Amanda Brettargh, founder and director of London’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival, on the rewards of bringing stories alive and engaging children through live events.
Last year we had to call the fire brigade down to Barnes Pond to rescue a boy from one of our ancient plane trees. Happily, the child together with a copy of Josh Lacey’s Dragonsitter under one arm, and Gareth Jones’s Pirates under the other, were all recovered undamaged in the end by the ice-cream man using the traditional method: one scoop of chocolate and one of vanilla! ‘My eyes wouldn’t stop reading!’ our adventurer told the crowd.
For this we have to thank Garry Parsons!
Our little book fan had spent the morning with Garry who had teamed up with Josh Lacey, and later on with Gareth Jones, for two brilliantly bonkers book parties where they didn’t only bring their stories to life, they actually blew the kids away with their drawing, ukulele-playing, ventriloquism and inflatable alligator a go go! (I think it’s best if I don’t mention anything here about the poop!) And while all this is going on there is that magical moment when you catch sight of the children’s faces watching them and even though, after a year of very hard work, you feel like you’ve been in a nightclub until 4.00am, suddenly, it’s all worth it.
At the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival we want to inspire the next generation of readers and writers by giving children the chance to engage with their favourite authors and illustrators and their work in a fun, educational and interactive way. At Barnes we programme books as film, theatre, music, maths, art, craft, cookery – whatever it takes to get children excited about literacy, literature and creativity.
Hopefully their trip home will become the source of their next story but because some of these children’s most important stories might still be yet to come, we hope that this will give them the tools to say yes to new things, to create new conversations, to tell their stories differently, to create their futures.
At Barnes we have always been committed to programming some of children’s literature’s best known names alongside some exciting new voices and a few treats the audience is unlikely to see at festivals elsewhere. Michael Rosen, Nick Sharratt, Francesca Simon, Kes Gray and the Booktrust Illustrator in Residence Sarah MacIntyre, as well as the popular television presenters Clare Balding and Dr Lucy Worsley and comedians Ade Edmondson and Christian O’Connell, are just a few of the big names heading to Barnes this year.
Among the highlights this year include another festival first featuring Barnes’s best loved resident, Judith Kerr, joining her dear friend Axel Scheffler for a conversation, called ‘When Mog Meets Zog’, based on their famous characters, and an exclusive interview with Britain’s biggest selling illustrator, Tony Ross, who is probably best known as the illustrator of the mega-bestselling books by David Walliams, as well as The Little Princess, Horrid Henry and more than a thousand other titles.
We’ve also got a new interactive stage show which explores the wonderful world of the Harry Potter books, a concert version of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, a special storytelling of Willy the Wimp by Anthony Browne with live music from the Adriamus Ensemble, clay modelling with Aardman Animations, plus cartoons, craft, collage – you name it!
There’ll be fun for non-fiction fans too with a special children’s lecture on anatomy from the eminent scientist Professor Robert Winston, and mathematician Alex Bellos with true stories, real science and fascinating facts about football.
And there’s plenty more where that came from with sixty events this year and one thing’s for sure: you are guaranteed to see something new and amazing under our magnificent planes and horse chestnuts. But if we don’t have to call the fire brigade, we’ll be very grateful!
The Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, London’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival, returns Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May 2017, and tickets are on sale now.