Perhaps unsurprisingly in a festival that encompasses visual art, and in a year in which the new children’s laureate is an illustrator as well as a writer, the world of illustration was well-represented in the programme. Emily Gravett hosted a lively session to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her much-loved picture book Wolves. Emily’s career in creating picture books came via a childhood love of drawing, eight years spent living on a bus and a fractious young daughter who could only be calmed through reading stories. There were, of course, plenty of lovely pictures to illustrate her journey. Then we were into hearing Wolves and creating a new story together. Holding the attention of a roomful of young children for an hour is no easy feat, but Emily’s natural charisma and interactive format had them enraptured.
More illustration fun was to be had in Jonny Duddle’s session ‘Harry Potter is 18’. Being of the generation who grew up with Harry (I’m sure my Hogwarts letter got lost by an unreliable owl), I just had to go to this event. Jonny went through the fascinating process undertaken to produce his new set of Harry Potter book covers. As we ooed and ahhed over the beautiful prints we were able to reminisce about our favourite characters and scenes from the books and relive their magic together.
I’m a self-confessed Young Adult fiction fan (though the suffix ‘teen’ no longer features in my age), so I enjoyed popping along to hear James Dawson discuss his teen horror novel Say Her Name. James was a lively speaker with infectious enthusiasm for all he spoke about. The discussion ranged from his love of horror movies to feminism and he’s clearly grasped the golden rule of talking to teenagers: don’t speak down to them for they are far wiser than you think. The excerpt he read from the novel left a shiver up all our spines. I really want to find out what happens next, but not sure I can let myself in for the sleepless nights that would inevitably follow.
Children’s and teen events can be difficult things to host. They obviously need to appeal to their young audience (who can be wonderfully decisive critics), but they also need to appeal to the adults who will bring them. Flipside’s 2015 programme for young people was varied and exciting. The challenge for these events is the location, particularly for teens who won’t necessarily be inclined to hoof it out to Snape Maltings of their own accord. My hope is that as the festival keeps growing year on year and their outreach work in schools expands, the younger audiences will keep growing.