Back in October I was fortunate enough to take Mighty Girl to the Kennington Literary Festival. Kennington is a village just south of Oxford which has a wonderful tiny library in the village centre which is threatened with cuts on an almost daily basis despite the huge number of people it supports, mainly through voluntary work as it is…
It also has its own literary festival, the second of which was in October 2011. The festival started on a Friday evening with a film showing and talk and continued throughout the Saturday with various author events. For such a small place, the festival organisers did brilliantly attracting SF legend Brian Aldiss, Joshua Files author M G Harris and Winnie-the-Witch illustrator Korky Paul, among others.
As a picture book fan with two small children, of course we went to see Korky Paul so this review is purely about that part of the festival. For other reviews and information, please visit the sites of: Mostly Books (review), Brian Aldiss (review), MG Harris, Save Kennington Library, The Oxford Times.
I really do love Korky Paul’s art, it is so detailed and funny. First introduced via Winnie the Witch, we have quite a collection of his books. He is also a very nice person in real life as we found out at the festival.
Obviously with a lot of experience of doing events for children, Korky Paul directed the staff to what he needed: which was basically a flip pad, two glasses of water for cleaning his brushes and a hat for putting raffle tickets in. Each child was given a raffle ticket, which was for a very special purpose (and a great idea).
To start with, he asked the children his name, and then pretended that one of them had said “Snorky Snorl”. He got one of the children to write how they thought that was spelt, and then talked about how the word sounded like a creature which he then sketched and painted whilst also talking about how to just experiment with colours and see how things turned out. Once the picture was complete, a raffle ticket was taken out of the hat and the child with that ticket got to keep the painting. What a fantastic idea!
Then he read the first Winnie the Witch book, taking time to talk about the words chosen by Valerie Thomas and how he thought they were just right, e.g. “Winnie was furious.” He really appeared to be enjoying reading, despite the fact he must have read it so many times at different events (we’d actually been fortunate to hear him read earlier in the year, also in Kennington, after a march protesting the library cuts).
After this, he used the raffle ticket system again to draw dinosaur portraits for each child selected. He managed to do four or five in the time allotted. I think this raffle ticket system was a very fair idea. He obviously would never have enough time to paint a portrait (he’s the world’s greatest portrait painter, didn’t you know…) for all the children at every event and this system is completely fair. We didn’t get one, but I think MG would have been too shy to stand at the front while he painted.
Finally, he gave out some prizes for a local children’s poetry and art competition and then was available for signing books. I said I didn’t think he would have time to paint a picture for every child, however he did take the time to sketch in each book he signed.
He is very approachable and chatty, and I really wish I wasn’t so shy in real life. This also sadly is rubbing off on my children although I do try, and they are more naturally confident compared to me. MG handed over a picture she’d drawn of Winnie, a pumpkin and Wilbur and Korky Paul accepted it graciously (although I’m sure he gets hundreds of these!)
All in all, it was a fantastic event. I’d absolutely recommend taking a child to a Korky Paul event if you ever get the opportunity. He will be at the Oxford Literary Festival in March, details can be found on the Oxford Literary Festival website. We won’t be going as I could only afford one event and we chose to see Clara Vulliamy and Emma Chichester Clark, which I’m really looking forward to.
Kennington also have more children’s book events, including one with Cressida Cowell in March, which I must sign us up for… I really enjoyed the Kennington Literary Festival, and would have loved to have seen more of it. I very much hope they have another festival this year.