Shetland's Wordplay Book FestivalBack to the Blog
A curry dinner at the Gurkha restaurant with authors Viv French and Margaret Elphinstone. Lots of prayer flags but no sign of a Joanna Lumley shrine. We're on an island 170km north of mainland Scotland and somewhere between the Atlantic and the North Sea. Along with 40 other writers and artists I've been taking part in Shetland's 10th Wordplay, the UK's most northerly book festival. It's been a brilliant weekend, but a bit exhausting. "There'll be instruments later!" cries an Orcadian poet happily, but I never found out what they were because I fell asleep at my hotel at 9.30.
Jonathan Meades was staying at my hotel, discussing the merits of Stornaway black pudding with Roger Hutchinson at breakfast. At another table a grey-faced man who'd just been flown in from his oil-rig with a suspected heart-attack was looking nervous. Probably best to avoid a black pudding breakfast experience.
Wonderfully inventive results from children taking part in my comic strip workshops. It meant I missed some of the other events though, including Scotland's National Poet Liz Lochhead being interviewed, but managed to have a chat with her as she nipped into my workshop room to do her make-up before the interview. We discussed the pros and cons of putting on one's make-up in public, and both agreed we didn't approve of the Queen re-applying her lipstick at dinner.
James Naughtie gave a talk about journalism, stressing the importance of the psychology of politics, with wonderful anecdotes about for instance, Peter Mandelson's trousers and the height of President Sarkozy's heels.
Simon Armitage read from Shooting Stars and other anthologies in his beautiful voice, tapping the rhythm of each poem with his foot, his broad face impassive under the almost-Beatle haircut. He talked about his version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and how representatives from Disney had taken him out for a power breakfast in Huddersfield to discuss it. "We see it as a family film," they'd said.
I didn't manage to hear Mark Kermode talking about his new book The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What's Wrong with Modern Movies?" because I'd arrived late at the festival the previous friday. The little twin-engined plane which was supposed to get me from Edinburgh to Shetland had a bit of a problem and we had to divert to Glasgow and get on another one. But I got here in the end. And now I don't want to leave this fantastic place.
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