North! West! South(ish)! and vote please

I bin around again! From 12th-15th November I was up in beautiful Newcastle, scurrying from school to school as part of the Northern Children’s Book Festival. Then last week I visited the wonderful Discovery Academy, a special school in Nuneaton, before driving on to Shrewsbury to speak at their Bookfest conference: Unlocking the Power of Stories, which was specially to launch the shortlist of this year’s Book Award.

The stunning Millennium Bridge, which I was lucky to see opening!

I really am very, very lucky to be able to do this crazy job. I’m also incredibly fortunate to be able to step back a bit from publishing (which I found very stressful last year) and still be able to do enough events to keep my children in hot chocolate and marshmallows.

In Newcastle, I was looked after by a veritable bevy of beautiful librarians from Middlesbrough to Gateshead, the ‘toon’ to Stockton. Each one was enthusiastic and supportive and passionate about their job. Coordinator Catherine, 25 weeks pregnant, even stepped in for an absent Yvette Fielding (delayed by filming and unable to make her book event). Catherine ran a highly enjoyable drama workshop instead!

Super-coordinator and comedian Catherine and me

There’s an election coming up, and as someone who’s spent all her working life either in the arts or education, I’ve been biased for a long time. Towards a government who can support teachers, librarians, creatives, artists, but not only them – towards the people we work with too. I’ve spent twenty years working with children. Some of them delightful, some of them a pain in the neck. All of them deserving of opportunities and support. Every time I hear of a youth club or family centre being shut down, I despair. Libraries have been in the firing line for a long time, and schools have such tight budgets that many can’t afford a school librarian any more. The problem is, if you remove all the support systems for young people, well…where are they going to go? How are they going to find their passions? And if you remove their families’ abilities to put food on the table and clothes on their bodies…

To borrow a young person’s phrase: I can’t even.

If you’re over 18 and you haven’t registered to vote yet, please do it now (deadline is midnight on 26th Nov). You can do it on this link.

If you’re undecided, look around you. Don’t read the papers: talk to people who are worse off than you. You know that money you give to charity? What if you paid it into taxes instead, so that the charities didn’t need so much because people had enough money to live on? We’re all frightened of the future, but some are more frightened than others because they know their children’s health is on the line. There are children in this country who go without food at home. There are elderly people who die of cold in their own homes over winter because they can’t afford heating. There are people in desperate need of treatment for illnesses, mental and physical, who are having to wait longer and longer for that treatment because there aren’t enough doctors and nurses. That’s not right, not in the UK. And it’s got worse over the past nine years – much, much worse.

I’m not telling you how to vote. I’m just asking you to put your vote to good use. For me, ‘good use’ means supporting those who need it.

I didn’t intend this blog post to go political, but it’s so important. Please vote.


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