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hay festival 2017

Photos from the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye in Wales! This year I had three tasks: promoting The Prince of Pants (my picture book with Alan MacDonald), Jinks and O'Hare Funfair Repair with Philip Reeve, and talking up my BookTrust Writer-Illustrator Residency. Here's Philip doing his best booming LORD KRULL voice:



I did a 30-second blog for the Hay festival and Paul Musso shot a portrait of us:



Hay seemed more bustling than usual this year - perhaps because it was its 30th anniversary or maybe just because it's so much fun for book lovers - and the shops stocked more of my books than usual, which was very heartening! All of our events were full, and I heard good reports of similar experiences from other writers and illustrators I talked with.



Whatever audiences sizes, the Green Room has always been great fun, never quite knowing whom you're going to run into. I got a hug from Queen lead guitarist Brian May! He was lovely, asked us about our books and was happy to pose for a photo.




Former leader of the Liberal Democrats (now historical writer) Paddy Ashdown decided he needed to borrow my hat. "It is the best hat I have ever seen", he said.



We're pointing through the window to Stephen Fry, but actually I was much more delighted to meet poet, playwright, performer, graphic artist and designer Inua Ellams, whose short story anthology, The Good Immigrant, I'd subscribed to when it was crowdfunding on Unbound.



Inua was in my car on the way from Hereford railway station, along with Tuyet Huynh from the National Theatre and they told me about a show he's written with them called The Barber Shop Chronicles. My neighbourhood in south London has lots of barber shops where guys hang out almost like social clubs, and I'm intrigued to see how he'll use the setting.



I got to go to his event with Coco Khan, Chimene Suleyman and moderated by Rachael Kerr, where they read from The Good Immigrant and talked about the experience of being an immigrant in Britain. And as immigrants and people of colour, experiencing England in a way that the majority of the people at the festival won't have done.



Do get hold of a copy of The Good Immigrant and have a read.



My Prince of Pants event went well, but when I went to play a song on my ukulele at the end, I was shocked at how out of tune it had managed to get in just an hour! It was pretty hot and humid in that particular marquee, but this thing was several notes out of tune, not just a little bit. I mentioned it in a later event (where Philip very carefully tuned my uke seconds before I used it), and the tech guy told me afterward that some toddler had managed to climb on stage and twiddle all my frets. HOW did that kid manage it without me even noticing?? Ha ha, I'll never know.

I did an event for BookTrust that I'd never done before, called 'Draw the Ultimate Unicorn'. In preparation, had kids at the Make & Take tent help me with a bit of world building, designing UNICORN ISLAND. The kids did a great job!



For the Unicorn event, we played a sort of 'Pin the tail on the donkey' game, or rather 'pin the unicorn on the island'. And that's how I decided where my story would begin. (Here's Rosi Crawley wearing the unicorn on her necklace.)



I wasn't quite sure how much people had come to be passively entertained or actively inspired, so I took my cue from the 'Draw' in the event title, took a risk and worked them quite hard. I told them that the difference between a wanna-be author and an author is that the author has finished making a book. It's all about finishing. You can get inspired to thinking about creating a book, or even start writing a book at a festival, but I wanted them to experience creating a book from start to finish. So we did! And by the end of the event, they were all authors. And I told them that the difference between being unpublished and published authors is that the published authors have more than one copy of their book. So I'll be curious if any of them went away, found a photocopy machine and created a little print run.



The event was quite prescriptive; I led them through making the book page by page, but I was surprised and pleased to see how different everyone's books came out. I was sorry I didn't get to read more of them, I hope people share them with me on social media.



I have to show your Philip's, he made a whole book along with everyone and his was rather splendid:







Bravo!! :D I only had time to go to two events, and I ducked in to see Philip doing his Railhead event. It was fab; he read to the backing of video footage and ambient music created by his wife, Sarah Reeve (aka Lufthansa Terminal).



Other interesting Green Room encounters: Australian Children's Laureate Leigh Hobbs!



And here's Lissa Evans, whose Wed Wabbit cover I'd illustrated.



I had to get a photo of Philip in this tree. He makes a good grumpy Ent.



And here's Hay Education Manager Aine Venables, who's also an illustrator and created the leafy image on the front of the Hay programme.



Here's Hay Children's Director Julia Eccleshare, who's been mega-busy making sure all the programming was in order and speakers had everything from flipcharts to people introducing their events. It all worked and people packed in, so from what I've seen, I'd say she's been a big success!



And here's Artists Manager Heather Salisbury, who made sure we all had places to stay, and got there, and knew what our events were (and probably a zillion other things). Fab job, Heather!



Emily Drabble and Anna McKerrow are my main BookTrust contacts and set up the Unicorn events. Here's a photo my publisher @OUPChildrens tweeted of Emily and me. (I think that was Harriet Bayly on that Twitter account. Thanks for your help, Hattie!)



A few more people pics: here's presenter Rosie Goldsmith, with the photo taken by Alan Yentob:



Welsh archbishop alert! I'm rather partial to this one, Rowan Williams. He's smart but he's also good for a laff.



And writer Timandra Harkness, whom I'd only known from Twitter.



I went back to London with Emily Drabble and writer Robin Stevens. Here's Robin on the platform at Newport station. A few times people have mistaken us for each other and we managed to work out that we are probably very closely related! We'll have to dig further and find out if we're second cousins or maybe cousins four times removed or something.



Thanks so much to the whole Hay Festival team, everyone who helped us with events, my publicists at Oxford University Press and Scholastic UK, my friendly hosts Annabel and Bob at La Fosse guesthouse, and everyone who came along to our events and made everything so exciting! Click here if you want to read my BookTrust blog posts, and here, if you'd like some free downloadable activity sheets to go along with my books.