Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Bridport Literary Festival and The Bridport Prize, 2009

What a wonderful few days- staying in Bridport, meeting up with old friends, meeting new ones, attending some but not enough wonderful readings and talks. Running a sold-out workshop on opening up creativity, going to the fab Bridport Prizewinners’ lunch at the Town Hall, and becoming a compere for a brand new event - introducing the winners of the short story section of the Bridport Prize after the lunch. Phew.
Chris and I then drove up through the Dorset and Somerset floods to a secret destination (ho ho) and had a couple of nights and superb dinners… and it is now back to normal.

Highlights then:
Supper with Frances, (organiser of the B Prize) followed by the most hilarious event with itinerant poet Elvis McGonagall. -Elvis McGonagall himself -Weak with laughter, I had giggly-stomach ache for hours. He is a regular fixture at the Festival. Worth going for him alone, I’d say!

The launch at Waterstones of Candy Neubert’s novel Foreign Bodies (Seren).
Candy is my co-compere and is also highly important, being chief poetry reader and poetry shortlister for the B Prize.

An astounding talk by Horatio Clare about tracing the migration route of the swallow from South Africa to his family barn in South Wales. He with backpack only…This from a great review of the resulting book, Just One Swallow, from The Guardian:
“Clare (is) brave, modern, multicultural and open-hearted approach to travel itself. If he is not an explorer cut from the mould of Redmond O'Hanlon, he is at least an adventurer of the metropolitan kind. He enjoys a fleeting sexual liaison with an Ivorian beauty in Brazzaville. He is fleeced by hash dealers in Casablanca. He loses all his belongings in Spain. In Marrakech - where else? - he falls head over heels for a British-Asian from Rochdale and vows to marry within hours of meeting her. When he gets back to England, one is barely surprised to hear that his family seeks to have him sectioned.”
Whole review HERE
The double act of Ali Smith and Jackie Kay, this year’s judges for short story and poetry. -Ali Smith- They read, they laughed, they discussed, they talked, read some more… the audience at the Bull Hotel wouldn’t let them leave. And it was after that talk that I queued up to have books signed, and gingerly offered Jackie Kay a copy of Words from a Glass Bubble. (Why? Because we are both adopted adults, and both found birth parents on Google!) She was lovely, and accepted. And she demanded that I sign my book for her at the same time as she signed one for me, so amidst giggles, we synchronised signatures and messages. Amazing!

The Workshop. Wow. “Where do stories come from?” I asked… and hopefully answered the question – EVERYWHERE!! (Except by nicking other people’s entire stories, naturally – we did cover plagiarism. I’m getting good at spreading the word on that one.) We had a great time, aided and abetted by lots of props like earrings gleaned from Bridport’s charity shops, photographic books, fossils (found by ME on Charmouth beach), copies of newspapers, Big Issues, maps, and other delectables.
The lunch. Yum. this is a pic of the lunch, from the Bridport website. All pics taken by Dee (sorry Dee, dont know your surname!) The person standing up is reader Jacky Wyatt, who chose my story as a potential winner in 2007.
And the highlight for me...
The story prizewinners: Meeting Anna Britten again (ex- Fiction Workhouse) who is a runner up! And Annemarie Neary (who I met in Bantry earlier this year at the Fish Prizegiving, where she came 3rd), also runner-up. And Teresa Stanton, recently met vis Nik Perring’s blog, also runner up. Sad not to see Nick Hogg, who was also runner up… its quite a party of writing friends this year. And the wonderful winners. First: Jenny Clarkson, with her very first ever subbed story. Quite perfect!! (Ahem – take note.) Natasha Soobramanien second, and all the way from Colorado, Nancy Nye, third. this is Jenny Clarkson, the winner of this year's bridport First prize, chatting to the shortlister, Jon Wyatt.
The Big Event was a hoot. For the first time there were all three top winners in both poetry and story. Plus half a dozen runners up. And they ALL got to read. And Candy and I talked from thrones high on a stage about what winning a prize had done for us.... look! My throne. Being inspected by Ali Smith and Jackie Kay. See, I'm not making it up!!

Lots of books sold. A box and a half of Short Circuits and Bubbles went to good homes...fab.
And this is the secret hideaway we went to… if anyone wants a quiet and very special top quality bed and breakfast with 5* cooking in the evening, look no further: The Parsonage at Muchelney, Somerset Website HERE


SueG said...

How wonderful. To be honest, the Bridport always seemed like a distant, inaccessible heavenly sort of prize and festival. But it looks terrific and like you had a marvelous time.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Sue

it is heavenly, but definitely not 'distant'. I think the festival has only been going for a few years - and is ranked among the best apparently. Small and perfectly formed, sort of thing!

Sophie Playle said...

Looks amazing!

Sara Crowley said...

Wonderful indeed! It sounds as if you had a lovely time, and I am so thrilled that you are now mixing in the same circles as Ali Smith and Jackie Kay. On ya!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Ha! I wish. Have a feeling I arrived at Writing Station a wee bit late for that but know what? Im still having fun!

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Vanessa -

Ah, I've just written my blog about the weekend, there's a photo of you on stage you might want to steal... if you can do it direct from my blog please do, or let me know if you'd like me to email it to you.

Thanks again for being so lovely, and well done for hosting such great events.

Teresa x

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Vanessa -

I've just posted my blog about the weekend, there's a photo of you on stage you might want to steal... if you can do it directly from my blog please do, or let me know if you'd like me to email it to you.

Thanks for being so lovely, and well done for hosting such great events.

Teresa x

Anonymous said...

Small, perfectly-formed ... and highly selective - sounds about right! Love Elvis McGonagall, and fascinated to hear of Horatio Clare's latest exploits (after reading fascinating account of his early years in Wales). Glad you're having such a marvellous time.

Literary Corner Cafe said...

Loved reading this! If I'm ever lucky enough to get to Bridport, I will know where to stay. It looks like a lovely festival and a lovely place to stay.