Tuesday, October 30, 2012

International relations

Sex and the Cities, Friday 19th October, 7.30pm, International Anthony Burgess Foundation

You can read a review of this event on The Manchester Review, published by the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Grand finale

Jonathan Harvey, Tuesday 23rd October, 7pm, International Anthony Burgess Foundation

Words by Michael Smaczylo. Photograph by Jon Atkin.

For the 75th and final event of this year’s excellent festival, Jonathan Harvey is joined at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation by the Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus for a brilliant finale. Harvey wrote his first play in 1987, for which he won a £1,000 prize from the Liverpool Playhouse and the National Girobank Young Writer of the Year Award. Since then he has won numerous awards for his plays and television writing, and he is currently part of the Coronation Street team. Perhaps his most famous work, Beautiful Thing, was written in 1993, made into a movie in 1996, and performed last year at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, a production which included a song performed tonight by the Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus, who begin and end the event with three of these songs. Today however, he is talking about his first novel, All She Wants, to which Caitlin Moran responded by saying, "If Harvey is the Scouse Proust, then this is his remembrance of things pissed."

The novel is narrated by an airheaded soap actress called Jodie McGee, which sounds like an ambitious move for a male writer, but one which, judging by his reading, Harvey pulls off very comfortably. He tells us that his second novel, on which he is currently working, also uses a first-person female narrator and that he recently wrote his first sex scene, and had to check with a female friend that it wasn’t "too gay". The chapter he reads to us happens when his protagonist is 17 or 18 and is both silly and hilarious, particularly as Harvey reads his characters’ voices so well. In this section, a friend of Jodie’s, who has recently hooked up with a disabled boy at a party, has become a political-correctness warrior, and even turns up to a pub in a wheelchair herself. After this, Jodie’s parents find out that her "perfect" brother Joey is gay, when he is arrested for gross public indecency. They are horrified to begin with and see him as a freak, until a colleague’s lesbian daughter becomes the talk of her workplace, and Jodie’s mother begins to brag that her son has been gay for years and that she practically encourages it. Harvey delivers the reading with great energy to a highly responsive audience.

He then takes questions, beginning with one regarding his choice to write a novel for the first time after 25 years of writing for stage and TV. He speaks about how he became a playwright and what it’s like to be part of the Coronation Street team, joking that since joining he hasn’t felt so bad about the number of shows he has been fired from. Something that is noted by audience members is the cultural "nowness" of his work, which is full of references to popular culture, and the way all of the characters of his novel can be related to real people.

After two final songs from the L&G Chorus, Festival Coordinator Jon Atkin makes the acknowledgements which close what has truly been an amazing festival. 

Michael Smaczylo is a gap year student who has just completed his A-levels at Manchester Grammar School and hopes to study English Language and Literature at university next year. He Tweets as @mashsmaczylo. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Awards and rewards

Northern Writers' Awards, Monday 22nd October, 1pm, Waterstones Deansgate, Events Room

Words by Sarah-Clare Conlon. Photograph by Jon Atkin.

To celebrate the fact that, after 12 years, the Northern Writers' Awards are extending their reach to include areas outside the North East, New Writing North is officially launching the 2013 competition at this event as part of Manchester Literature Festival.

New Writing North chief executive Claire Malcolm introduces the awards, of which there are a number (for example, the Andrea Badenoch Award, for women writers over the age of 42, the Waterhouse Award for Poetry, and various new fiction bursaries). As well as financial support, winners receive exposure to mentoring opportunities, editorial expertise, professional development, exchange programmes and events with the chance to meet agents and publishers.

So far, over 100 writers have benefited from the scheme and previous winners Mari Hannah (2010) and Dan Smith (2005) join Claire to read from their work and discuss how the support they have received has steered their writing careers. Mari reads from The Murder Wall, one of a three-book deal Pan MacMillan signed her up for. The crime series features the character Detective Inspector Kate Daniels and is based in the North East, this one in the area around Hadrian’s Wall. Dan gives us an extract of his third novel through Orion, The Child Thief, about a kidnap in 1930s Ukraine; features of his thrillers being foreign locations and historical settings.

So, how has being a winner of the Northern Writers Awards helped the two writers here today get to this stage? Mari puts it down to the confidence she felt by winning: “Somebody else is saying: ‘We think your writing’s strong’.” Dan nods wholeheartedly. “It’s the encouragement you feel,” he agrees.

