by Emma Carpendale, (Secretary, Northamptonshire CBG)
The Festival of Children’s Literature was the first FCBG event I’d ever been to, both as a committee member of a local group, and as a member of the public. I’m Secretary of Northamptonshire Children’s Book Group, we formed in the summer of 2018 and are currently planning our first programme of events to commence in the Spring of 2019. As a member of a newly-formed group I was excited about meeting the public to promote the charity and also meet other Federation members.
The Festival took place on 3rd November, at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in the heart of the city. The venue was ideal, very spacious with good facilities, a lovely cafe and just a short walk from New Street Station.
The Festival brought together three of our most beloved children’s authors and illustrators and past Children’s Laureates, Julia Donaldson, Jacqueline Wilson and Chris Riddell, as well as award-winning storyteller Anna Conomos for a special celebration of children’s literature to mark the 50 year anniversary of the FCBG.
I booked my tickets well in advance as I didn’t want to miss out on what was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the three Laureates together under one roof, and the event fully exceeded my expectations!
First of the days’ performances was Julia Donaldson’s Treasury of Songs. It had begun by the time I had arrived but the kind staff let me sneak in and I found my seat. I was fortunate I had pre-booked my ticket as it was sold out! The event was packed, and the audience were fully immersed in the performance, singing along and participating in the gestures as demonstrated by Julia Donaldson and her sister who performed with her on stage, along with Donaldson’s husband who provided musical accompaniment. The audience were captivated, it was clear they felt very privileged to be part of this event and both children and adults thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Over lunch I was introduced to some of the FCBG executive committee members, it was great to put names to some of the faces, they were very welcoming to me and made me feel part of the FCBG family.
After lunch I caught the end of Anna Conomos’s unique performance of Baba Yaga with local schoolchildren. If you haven’t seen Anna perform before, I highly recommend you do, the award-winning storyteller effortlessly brings to life stories of myth and folklore by combining them with song and all performed in her own special style.
By the time I left Anna’s performance, the foyer was packed again for the next event in the programme which was the incredible Jacqueline Wilson. I opted out of this event in favour of meeting the public and helping out the organisers, as well as doing a bit of shopping in the amply stocked and expertly curated bookshop provided by H&H Spalding Books. The feedback from the audience about the Wilson event was extremely positive, which I discovered while chatting to visitors waiting in the book signing queue.
The final event of the day was Chris Riddell, prolific author, illustrator and wizard with an Albrecht Durer pencil. To set the tone of the event, as well as to provide entertainment, the guests queuing to enter the auditorium were treated to a wonderful taster performance by students from the conservatoire. These students then accompanied Riddell throughout his event, which involved him reading from his latest Goth Girl book, Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony, and live drawing to music.
Being an Illustrator myself, and a huge fan of Riddell, this was one of my favourite events in the Festival, but the whole day was a wonderful experience, and I felt lucky to be part of it.