Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Reachout, no, Outreach

Back on the blogseat this week is Chris, you may remember him from such blogs as Suddenly She Turned Into a Gerbil, Secret Santa and Chris Says Howdy or you may not. He is here to blog about Outreach and being Festivaled-out...

A lot has happened since the last time I blogged here: the summer has come and gone, the Edinburgh festival flew past in whirl of entertaining wallet emptying, Michael Jackson died or was murdered (depending on who you believe) and we have just completed the Outreach events as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The premise of Outreach is simple, we take 6 authors or illustrators from the festival out to schools and areas who cannot get to the festival over 6 days. We had a dizzying array of talent in the Bookmobile over the last two weeks from all over the world...

First up, the wonderful Lili Wilkinson from Australia. We ventured north up to Brechin and then onto Arbroath top speak to students about Lili’s wonderful novel, Scatterheart, usually historical romance fiction is a non-starter for me but this book completely won me over. Lili had been doing research into her family tree and discovered that she had family in Brechin and we even managed to find her great-great-great grandmother grave at the cemetery! Lili also works on the award winning website for teen literacy Inside of a Dog – check it out it wont bite!

Day two and the rain is teeming down as we head over to Glasgow with the graphic novelist and comic book hero, Tony Lee. His previous work includes some small comic books that most folk wont of heard of, X-Men and Spiderman anyone!!! But we were there to promote his latest book, Outlaw: Robin Hood. Tony’s enthusiasm for writing and his sheer effervescent joy at doing what he loves to do shone through and was magically contagious. So much so that we all forgot about the rain and one wee lad in the second session who had the most outrageous laugh could not stop laughing. The poor lad nearly choked!

My next outing was with Liz Pichon who is a writer and illustrator of picture books including Bored Bill, The Very Ugly Bug and Penguins. We had two brilliant interactive sessions in Falkirk with quizzes, storytelling, drawing and colouring in – ace fun! Liz also runs a really amazing website, Show Me How to where you can learn to play your favourite songs.

During the morning session a wee boy came over to me and asked if I could tie his shoe-lace, so I did, but as I finished his teacher came over and told me that he could do that himself! So I asked him, “Why am I tying your shoe-lace if you can do it yourself?” His response… “Just cause” and off he went to finish his drawing.

We had a little extra time over lunch so we took Liz to see the Falkirk Wheel which is such an amazing feat of engineering and we also had a look at the prototype Horse Heads that they are planning on building.

My last day of Outreach was marred by stinking traffic in Edinburgh but once Frank Cottrell Boyce started reading it was soon forgotten. Frank (whose other work includes Coronation Street, 24 Hour Party People, Welcome to Sarajevo as well as film-adaptations of his books Millions and Framed) has written three novels – Millions, Framed and Cosmic. You may have seen Millions at the cinema or read about it winning the Carnegie Medal (not bad for a first effort!) and Framed was on the BBC this week, probably still on i-player and Cosmic was shortlisted for the Carnegie this year too! Frank thoroughly entertained his audience and his stories about his work and where his ideas sprout from were fantastic.

Also out on Outreach were Bernard Beckett and Thomas Docherty but as I was not at these sessions so I cannot comment on them but I have been reliably informed that they were excellent.

In amongst all of this, the Book Festival. Events with the Beano, Terry Deary (of Horrible Histories fame) and Michael Rosen (of Michael Rosen fame) as well as everything that the Edinburgh festival entails.

Phew! I'm knackered - I could sleep for a week, if only, there are 50 teachers coming round on Thursday and will need fed, watered and entertained!


Things what i'm loving
Broken Records
Phantom Band

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