This year’s awards pot has increased from £25k to £40k, and submissions (which are all online) will be accepted between 1 December 2012 and 31 January 2013. The judges are different each year, and this time round reflect the awards’ extended area: Cumbria’s Sarah Hall (fiction) and Yorkshire’s Ian McMillan (poetry). We’ll give Mari the last word; if you need any more encouragement to apply, this is it: “Get your submissions in - honestly, it can change your life. It did mine!”

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a freelance writer, editor and press officer. Her award-winning blog, Words & Fixtures, is about language, literature, arts and culture.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Irish spirit

Sailing to Byzantium, Sunday 21st October, 3pm, Royal Northern College of Music

Words by Michael Smaczylo.

The RNCM Concert Hall is a bit of a time capsule for me. As a child I would play there in violin groups and orchestras, but today is the first time I’ve visited in six or seven years, so it’s great to be back. I’ve always loved music of all sorts and sang at the Montreux Jazz Festival last year. I’m also a big fan of modernist literature and have recently been reading a lot of Joyce and studying his literary context, so when I first heard on the radio, while travelling home from the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, that Christine Tobin, who was named Best Vocalist at the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards, had released an album of WB Yeats poems set to music, it was an extremely exciting prospect. When I saw that she would be performing the songs as part of the Manchester Literature Festival, I knew I had to go along.

Taking the stage with her band, which consists of Phil Robson on guitar, Kate Shortt on cello, Liam Noble on piano and Dave Whitford on double bass, Tobin explains that when asked to talk about Yeats by the National Library of Ireland, she decided that arranging and performing some of his poems would be a far less daunting task, and from this came the idea for the album. The performance begins with a recorded reading of The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by her ex-school teacher and actor Gabriel Byrne, followed immediately by the album’s first song, When You Are Old, a love poem from Yeats’ second collection, The Rose. This is followed by another love poem, The Song of Wandering Aengus (Aengus being the Celtic god of poetic love). 

What is immediately obvious is the prodigious talent of each of the performers; each musician playing extended improvised solos, and Tobin’s voice as rich live as post-production on the album. Between songs she offers context to the poems, telling us, before playing The Wild Swans at Coole that Coole, in County Galway, was the residence of Lady Augusta Gregory, with whom Yeats founded the Irish Literary Theatre, and describing The Second Coming as a "dark and apocalyptic vision"; an atmosphere perfectly conveyed in the music by the ominous 5/4 ostinato and chaotic middle section. Next is The Fisherman, a poem that perfectly exemplifies the romantic notions of Irishness that Yeats is renowned for, and his abhorrence of the crass and the everyday, the "beating down" of art.

Sailing to Byzantium, the album’s title track, is one of Yeats’ most famous poems, written later on in his life at a time when he had become fascinated by Eastern mysticism, and Tobin’s melody and harmonies have an Eastern flavour. What Then?, a poem she describes as a "potted biography" of Yeats’ life, encapsulates his search for affirmation even in old age. I think that my favourite of the arrangements must be In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Constance Markiewicz. These were two friends of Yeats’ with whom he eventually disagreed, as they put politics above all else, while he prioritised art. The performance finishes with renditions of Byzantium and Long-Legged Fly (for which Tobin sings through a megaphone), and a reading of The White Birds, again by Gabriel Byrne.

It’s been an incredible performance and I’m feeling completely inspired. I think I might go and arrange some Keats or something. 

Michael Smaczylo is a gap year student who has just completed his A-levels at Manchester Grammar School and hopes to study English Language and Literature at university next year. He Tweets as @mashsmaczylo.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preaching to the converted

Manchester Sermon, Thursday 18th October, 7pm, Manchester Cathedral

Words by Benjamin Judge. Photograph by Roshana Rubin-Mayhew.

The sermon was once a respected literary form like the poem or the essay. In the 19th century, many of our greatest writers wrote them, they were collected together in books and they were, like, probably, like, on the telly, like, all the time and that. Then, in the 20th century, Mary Quant invented the Beatles and something-something-something to do with Spitfires and rationing, and then all of a sudden there was that song based on the music from Tetris, and Ace of Base, and that thing with Carol Smillie where they decorate each other’s homes and cry because they don’t like how they decorated each other’s homes, and... where was I?

Oh yes, sermons. Well, Manchester Cathedral and the Literature Festival and various other people got together and decided to give sermons another go. It started two years ago, with the first Manchester Sermon, which was delivered by Jeanette Winterson. Then last year Andrew Motion visited the cathedral. This year Ali Smith became a sermoner for a day. (Note to self – check if sermoner is a real world.)

