So instead of my usual features, I thought I’d post about the Cheltenham Literature Festival for the next two weeks, as I’m working there, and a round up post at the end would be far too long! If you want to know more about the festival, click the logo above to visit the website.
Well, the festival is finally over, and I really wish it wasn’t! It was such a fantastic two weeks that seemed to fly by, and there was never a dull moment. I last told you about the events of Tuesday 9th October, so this post will cover from Wednesday until the very end.
Wednesday got off to an exciting start: we met Dan Snow, who has presented many history TV programs, and got a team photo:
I also caught a glimpse of Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, who work on the TV show Wartime Farm (and are archaeologists, yeahhh!). As I was working the early shift, I missed the evening events which included Adam Hart-Davis, Pam Ayres, Andrew Marr, Hilary Devey, AA Gill, Nigella Lawson and Mark Haddon.
Thursday was my day off, but notable guests included Lucy Worsley, John McCarthy, Tom and Henry Herbert (the Fabulous Baker Brothers), Ben Fogle, Caitlin Moran, Gunnar Staalesen, Stephen Mangan and Victoria Pendleton.
Welly boots signed by Caitlin Moran (apparently all guests were signing wellies – I don’t know why!)
Friday’s guests included Sinclair McKay, Michael Smith and Julian Baggini, all of whom I managed to see; as well as Robert MacFarlane, Rose Tremain, Erica Wagner, Sandi Toksvig, Kirstie Allsopp, Alan Garner, Dom Joly, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Paul O’Grady.
On Saturday, I saw Kathy Reichs (creator of TV show Bones) and Val McDermid (creator of Wire in the Blood), and then met Larry Lamb in the afternoon!
Larry Lamb – more like Mick Shipman than Archie Mitchell 😉
I also had to stand next to Ian Rankin whilst he was signing books, to stop any over eager fans from invading his personal space. One man there was obviously a massive fan – he brought practically the entire back catalogue with him, and couldn’t stop shaking whilst talking to Ian! Whilst we were waiting for Ian Rankin to turn up, I heard a customer saying he couldn’t find any T.S. Eliot – so I showed him where the books were, and he spent a good ten minutes explaining why everyone should read Four Quarters, and that your life is not complete unless you have. It was so nice to see someone so passionate about it. Later on both Jeremy Vine and Ben Miller were just wandering around the tents, browsing – I got to speak to Jeremy Vine.
Sunday, the last day of the festival proper, was just as eventful. A.C. Grayling was signing in the morning, and I took some stock over for him to sign and had a chat with him – he was lovely, and took a real interest in my degree. He was so polite and came over and personally thanked me when he left. I also saw Ian McEwan when he was doing his signing, but the biggest event of the day (at least when I was there)? David Walliams.
He signed so much – 240 stock copies before the event even started, then whatever customers took him! The queue was massive, and there were crowds of people taking photos and hanging around the signing area. He was lovely, making people laugh and chatting with them, posing for photos and just being an all round friendly guy. Finally, the last guest I saw was David Mitchell. I apologise for the awful photo…
His publicist was very stern though… me and a colleague were just about to get a photo with him when she whisked him away. I did manage to grab one of a friend with him though, so that’s something! I got the impression he was happy to be there, signing what people wanted, but his publicist wanted him to sign only his autobiography.
Autographs from Larry Lamb, Polly Findlay and Christopher Eccleston.
Yesterday was packing up day. Boxing up books, taking down shelves, tidying up the mess… and it was so fun. It was just all of us temps together, and at one point we had run out of boxes to pack books in, so had nothing to do. Instead, we sat around on the beanbags in the kid’s tent chatting for a bit, which was really great.
Meerkats surveying the clearing up…
This was all such a fantastic experience and I will definitely be applying to work again next year! I actually find it quite hard to write about the festival properly. I can tell you all about the famous people I met, post some photos, but honestly the bit that was the most fun was meeting new people: colleagues and customers. Meeting people who share the same passion as me: books. And it would be really hard to write those experiences down, and make them interesting to others, so I’m just going to keep them all to myself =)
I was so excited when I found out I’d gotten a job working at the festival – and right in the Waterstones tent where all the action happens! I’m working as a bookseller, which is self-explanatory, but we also help out with queue management and chat to people queuing for events, keep the tent looking tidy, set up for events and signings, etc. I’ve already seen some interesting people!
Yay! Waterstones jumper!
We started setting up on Monday, but yesterday was the first official day of the festival. There are events spread out in various venues, and the tent I’m in is often used for book signings, meaning I get the chance to see some exciting people! Events didn’t start until 12pm, and combined with the fact that it was a weekday, it was a little calmer. The tent is heaving just before and after events – you can always tell when someone big is talking, because it’s like a ghost town for a while and then absolutely packed!
The first person I saw yesterday was Will Gompertz, the BBC Arts Editor and former Tate Gallery director, who has recently written a volume on the history of modern art. He was doing a signing but we had a slight problem – a large amount of the stock was faulty, the second lot of photo inserts being upside down and back to front! Luckily this was soon sorted out by the editor, who offered to send a free second (and correct) copy to anyone who bought the faulty one, and Will signed bookplates for those who got faulty copies to place in the corrected ones. It was a bit of a scare, with it being the first event but I was really impressed with how easily it was handled and actually how the customers didn’t even seem to mind too much – a lot of them saw it as a bit of a novelty, actually.
Later in the afternoon, Sebastian Faulks was giving a talk as well as signing copies of his new book, A Possible Life. I managed to see him, but didn’t get to snap a photo! Paul Auster was also signing at the same time. Other guests at the festival that day that I didn’t get the opportunity to see included Salman Rushdie, Tom Holland, Pat Barker, Anthony Horowitz, Kofi Annan, Jon Ronson and Peter Serafinowicz.
Today, being a Saturday, was much busier. Michael Frayn did a signing in the morning, though I actually didn’t get a chance to catch a glimpse of him – I remember all my friends doing A Level English (which I regret not doing) having to read Spies. Later in the afternoon, Sean Borodale, Ann Gray and Adam Horovitz were all signing, after doing a panel together. I was at the tills with a colleague, who normally works in a Waterstones elsewhere, and this woman came over asking if we had Jack Straw‘s books out. We both assumed that she was asking where they were because she wanted one signed, and then Jack Straw practically materialised next to her – she was actually his publicist!
Now for the exciting bit – the big event of the day (at least where I was): Philip Pullman:
There was a HUGE queue for him, here’s just a little part of it:
And bless him, a lot of authors set a limit on how much they sign or how long they’re there for, but Philip said he would sign for everyone waiting. He was still signing when I left (stupid bus service only running until 6.45pm…). The queue snaked all through the tent and for ages down the path through the park. Luckily the Bookshop Band were there to keep customers entertained (and they’re great – check their website out!)
There were (and still are, the day isn’t over yet!) so many exciting people at the festival today that I didn’t get a chance to see: Alexander McCall Smith, J.K. Rowling, Michael Palin, Roger Moore, Benedict Cumberbatch, Iain Banks, Jung Chang and more.
Mary Beard is there tomorrow, and I love her but I’m going to miss her event so I’ve reserved a book for her to sign for me, which I can pick up. Exciting! My next post will be on Tuesday evening, covering tomorrow and Tuesday (as Monday is my day off).