Some time ago I was invited to be part of the publishing panel at the Bardaid Literary Festival. It’s always nice to be invited to go to a party so I accepted. Not knowing what I was getting into. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
On Saturday 12th May I arrived at the location, but it looked pretty quiet. I went into the pub to be accosted by a Doberman and a terrier; they were friendly but almost the only inhabitants. ‘I think it’s in the hall down the road,’ a half-interested regular told me. Spot on Mr G; you’re in the wrong place. Fortunately not too far away though and I found the correct venue in a couple of minutes.
Madness in Midsomer
I never know what to expect when I turn up at these things, but this blend of the English countryside (it really is Midsomer Murder country – the series is filmed quite close to Long Marston), tea and buns and a village hall wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind. However, this place was full of delights. Avocado salad sandwich? My god, food from heaven. Monster Danish pastries? They had them in abundance. Stark raving mad poets? Could the day start without them?
On the panel
The event was hosted by Paul Eccentric, Ian Newman and Donna Ray, collectively The Antipoet, in guise and formation. One of the true gems on the poetry scene. And getting an audience to an event such as this is not easy, but achieve it they did. By the time I took to the stage with the good folk of Black Pear and Sophia Blackwell (experienced with Bloomsbury and other traditional publishers) there were plenty of people to address. It was a fascinating experience. I loved hearing what everyone else had to say and learnt a little more as well. The audience seemed to like what we said and were even good enough to furnish us with the photo which accompanies this piece. One of the pieces of feedback was that they liked ‘the honesty ie blunt.’ That may have been me.
There were lots more questions in the signing room after as well, which was encouraging. I stayed another few hours and watched authors, poets and actors do their thing. My regret was that I had to leave early for a family commitment. Next year I’m going to stay all day and into the raucous night. Grassroots are where writers are found and in a land where libraries are seen to be easy targets for cuts, it’s great to see ordinary people enjoying words, performance and the absolute joy of books.