And the interesting thing about all this is... it works. I am not a Christian, I am not very religious period, but in two of the last three years, the Manchester Sermon has been my highlight of the festival. (I should clarify here that I’m not suggesting one of the previous two years wasn’t up to snuff; I missed Andrew Motion because I was having tea at my mum’s house.) That shouldn’t be a surprise, really. The Bible is an infinitely interesting text, whatever your thoughts on it, so it makes sense that when you invite brilliant writers to speak about it, the results will be entertaining and thought provoking.

And Ali Smith is a brilliant writer. And a brilliant speaker too. I was lucky enough to meet her briefly, and to see her read from There But For The last year. I would happily pay to see her read from the phonebook. As a writer, she is so alive to the joy of language, of words, that she seems incapable of talking without investing her speech with that joy. From her opening sentence, a borrowing of a pun, “Let us play”, to the final word, via a series of increasingly lovely rebeginnings, rebegottings, quotes, asides, ideas and jokes, all held together by a narrative voice that anyone familiar with her novels and short stories will already be enamoured of, she talked about Donne and death, and loss and the Book of Job, and somehow made all of it joyful and true and wise.

Yeah, that good.

There are many events at the Manchester Literature Festival. Some are interesting, some are funny, some are serious, some are life-changing. But of all the events, none are quite as important as the Manchester Sermon. The Sermon creates new, and repeatedly brilliant, work in a form that is all but forgotten. It investigates the place of the Bible in literature and the place of the Bible’s lessons in an increasingly secular society. It opens up a dialogue between literature and religion. It offers a place of reflection in the bustle of the city centre. And, most appealingly of all, it does so without being preachy or pushy or even the slightest bit judgmental. And they have a choir at the start. Singing a couple of hymns. All beautiful and that.

So, there you are. I had fun in a church. Again. Manchester, eh?


Benjamin Judge is the author of Who the fudge is Benjamin Judge?, the winner of the Best Writing Award at the 2011 Manchester Blog Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @benjaminjudge

You can read more reviews of this event, by students at the Centre for New Writing, on The Manchester Review.

Young Digital Reporter at Swimming and Flying

Swimming and Flying, Friday 19th October 2012, 7.30pm, Whitworth Art Gallery

Words by Anna Hart. Photograph by Roshana Rubin-Mayhew.

It’s Day 12 of the Manchester Literature Festival and I am sitting in Whitworth Art Gallery, wondering what the next hour has in store for me. A few weeks ago, I had discovered that Mark Haddon would be giving a talk about his life and writing as part of the festival, which sparked my memory of reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I found it to be a compellingly unique story, which captured my imagination by exploring the world in which we live from a different perspective to how the majority of people experience everyday life. Thinking about my enjoyment and interest in this book, I was excited to gain an insight into the mind of its author.

Mark Haddon steps onto an extremely minimalistic set, consisting of only himself, a British Sign Language interpreter and a bottle of water. He commences with a relatable tale from his childhood, talking about his experience of attending boarding school. One day, he had accidentally made a hole in the games room radiator during a game of darts and owned up to committing this "crime" when the housemaster questioned the students. Much to the audience’s amusement, Haddon proceeds to explain his underlying feeling of smugness at having told the truth and his secret expectation of an award for honesty, only to reveal the reality of the situation – a caning from the housemaster. According to Haddon, he’d never been cooler than after being beaten six times with a cane; those younger than him were desperate to have a peek at his wounds and hear all of the "grizzly details", whereas those older than him would reward him with a knowing pat on the back.

Smoothly progressing from this specific recount, Haddon shares an overview of his childhood years with the audience. As a young boy, he was obsessed with science, which is the basis for many of the interesting, and often hilarious, stories that Haddon tells. One that is greeted with a particularly enthusiastic ripple of laughter is about the time when he thought that he’d invented an electric motor and was devastated to find out that someone had done it before him.

Many recurring themes emerge throughout Haddon’s talk, including his experiences of teaching creative writing, his fear of flying on planes and his fascination with the fact that the darkness between the stars is actually full of more distant stars, which are shining bright, but just not bright enough for us to see. This is just one of the numerous dramatic and inspirational images that Haddon describes.

Haddon tells many delightful anecdotes, punctuated with the occasional quote or extract of writing. His communication with the audience, through both his very clear voice and narrating hand gestures, is extremely important to help people to connect, appreciate and engage with his words. Haddon proved that all he needed to deliver an entertaining and insightful talk was himself. The evening was thoroughly enjoyable and a valuable experience to discover more about a brilliant author.

