Sunday, 15 November 2009

Lennoxlove Book Festival

I’m not impressed with celebritiess per se, but I do appreciate inspiring people. This week-end gave me the chance to attend the first Lennoxlove Book Festival, just outside Haddington and the bonus was that I didn’t have to pay anything! It started on Friday night when my allotted task was ‘Car Park attendant.’ Not what I had been hoping for! It was soon obvious that the book festival would be a success, judging by the number of cars, which filled the car park and most of the field below it. Quite a few people had their best shoes on and found the converted cow field heavy going. So, I didn’t get a whiff of any authors but I did get a lot of fresh air and so did Harvey.
Yesterday was the real business – and I saw four different authors strutting their stuff. My job was to direct people to their seats in the Festival Marquee, this comprised of making sure there were no gaps in the rows of seats so that everyone could fit in. The first two gigs were sell-outs and the next two were three-quarters full.

First off was the well-known children’s author called Michael Morpurgo. I have to admit that I had not heard of him, but the hundreds of children present had. Michael said that the worst thing you can do to children is bore them. He is an ex schoolteacher and he has a way of talking to the audience as if he is a spoilt child. He relates well to the kids talking directly with them and sometimes telling them to sit down. I was very impressed with the questions that the children asked him He entertained us with his latest story for five year olds called ‘The Best of Times.’ This was a magical story about a Prince and Princess which had an ideal at it’s heart. The more Michael talked the more we realised that he wrote about things that meant something to him, including a story from the devastating tsunami and a story about kites and the death of a young boy in Palestine. He also told us the story of why elephants have long trunks.

Next, Simon King, the wildlife cameraman and presenter of ‘Big Cat Diary’ and ‘Autumn Watch’ entertained us with stories about his life. Simon likes living on the edge and he proved this once again by throwing his allotted time open to questions from the audience. He took one step further by doing away with the roving mic. Simon is charming and witty, his stories about Shetland fascinated me, because I was there earlier this year. But when I came home, he went off to the Masai Mara. Simon talked about cheetahs, orcas, crocodiles, foxes, otters and many, many more animals. Strangely, his most dangerous expedition was on a traffic island in Bristol.

Gervase Phinn is a man in a million. We were expecting him to be at the peak of his story telling powers (the festival guide told us so) and we got a funny, clever and thoroughly entertaining hour. Here is a man of deep-seated beliefs about the way we should treat children. ‘They deserve the very best we can give them.’ During his career, he has been a schools inspector and many of his tales showed us the world through the eyes of children. His jokes were side splitting. One of his best was when he and the Lord Mayor of Rotherham asked a small boy why he wasn’t going to the Christmas nativity play.
‘It’s been cancelled,’ was the reply.
‘Why?’ they asked.
‘Virgin Mary’s got nits,’ was the ultimate in one-line answers.

After the festival was over I joined the authors I had recently been enthralled with in the great hall of Lennoxlove where we were treated to a song by Martine McCutcheon. I went off to see how Harvey was getting on, reflecting that I had found some inspiring people who also happened to be celebraties.


  1. I'd really hoped to get along to some of the featival but there was just too much going on at the weekend. Next year, I hope!

  2. Hello C

    I have heard from the organisers that there will be another book festival next year... it should be another good one!

  3. Does anyone know how to copy and paste a pdf graphic onto a document?