Saturday’s Festival day is over. The vibe wasn’t quite as energy-filled and buzzing as usual (numbers were restricted because of COVID) but our audiences made up with enthusiasm what was lacking in terms of numbers. The children who came for Sir Michael Morpurgo were a delight and it’s probably not overdoing it to say that their attitude towards books and reading may have been changed for life by that encounter. In the evening Ed Stourton was intelligent and entertaining, taking lots of, sometimes difficult, questions about broadcasting from the audience.
I had awoken despondent. It was pouring with rain. By one o’clock, however, the rain had gone, even if the sun hadn’t replaced it, at least it was dry. My little group of intrepid walkers gathered outside Omnibus ( both the walk were completely sold out ) and we started off with a few quotes about Clapham from Daniel Defoe and William Makepeace Thackeray and our first Clapham writer, one Edward Winslow, who sailed on the Mayflower. My fellow guide, Irish-born award-winning writer Annemarie Neary accompanied us, at least part of the way around the Common. Her walk and mine covered some of the same ground, though she diverged to do a deep dive into the writers who lived near the Northside of the Common, while I continued with a part circumference, taking in the Southside too.
We walked from the Great Fire through the Georgian era, Shelley’s ‘Age of Elegance’, to the nineteenth century and the ‘man on the Clapham Omnibus’, right up to the end of the twentieth century when Clapham achieved another golden age, playing host to Angela Carter, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, J.G. Ballard and Ian McEwan. Then there is Roald Dahl and a certain Ms Rowing who acknowledges that the ‘first brick of Hogwarts’ was laid in Clapham.
Then back to Omnibus Theatre and the wonderful Sir Michael Morpurgo ( unfortunately I didn’t see his set, I was selling books ), everyone said how excellent he was. But I did see Edward Stourton later that evening and very good he was too, ranging from his book on the BBC during World War Two through his long career in broadcasting to modern journalistic ethics.
The feedback we received was uniformly excellent. But we still have two events to come, both via zoom and costing only £5. The first is tonight. I am speaking with Brixton resident Rosanna Amaka about her amazing debut novel ‘The Book of Echoes’ set in East London, Nigeria, the USA and Brixton’ You can buy tickets at https://tinyurl.com/nkthz2zm
Then in two weeks time Sunday Times best seller Ben Macintyre is talking about his latest ‘Agent Sonya’ the biography of ‘the greatest spy of the twentieth century’. Clapham Book Festival 2021 isn’t over yet! Why not join us at seven o’clock tonight?
As an aside, this is the nub of a conversation witnessed outside the Cafe between a group of children and Sir Michael –
Small Boy, pointing to girl beside him: ‘It’s her birthday and she’s got a present.’
Sir Michael: ‘Really! Happy Birthday. How old are you, may I ask?’
Small Girl: ‘Nine.’
Sir Michael: ‘And what is your present?’
Small Girl: ‘You. My present is to come and see you.’
Multi-awarding winning, former Children’s Laureate tries hard not to crack up, sits down and talks with children, regardless of waiting adults.