Throughout the Festival in 2012 we have been working with a group of young people to support them to become digital reporters, and to document a range of events from their perspective. As well as writing blogs and reviews, the young digital reporters have responded to our events using other methods such as photography, illustration and radio.

Young Digital Reporter at Blog North Awards

Blog North Awards, Wednesday 17th October, 7.30pm, The Deaf Institute

Words by Liz Gibson. Photographs by Roshana Rubin-Mayhew.

Of all the events at the Manchester Literature Festival, this was the one I was the most curious about, as I am a keen blogger myself and had been following the competition, seeing which blogs would be shortlisted in the various categories. When I arrived at the event, I was struck by what a cosy set-up greeted me. Although the room was large and there was a huge amount of people, it still managed to feel really intimate, and you could really engage with what was going on on stage.

First, several shortlisted bloggers read from their blogs. These ranged from The Most Difficult Thing Ever, the witty observations of a postman of his local area, to Sonnet Reviews, which features reviews, often of TV shows, each in the form of a sonnet. This was a really interesting concept and I enjoyed hearing the blogger reading his poems aloud to the audience.

The highlight for me was Her First Year, the story of baby Mia and her parents: Frances, who was 16 when she had her baby, and Hassan. I had read this blog before the event and had been moved by it, so it made my night when Len Grant, the photographer who created it came up on stage along with Frances, Hassan and Mia. It was Mia, of course who stole the show by trying to speak into the microphone, and by generally being adorable.

After the blog readings, we had a talk from the writer Adam Christopher, author of Seven Wonders. He read from the book, which is about Tony, a man who wakes up one day with super powers. He read well and the story sounds entertaining. There was then a Q&A session, in which we got the chance to learn more about Mr Christopher, for example his love of comic books, and the fact that he met his publisher and his agent through social networking.

After a short break… this was it - time for the presentation of the awards! I was delighted to see Her First Year win Best Personal Blog – it was a hugely popular choice with the audience, with lots of cheers! The Most Difficult Thing Ever won the award for Best Writing.

The awards were given out, and the winning bloggers went away very happy. I was certainly inspired by what I saw and heard; it has made me extremely proud to be a blogger. All in all it was a wonderful night, and I’m so grateful to the Manchester Literature Festival for organising this event to celebrate blogging, and to recognise what an important and effective medium for communication and creative writing it has become.

Liz Gibson blogs at http://lglyrics.blogspot.co.uk. 

Throughout the Festival in 2012 we have been working with a group of young people to support them to become digital reporters, and to document a range of events from their perspective. As well as writing blogs and reviews, the young digital reporters have responded to our events using other methods such as photography, illustration and radio.

Young Digital Reporter at Family Reading Day #2

Family Reading Day, Sunday 21st October, 11am-5.30pm, Manchester Town Hall

Words by Phoebe Davis. Photograph by Roshana Rubin-Mayhew. 

Last Sunday, Manchester Town Hall had a lot more going on inside its extravagant walls than the usual conferences. With one of the meeting rooms transformed into the frozen wasteland of Narnia, children aged four and above piled in to join in with an interactive reading of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. On the arrival of the three characters - the White Witch, her servant and Lucy - there were genuine gasps of excitement from some of the youngest audience members. As they took to the stage, the audience took to their seats. The atmosphere was lovely and the whole event was very family orientated.
The White Witch began the reading by asking all of her "subjects" to bow down to her. She interacted with the audience throughout: braver children were able to go up on stage and those who were quieter could join in with choral parts similar to in a pantomime. The three actors worked incredibly well with the children, particularly Lucy, who was not much older than some of them herself. They had both children and parents in fits of laughter at times and dealt especially well with a young (no doubt unintentional) heckler!

As well as being a fun experience for all, the reading had some real literary value to it and the actors' interpretation of it was wonderful. It was a truly enjoyable afternoon and leaves the rest of the Manchester Literature Festival with a difficult act to follow.

Throughout the Festival in 2012 we have been working with a group of young people to support them to become digital reporters, and to document a range of events from their perspective. As well as writing blogs and reviews, the young digital reporters have responded to our events using other methods such as photography, illustration and radio. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fun for all the family!

Family Reading Day, Sunday 21st October, 11am-5.30pm, Manchester Town Hall

Words by Kevin Danson. Photographs by Roshana Rubin-Mayhew and Jon Atkin. 

