Sunday, 20 September 2009

Jenny Nimmo at the Bath Festival of Children's Literature

It's been a mixed week - I managed to acquire a revolting cold and very scratchy sore throat, with the effect that as well as feeling rather like death warmed up I completely lost my voice for two days and had to take some time off work. Very frustrating, as I end up feeling guilty for having stayed home from work, and at the same time utterly exhausted and unable to do anything. I dispprove.

However, I was back in work on Friday, and on Friday evening my parents arrived to stay for the night. My mum wanted to see a Patchwork/Quilting exhitition at a local shop, and then they are travelling on to Derbyshire for a bellringing holiday.

It was nice to see them, especially as they are going to New Zealand shortly, and will be away for 7 weeks, so I will not have another opportunity to see them until the end of November.

Saturday brought my first visit to this year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature, to see Jenny Nimmo , author of the 'Snow Spider' and 'Charlie Bone' series of children's books. I remember reading, and enjoying, the Snow Spider when I was younger, and more recently have enjoyed the 'Charlie Bone' books - they are intended for children 8+ and have many of the staples of a rip-roaring read - boarding school with sinister teachers, magical gifts, missing parents and so on, as well non-(magically) talented children - lots of fun. From the answers in her Q&A session I learned that she has been comissioned to write a trilogy about the Red King - the ancestor of Charlie Bone and the other talented children, which should be interesting.

The event was held in one of the smaller rooms in the Guildhall, and I would guess that around 80-100 people were there, including a high proportion of children, which is always good to see. Jenny started by speaking a little about why she became a writer, having started by telling stories to her friends when she was at boarding school, and later being encouraged to write her first novel by her boss, when she was working on 'Jackanory' at the BBC. She then spoke a little about the Charlie Bone series, including calling up various volunteers from the audience to illustrate the various 'gifts' which the characters in Charlie Bone have, and then ended by taking questions from the audience, from children wanting to know whether she has any pets (yes, several cats), what 'gift' she would like to have (the ability to write without having to use a pen or keyboard) and who her favourite character is, from the Charlie Bone books (Uncle Peyton).

I always find it interesting to hear writers talking about what they do - in this instance, it was clear that Jenny was pitching her talk to the children, not to the accompanying parents, and that they appreciated this.

After the talk, there was a short queue for those wishing to get books signed.

As I wandered back towards the station (sneezing softly as I went) I was mildly surprised to meet several groups of elegant regency females (many with vastly fetching bonnets), several soldiers (or possibly members of the militia - I need a Miss Lydia Bennett to set me right) and one or two gentlemen, including a very young gentleman in a beautiful lilac coat.
I settled back in my seat on the train, wondering whether I was suffering from Bath-induced hallucinations, brought on by a combination of cold-virus and too much Georgette Heyer, but have now learned that it was all part of the Jane Austen festival, and specifically their (apparently successful) attempt to obtain the world record for the highest number of people in regency dress. (presumably entired from large events which took place during the Regency period are not eligible to enter...)
I find it mildly amusing that so many of Miss J. Austen's fans should chose to gather and celebrate her life in a city which she, like her creation Miss Anne Elliot, apparently coridally disliked. .
I was interested to learn, however, in reading about the festival, that when she visited Bath in 1799, Jane Austen stayed (in lodgings, with her brother & mother) at 13 Queen Square. The building is now the offices of a firm of solicitors and I have often attended meetings there, but had not been aware of the Austen connection. I wonder what she would make of its current use?


spacedlaw said...

No pictures of the bonnets?

I hope you are feeling better. Do take care of yourself.

Marjorie said...

No, I had not got my camera to hand when I saw the bonnets, and was rushing to catch a train, so I only snapped the soldiers (although had I seen a real Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth I might have missed the train to ensure I got pictures!)