gavin Bishop read Kiwi Moon, his tale of a rare and displaced white Kiwi who seeks shelter with Marama. He also talked about the fascination of fairy tales, myths and legend and the challenge of creating stories that have the epic and enduring qualities of these ancient tales.
Jill Marshall hails from Manchester originally and required the audience to say “ay up” in their best Coronation St-esque accents. They did so, I can report, with great aplomb. Jill writes the Jane Blonde: Sensational Spylet series and talked about how her ideas develop and the process of writing. Jill spent 14 years working in HR and obviously knows how to keep a rowdy audience under control; she even managed to get a rap going. I suspect she may be the first and last rapping author of the festival but let’s put the challenge out there, come on Kate Atkinson and Robert Fisk show us your rap.
Mark Carthew was the audience favourite although his non-stop barrage of knock-knock jokes made me want to “knock-knock” him out. Mark lives and teaches in Melbourne and has written over a hundred books for children. He described himself as a collector of words and cited his parents and teachers as early inspiration for his creative career.
The car load of kids I took back to Hoon Hay school were I have to say a little tepid in their reaction to first contact with the author race but given time and with perhaps more opportunity for interaction it could be the start of something beautiful.