It is a rare day today. The sun is hovering over our city and the Manchester Literature Festival have an entire day planned for children to come to the Town Hall and listen to a variety of children’s authors.

This building is another one of Manchester’s fantastic shows of architecture, grand in its structure and a grand place to hold these literature events. Children and adults alike catch themselves looking up in awe at the carved and adorned rooms. We are in a banqueting parlour surrounded by huge paintings of old men, here to listen to the readings throughout the day. It all fits perfectly with the reading of The Kite Princess from our first author, Juliet Clare Bell (preferably Clare). Asking for help from her young audience, four fame-thirsty girls jump onto the stage. Cinnamon Stich, our kite princess, is a princess with a difference. Instead of sticking to her regal expectations, like deportment (walking around with a book on her head), she prefers to cartwheel through puddles and dance with cats covered in fleas, which the four girls demonstrate with youthful elegance, kind of. I don’t want to ruin the ending, as it is a book I would recommend for your little ones, so I’ll say only this. The story is funny; filled with rhymes, illustrations and loads of flyaway kites.

Before Clare starts to read her second book, Don’t Panic Annika, she tells the audience the book is based on her daughter, and asks if we can imagine what her name might be. "Pannicka," one girl shouts out. So close. She brings out bubbles and as she blows them over the captivated children, Clare explains how her ideas are exactly like these magical spheres; they come in plenty, but if she doesn’t write them down in time, they pop and disappear.

There’s a brief interval between readings and we all herd into the adjoining room where stalls have been set up for us to cut and stick and colour and scribble. A cordial or orange juice gets chugged, then back to the banqueting room to secure a place for the next event; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. 

Seating herself on one side of the stage is the wicked White Witch with her servant, called Servant, close by. At the other sits the little girl Lucy. The White Witch explains where she has come from, the land where it’s always winter, but there's never a Christmas. Not a good way to start, as the children turn upon her with their roar of "boooos"! Nevertheless, the Witch remains seated, untharwted by the sons and daughters of Adam, continuing with the story. Children are appointed the role of each of the children in the play, one is Mr Tumnus, another a key holder and another… binoculars holder. I get distracted for a second by a baby on the next aisle blowing raspberries to a family behind her, but I’m reeled quickly back in to the story with the White Witch offering to put Turkish Delight into our Christmas stockings. Who in their right mind would want that in their stocking? Ugh. We don’t have time to read the entire book, but what we have heard today has certainly whetted our curiosity with what will happen to Lucy and her siblings.

I missed the dinnertime hour with CBeebies presenters Cerrie Burnell and Alex Winters (I was having my dinner, but you can read a report by one of the Festival's Young Digital Reporters here), but I made it back in time for an author I was very curious about. Tom Palmer has written many series based on the theme of football; The Squad, Foul Play and Football Academy are just a few of them. My knowledge of football is zilch, but I wanted to know more about these stories. Tom tells us that he was not into reading when he was younger. His mother knew he liked football, so she told him to read articles about it in the newspaper and magazines. He did, and now he just loves books, which is why he became an author. He now has a dream job where he travels around the world speaking to footballers, getting inspiration for his stories.

The hour will be split into two parts. First half: The Football Reading Game 2012; second half: penalty shoot-out (don’t worry, old building, it’s a sponge ball). Tom’s first question is what type of books/magazines/newspapers do we like reading. Some say sport, others say murder and mystery, one boy says, “adverts about food and sofas”. Tom then begins quizzing us on recent titles of newspaper articles in the sport section. Hands are up and the answers are all correct. I’m feeling like I’ve just flown into the Bermuda Triangle. Discussing what magazines we like to read, he shows us a football magazine called FourFourTwo. Tom asks if we know why the magazine is called this, and I start counting on my fingers how many members should be on a team, when a kid, who is barely past the age of six, shouts, "It’s a formation!" I’m ashamed. Now it’s the turn for our favourite books. The variety is impressive; Roald Dahl, The Hunger Games, first person narratives with present tense, even autobiographies. These kids are on top of their game.

Q&A session now and Tom is answering one boy about his question on where to publish his books. He started small and would send them to our local publishers, Comma Press. When he began to get more confidence, he started working on novels and they were published by Puffin. In response to another question, Tom gives us the title of his next book, A Ghost Stadium, a story about a stadium that is haunted. I’m learning that his books aren’t just about football; there are crime cases, a Russian billionaire murderer and family issues too. Ending this unexpectedly interesting session, Tom offers his tips for writing: write about something you love, read lots and never give up. He puts his books to one side and chooses some members from the audience for a penalty shoot-out.

