The fourth Linton Book Festival took place over 7 days in May 2012.
Proceedings got off to an explosive start on Sunday 6th May on Camping Close in the centre of the village. Thanks to Gill Lee’s unflagging efforts and invaluable contacts, royalist soldiers from Sir William Pennyman’s regiment, led by Matthew Ward of Horrible Histories renown, re-enacted the Linton Rebellion of 1648 by firing several impressive volleys from their cannons and muskets. After a special service in St. Mary’s Church, led by Linton’s local parish priest, the Rev Dr Steve Griffiths (who coincidentally did his theology thesis on this period of the Anglican service), a large crowd enjoyed the opportunity to find out more about the English Civil War and the stirring events that shaped our village’s history. See photos of the day here (by kind permission of Ron Ragsdale).
The following week saw a succession of events for younger children in local libraries and playgroups, including a special storytelling session by author and illustrator Rebecca Merry in the Spotted Giraffe Play Barn. The rain just about held off for our popular garden storytimes which were kindly hosted by the Linton Gardening Society. There was also a Potion Trail around the village to find the ingredients to a Festival wizard’s brew, as well as specially labelled Book Crossing books hidden around the village for lucky children to find, read and pass on.
Authors Ian Whybrow and Cliff McNish visited the three mainstream village schools to much acclaim and storyteller Marion Leaper entertained children at the Granta School.
Our two bookfest competitions were keenly contested. At the Infants School, the children were each given a bucket (courtesy of Ridgeons) and asked to fill it with a story. We could not have imagined the huge range of colourfully decorated buckets that were returned to the school, each with a proud owner, eager to tell their special tale.
Older children were asked to come up with a new invention that would change the world – and again the range of ideas was breathtaking. Thanks to the generous support of Conrad Webb, entries in this competition were displayed at the Windmill Art Gallery in Long Lane at the start of the Festival.
As the weekend of the 12th/13th May approached, the sun came out and the Bookfest team began the exciting task of transforming Linton Village College into a vibrant Festival venue.
Saturday’s events kicked off with Kumiko Mendl, a Japanese storyteller who had performed at our 2010 Festival, back due to popular demand. Kumiko bewitched young and old alike with her magical tales of the Orient, and then spent the rest of the day demonstrating origami in the Library.
Next up in the Main Hall, the main draw in our “Book Lab” non-fiction and science theme, the author of the Horrible Science series, Nick Arnold, delighted his young audience with a whistle-stop tour of the scientific universe - and the more smelly and slimey it got, the better!
Parallel to these events, Pauline Francis shared her experience of writing historical novels with older children, Catherine Condie gave some insights into self-publishing, and fantasy artist John McCambridge led an intriguing illustration workshop entitled “How to Draw Your Dragon”.
In the afternoon, new author Anthony Irvin spoke about his fascinating experiences as a vet in Africa and Paula Metcalf led a fun-filled session for pre-school children based around her self-illustrated “Norma Snows” books about an unusual anteater. The day was brought to a close with a high-energy performance by Tommy Donbavand, author of the Scream Street series, which sent most of the audience home desperate to start reading his scary tales of zombies and werewolves.
Saturday’s talks and workshops were accompanied by some excellent hands-on science activities presented by the Cambridge Science Centre which proved hugely popular. Outside in the Memorial Gardens, Paul Jackson told a series of enchanting tales in his striking Yurt and a group of very talented local musicians entertained young and old alike with their delightful interpretations of well-loved fairy-tales. Book-binder Barry Brignell and new authors Susie Keen, Steve Humphreys and Maggie Brown also provided drop-in activities, and youngsters were delighted by the roaming presence of a larger-than-life Mog the Forgetful Cat, who was happy to pose for photographs.
Sunday dawned even brighter and we were quickly off the mark with an ear-splitting Samba Drumming Workshop, led by Cambridge’s very own Samba Band “Arco Iris” and presented in association with the Cambridge Summer Music Festival. The lucky participants were able to try all the different percussion instruments and confidently performed an impromtu concert on the lawn outside at the end of the session.
