The occasion was my show Firebridge to Skyshore: A Northern Lights Journey, hosted by Southwell Library Poetry Festival. And very hospitable they were! Like the village of Lowdham down the road, this little Nottinghamshire town is steeped with history and charm but also blessed with a nest of people passionate enough about literature to take on the work of staging a major festival that attracts big names as well as local talent and enthusiastic audiences. Yesterday it was Michael Rosen wowing an audience of Nottinghamshire schoolchildren, tomorrow they will have Sir Andrew Motion in the Southwell Minster, and there's still John Siddique, Jenny Joseph, Joan Johnston, Don Patterson and Jo Shapcott to come!
As I suggested, 'all the dreams must have started in the library, because where else as a child would I have stumbled across Narnia or the Snow Queen or any of those wonderful stories of the North that captured my imagination?' So it's almost a nostalgic thrill to be presenting my poetry in this wonderful space. And years later, those stories have led me to visit the Arctic for real (three times!) and create this show to bring audiences into a landscape that I love. What I added to the magic concoction were ancient tales of the Northern Lights, a green sari, a dose of solar physics, beautiful auroral images and music from Norway, thirty coloured glowsticks and a bundle of poems garnered from my journeys. The audience brought the essential alchemy of imagination.
It was a delightful night. Once 'The Last Legend' faded into a mournful Saami joiku, we had some questions & discussion and then a busy book signing session - which always keeps a writer happy! Here were some of the audience comments:
'The descriptions were so lovely and really brought it to life.'
'I liked the way you moved with the poems - it added so much.'
'Thanks for our fabulous visit to the Arctic circle via Southwell! Loved the poetry, colours, photos and words!'
I'm indebted to Sheelagh Gallagher for inviting me to appear at the festival and her whole team - what a friendly bunch of libarians and council folk! One of the most welcoming venues I've been to and the tech. support was really impressive -so hats off to Stuart and Anthony. And Michelle snapped these evocative pictures of the event. I've yet to enjoy my gift of a Bramley apple - which originates in Southwell - but I shall certainly be hoping to get over and sample more of this festival. It runs to Sunday 18th - so treat yourself!