Today was a great event and it sure proved to be popular with the children and a relief for the adults. 

Kevin Danson is an English Literature student at MMU. Read his blog Pebbleddash and follow him on Twitter @pebbleddash.

There's another review of this event on the Bookwitch blog.

Young Digital Reporter at Family Reading Day

Family Reading Day, Sunday 21st October, 11am-5.30pm, Manchester Town Hall

Words by Isabella Parry (15). Photograph by Jon Atkin.

There was no competition for me when choosing an event to report on. I had always loved CBeebies Bed Time Stories as a youngster, and thought this would be a fun way to "time travel" to my childhood. Although the CBeebies Story Telling Event was a daytime event (I was used to Bedtime Stories) and presenters Cerrie Burnell and Alex Winters were not the same familiar faces I remember from the noughties, the event captured the magic of storytelling, and allowed me to enjoy it as if I were young once more - despite the fact I was three times the size of most youngsters there! 

My younger sister, Rosalind, who is seven, watches Cerrie and Alex on CBeebies now, so I imagine she must look up to them the way I did to former presenters Pui Fan Lee and Chris Jarvis. She would have loved this event, as I’m sure did all the families that attended. What struck me most was the interaction between Alex, Cerrie and the children. Even before the event had begun the presenters were more than happy to have their photographs taken with their eager young fans, giving hugs and high fives and posing enthusiastically when a child decided they would rather take the photo than be in it. There was a warm, friendly buzz, and I felt instantly welcome and comfortable.

Cerrie and Alex chatted to the many toddlers and young children surrounding them as they took their place on stage. Cerrie asked how they had travelled to the event, and laughed as some of the children said rather unusual modes of transport such as submarines and camels! Cerrie then said they had travelled from the CBeebies House by bus, which led to an impromptu (and energetic) rendition of The Wheels on the Bus from the entire audience. Again, the interaction between the presenters and the children was a joy to watch.

The first book read was the instantly recognisable classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. As Cerrie read through the various obstacles, it was as though the audience were in the story itself, squealing with excitement, and repeating the famous lines "We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it... WE’LL HAVE TO GO THROUGH IT!" Parents participated just as enthusiastically - this was definitely one for all the family. This book was read to me as a child and it was nice to relive it again through the ears of toddlers.

The next book read was The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. Alex told us this was his favourite childhood book, which was reflected in the enthusiasm with which he read it. This made me think of my favourite books as a child, including Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Gus and Nipper by Rodney Peppé. I thought it would be great to read them to a younger audience, and relive the stories through their eyes as Alex did as he pretended to be the rather posh tiger, and acted out the mischievous occurrences he got up to. He interacted with the children, asking them if they liked the various foods the tiger was necking, and if anyone in the audience had had a tiger over for tea to which a small boy innocently replied: "No, but a hedgehog came once!"

The other books read were Pushka by Stephen Mackey and How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. The latter was my favourite, as the children acted out every part of the story together, such as attempting to fish the star out of the sea and climbing a very high tree to reach for the star, at which point everyone’s favourite S-Club 7 hit sprung to mind! The children then became the boy travelling in his dad’s rocket to catch the star, anticipating the countdown from 5,4,3,2,1...BLAST OFF! The children screamed with excitement; it was fantastic to watch. The presenters asked the youngsters if any of their dads owned a rocket, to which the same boy who had supposedly had a hedgehog round for tea replied "No...But my dad’s an ALIEN!" Everyone was in hysterics. Cerrie then asked the boy if his dad was here today and he replied, "No, he’s in SPACE!", as if it were the most obvious thing in the world!

When the event came to a close, everyone applauded the storytellers, who in my opinion had done an amazing job of engaging a room full of toddlers for an hour! I get fed up after 10 minutes with my younger brother and sister! The event was a huge success and it was great to see the presenters were as nice in person as they appear to be on TV. You could tell they really enjoyed themselves and genuinely wanted to be there too. Everything was really well organised, the staging looked great and the informal atmosphere meant adults could relax and just let the children have the best time possible! I loved listening to the four stories, and I learnt no matter how old you are that no TV programme, film or novel compares to the magic of being read a children’s book, especially when the characters are as loveable as The Tiger Who Came to Tea!

Throughout the Festival in 2012 we have been working with a group of young people to support them to become digital reporters, and to document a range of events from their perspective. As well as writing blogs and reviews, the young digital reporters have responded to our events using other methods such as photography, illustration and radio.