Louie Stowell from Usborne Books gave two very well-received story-writing workshops to rooms full of budding authors, whilst acclaimed illustrator Lynne Chapman passed on priceless tips to some grateful young artists.
Author Helen Moss proved a popular draw for boys and girls alike with her tales of Dinosaur Discovery. And Festival favourite, Tony Mitton, pleased his many fans with poems and raps.
As lunchtime loomed, thanks to the sponsorshp of Dalehead Foods, we were treated to a truly anarchic cooking demonstration by radio personality Nick Coffer and his four year-old son Archie in the main hall. Fortunately there were plenty of tasty samples for his hungry audience and we all came away inspired to try something different in the kitchen in the future! An unannounced extra session in the domestic science kitchen after lunch had eager Dads with kids in tow, whipping up tasty chocoloate mousse under Nick’s guidance.
The delightful author and illustrator Rebecca Patterson cast her spell over some very excited pre-schoolers and Colin Fleetwood answered the perennial question of “Why is it so?” with an entertaining and informative talk on gravity, air resistance and popping balloons, aimed at primary school children.
In the early afternoon, the author of the best-selling Spy Dog series, Andy Cope, gave a barnstorming performance to a packed Main Hall – and amongst the constant laughs managed to deliver a truly inspirational message about the joy of reading to children and parents alike.
Throughout the day, LVC Science teacher and You Tube star, Stewart Bell, was an intriguing presence in one of the common rooms, conducting a series of increasingly bizarre scientific experiments with everyday kitchen utensils and ingredients. Oxford Archaeology also returned with their fascinating display of bones and other artefacts that were dug up when the college embarked upon its recent building programme. Sarah Banks calmed down children in the library making needlework bookmarks.
The Festival culminated in two very special events. Firstly we were privileged to hear the premiere of a musical rendition of ”Babar the Elephant” by local composer Nigel Bennett, inspired by the much-loved storybook. Nigel not only composed and conducted the piece, he also assembled a group of very talented brass and woodwind players to perform it.
And the final talk of the Festival was the most highly anticipated. Jeremy Strong, author of “My Brother’s Famous Bottom” and winner of numerous children’s book awards, gave us a hilarious account of his ascent to fame and fortune. He had the sell-out audience rolling in the aisles with his combination of silly gags and outrageous stories. Lucky prizewinners were called up at the end to get signed copies of his books. In fact, all the authors and illustrators throughout the weekend were more than happy to sign copies of their books, which could be purchased on site, compliments of the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre.
Thanks to the funding received from Linton Parish Council, The Anderson Trust, Start Arts, South Cambridgeshire District Council, The Pye Foundation, Young Lives, Kumon English and Maths, Cambridge University Press, Ridgeons, Linton Tandoori, Genzyme, Granta Park, Neusentis Pfizer, Population Genetics, TWI, Medimmune, Saffron Walden Waitrose and Dalehead Foods – as well as countless individual donations from families and supporters, we have been entertained and inspired by some truly talented artists over the past week. And, a very special thanks to Josephine Paterson, the Festival Co-ordinator, who inspired a team of nearly 40 volunteers of all ages, from every corner of the village, for the past year leading up to these events. Let’s hope she still has some enthusiasm to take up the challenge again in 2014!
The following quote from the mother of one of our competition winners sums up what our event is all about:
“My 9-year-old so-called ‘reluctant reader’ is sitting on the sofa completely absorbed in a brilliant Tommy Donbavand book. Every so often he looks up and says ‘I just can’t believe I won!’ I think this may have been one of the best days of his life – thank you to the Linton Children’s Book Festival! “
Now, back to that “well, almost” in the header: Tom Palmer is still set to visit the Aztecs Junior Football Club on Saturday 19th May for his popular Football Reading game. So if you missed out on the main festival, here’s your chance for a final event before the whistle blows!