Four Days of Festival Brilliance with Chiplitfest!

What a fantastic weekend I’ve just had! The fifth annual Chipping Norton Literary Festival (otherwise known as Chiplitfest) has just finished, and it was SO MUCH FUN! Lovely author pal John Dougherty and I were heavily involved in programming and running the children’s events, including performing in our own events, so it’s been a dash from one thing to the next, and it’s all been wonderful.

Last Wednesday, John and I took part in a ceremony to celebrate the publication of an anthology of short stories written by pupils from two Chipping Norton primary schools. Back in November, we went into those schools to run creative writing workshops, and this anthology is the culmination of all the hard work put in by the pupils, teachers and Milly Weaver, the schools’ coordinator, since then.

Look! It's a real book! Well done, everyone!
Look! It’s a real book! Well done, everyone!
Selfie with the kids - thanks to Jenny Aston for this great photo of us taking a photo!
Selfie with the kids – thanks to Jenny Aston for this great photo of us taking a photo!

The Festival proper kicked off on Thursday with a day of author visits to schools. John and I had pulled together a crack team of Very Nice People Who Also Write Brilliant Books, and here they all are…

Back row, L-R: Bali Rai, Adam Guillain, Charlotte Guillain, Candy Gourlay, John Dougherty, Pheebs (junior reporter), Front row, L-R: me, Tamsyn Murray, Cas Lester, Milly (schools' liaison for the festival). We were also joined by SF Said, who arrived just thirty seconds too late for this photo!
Back row, L-R: Bali Rai, Adam Guillain, Charlotte Guillain, Candy Gourlay, John Dougherty, Pheebs (junior reporter), Front row, L-R: me, Tamsyn Murray, Cas Lester, Milly (schools’ liaison for the festival). We were also joined by SF Said, who arrived just thirty seconds too late for this photo!
Charlotte and Tamsyn
Charlotte and Tamsyn
Cas and Candy
Cas and Candy

All the school events went off very well, thanks to the brilliant authors and to the volunteers who chauffered them from school to school!

Then on Saturday morning, I headed off up the A44 bright and early and the two days of public events began!

Joanna Nadin – Flying Fergus and his Magic Bicycle

Jo explains how the book came into being, using celebrity masks to represent all the people involved. Many giggles from the kids!
Jo explains how the book came into being, using celebrity masks to represent all the people involved. Many giggles from the kids!
Jo signing books after the event
Jo signing books after the event
Me, Jo and John
Me, Jo and John

John Dougherty – Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Great Big Story Nickers

John waves hello to a packed Crown & Cushion venue
John waves hello to a packed Crown & Cushion venue

Jo Cotterill & Cathy Brett – Electrigirl

Cathy and me with junior reporters for the festival Pheebs and Mango
Cathy and me with junior reporters for the festival Pheebs and Mango
superhero
After my event, my daughter created her own superhero. I haven’t dared ask about the blue snot…

Paul Stickland – Dinosaur Roar Pop-up Workshop

To start, Paul showed the fascinated audience his artwork for DINOSAUR ROAR! - look out, Paul, he's behind you!
To start, Paul showed the fascinated audience his artwork for DINOSAUR ROAR! – look out, Paul, he’s behind you!
Paul's session was CHAOS with paper, scissors and sellotape everywhere and the kids had a BRILLIANT time making their own monsters!
Paul’s session was CHAOS with paper, scissors and sellotape everywhere and the kids had a BRILLIANT time making their own monsters!

Steve Cole – Monsters, Magic and Mayhem

Steve has a tradition of ranting about his hatred of salad items - several kids in the audience agreed with him!
Steve has a tradition of ranting about his hatred of salad items – several kids in the audience agreed with him!
Steve sings his Aliens Stink song - always a hit!
Steve sings his Aliens Stink song – always a hit!

Sarwat Chadda – Ash Mistry, mythology and superheroes

Sarwat divided the audience and pitted the kids against the 'old people' in a fiendishly hard quiz on ancient mythology and modern superheroes. The kids won, but only just!
Sarwat divided the audience and pitted the kids against the ‘old people’ in a fiendishly hard quiz on ancient mythology and modern superheroes. The kids won, but only just!
The live-action story of Dave, the Last Unicorn (ahhh). Can he be saved from the evil Kyle the Unicorn Killer by the Justice League of Chipping Norton?
The live-action story of Dave, the Last Unicorn (ahhh). Can he be saved from the evil Kyle the Unicorn Killer by the Justice League of Chipping Norton?
Sarwat demonstrates a flying henchman...
Sarwat demonstrates a flying henchman…

On at the same time as Sarwat but in the Chipping Norton library were Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap, talking about their new picture book Very Little Sleeping Beauty, which I read over the weekend and much enjoyed! And the amazing storyteller Atinuke was also in action in the Library in two events over the weekend.

Our children’s festival venue, the Crown & Cushion hotel, was brilliantly staffed by volunteers from the festival, our tech guy Joe (thanks, Joe!), some lovely tea and cake people, and booksellers from the independent bookshop Jaffe & Neale

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Jaffe & Neale bookshop in Chipping Norton – if you haven’t been, go! And they do particularly delicious cakes too…
Bookstall at the venue
Bookstall at the venue

John and I also performed with Paul Stickland and bookseller wife Helen in a First Draft gig at the Town Hall, which was well attended and a huge amount of fun! (despite my terror that I would forget all the chords and all the words to most of the songs)

IMG_0845

IMG_0847

And to top it all off, I got to know two celebrities on Saturday night!

Me, John and JANET ELLIS!! Who used to be on Blue Peter! She's just written her first novel (The Butcher's Hook) and was on our quiz team. And we won! (though it was very little to do with either me or Janet, who didn't know most of the answers)
Me, John and JANET ELLIS!! Who used to be on Blue Peter! She’s just written her first novel (The Butcher’s Hook) and was on our quiz team. And we won! (though it was very little to do with either me or Janet, who didn’t know most of the answers)
Saira from Masterchef! Oh my, we had SUCH a laugh :-)
Saira from Masterchef! Oh my, we had SUCH a laugh (and this was one of the more sensible selfies…!)

Thanks to everyone involved in the festival for making it such a fun experience and worth all the work involved (and there was a LOT, let me tell you!). Thanks also to our fab young Junior Reporters, Pheebs (who wrote loads of articles for the festival blog) and Mango (not his real name, though I had to stop myself calling him that all weekend! He runs the Mango Bubbles Book Blog, which you should totally check out), not to mention their mums, Sue and Louise, who were totally supportive of everything and deserve medals 🙂

John, Pheebs, Mango and me
John, Pheebs, Mango and me – thanks to Pheebs’ mum Sue for the photo!

And finally thanks to John Dougherty and Milly Weaver, who formed the other two-thirds of the children’s programming team!

Me, John and Milly, de-mob happy!
Me, John and Milly, de-mob happy!

Massive congratulations to Jenny Dee, Festival Organiser, for such a successful festival. I hope you’ve got a well-deserved break now!

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6 comments

  1. Hey Jo, THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH for a fabulous time at the whole Chiplitfest; I loved your event!! This is such a brilliant blog post and I’m looking forward to seeing you (hopefully) again soon. Pheebs xx

    • Haha! It certainly was exhausting, but in a good way 🙂 yes, have recovered now – on to the next thing! Thanks for coming, Mango, and for the write-up on your blog too! Jx

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