Sunday, 25 September 2011
Post-bookfair: I spy something beginning with . . .
My sons turned up to the Free Verse poetry book fair in Exmouth Market on Saturday, and did shifts on the table outside with the programmes. A decade ago, maybe longer, we were sitting in a pizza restaurant in Cornwall and during the fidgety wait between ordering and the arrival of food we were playing I-Spy. ‘Something beginning with C,’ said one son. We gave up when the food arrived. Smugly, he gave us the answer: civilisation.
Something of the sort was happening on Saturday. Put together on a wing and a prayer, the event became what it was because of the support and good humour and generosity of everyone who turned up: the publishers, many of whom I’d guess were expecting a bit more space to display their books, shifting along a bit and making the best of what space they had; people saying yes, no problem, to an unscheduled reader getting time; and the visitors, whether friends of friends or just curious passers-by, not just mingling and talking but getting out their cash. (A few months ago one of the publishers had been doubtful whether the effort and time put into into book fairs were ever repaid in sales; late on Saturday, after selling far more than he’d expected, he said he took that all back.) Especial thanks to Chrissy Williams, Anna Selby, Michael Horovitz. Three early blog reports are here and here and here.
All planned events need an injection of the unplanned, the unpredictable. For me on Saturday this was the woman who happened to be busking nearby on the street outside. We’ve got a book fair going on in the hall, I said, and – Oh, she said, sorry, am I too loud?, I’ll move along. No, I didn’t mean that; would she like to step up on stage? She came in about halfway through the day and did a set of three songs. I loved them. Her website (from which you can buy her music) is here.
Sometime soon Chrissy and I will go to a pizza place, not necessarily in Cornwall, and discuss the future of civilisation. We’ll get some feedback from the publishers who took part on Saturday but anyone else who wants to chip in – visitors, presses we didn’t have room for on Saturday, whoever – please do. Things can be different. That’s the point.