Thursday, 19 November 2009

Chris Newton: Looking Back on the Highland Tour

A mere 7 weeks ago (it seems like a lifetime now) we embarked on our longest tour, taking the duo who created the Edge Chronicles, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, on a two-week tour of the Highlands.

Jasmine and I headed north on the Sunday and met the talented Mr Riddell at the airport in Inverness, Paul was at this point in a field near Dorset. The tour had begun.

We stayed in Inverness, in a hotel over looking the River Ness where we all went for walks or the occasional jog. Over the next few days we did exciting and entertaining sessions in Nairn (fastest place in the north), Boat of Garten, Dingwall (Dingers), Fortrose and a huge one at Eden

Court Theatre (Inverness), where we were joined by more members of Scottish Book Trust and the boys' publicist, Georgia Lawe, came up from London too.

Setting off from there we headed down Loch Ness and the Great Glen until we hit Ben Nevis and Fort William. I like Fort William it has a great atmosphere, perhaps that comes from the satisfaction of those who have just climbed Britain’s largest mountain or maybe those who have completed the West highland Way or maybe it is the anticipation of those two things. Or just maybe, its because they too have eaten at the beautiful seafood restaurant, Crannog. Mmmmm.
After our session in Fort William, we drove off and got on the Corran Ferry and glided over to the Ardnamurchan Penisula – where we greeted by more enthusiastic children and stunning scenery.

Time for another big drive but when the chat is flowing and the scenery is as stunning as it was 4hours seemed nothing at all. One of the best things about being on tour is getting to spend time with hugely talented writers and illustrators, you get to know them quite well as you are with them all day and you also get to hear some ace stories. Particularly when you are with Chris (a shameless name-dropper) and Paul (who knows a lot about German grammar and rock music).

Another great thing about touring is that you get to see Scotland, I had never been to Skye before so it was good to see it, if only for a couple of days and I would definitely go back. In fact, I am very very lucky touring has taken me loads of cool places; Skye, Orkney, Shetland, Kilmarnock, Outer Hebrides, the Moray Firth and Oban (spot the odd-one out!)

Jasmine, Paul and Chris spent the weekend on Skye doing the exploring that I would liked to have done while I returned to Macduff (where I am from) for a friend’s wedding and then I met up with them in Ullapool. Ullapool had just staged their Loopalu Festival so the town had somewhat of a collective hangover so I fitted in perfectly! While I nursed my hangover and rued the fact that I couldn’t watch Match of the Day 2 Chris drew wonderful caricatures of Jasmine and I which he signed. They are now framed and hanging in our houses – very proud.

As we headed up to Scourie, where we did our smallest session of just 15 pupils the rain came for the first time and we showed Paul and Chris the other side of Scotland’s weather! At least the rain brings out the colours of the heather and the rocks so at least all was not lost and we did have lunch in the van over looking a wee castle.

After Scourie we headed east to Golspie where we met even more great children and some enthusiastic teenagers as well as being able to have a walk on the beach. You would have thought that after almost two weeks on the road Paul and Chris would be flagging but there were still in great form and were as chatty and friendly as one could hope.

Back on the road and this time we are heading north, until there is no more north – Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Britain. Our last events were in Wick and once again the children were ace and they left entertained and enthused about books.

To finish the tour we had a celebratory drink in a bar that was straight out of 1974 and then ate in a restaurant on the World’s Shortest Street (Ebeneezer Street, Wick, 6ft 9), only in Wick!!!
We waved the boys off at the airport in Wick with the resignation that the end of such a good tour brings and also the realisation that we would be back at the desk in a few days. This adventure was almost over. Back to Edinburgh in a 7 hours, well 5 and bit as Marion was driving.

It has been great fun creating this tour video and I really hope that you enjoy it, it hope fully brings it alive and it serves as a fantastic reminder for us. Do look out for some of the things that I mentioned in the blog. Actually, it has been fun writing this blog as the memories have come flooding back and there has been so much that I have left out.

So yes, I do have the best job in the world.

Find out more about Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell on their website:

Other News:

Random House Children's Books held a Teenage Kicks event with Keith Gray on 12th November. It was a huge success. Here's what a few attendees had to say:

‘Many thanks, the girls loved it. The authors were fab & it brings an added dimension to reading their books now.’ Karen Hans, Librarian, St Martin-in-the-Fields High School

‘It was a really great evening, the young people loved it and were on such a high on the train on the way home! The evening, and their involvement in the preparations leading up to it, gave them some great opportunities for enjoyment, creativity, and both social and personal development .' Kim Tucker - Children's Services LibrarianCrawley Library


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