Off The Shelf is Sheffield's Literary Festival and I love taking part each year.Last year I had to cancel (I still had that cold). I'd planned to read Class Two At The Zoo, and make snakes, so this time I did that, but added the newer book, Class Three All At Sea.
I spent the morning making the collage snake above, as an example for the kids to copy. Luckily I have a drawer full of bits of coloured paper. Great fun. I even found a split pin, so I could make his jaw move! My cousin, the very clever Sindie Smith, makes fantastic one-off teddy bears like this (isn't he gorgeous?) and she was good enough to give me a big bag of mohair and fun-fur off-cuts, hence the poor furry creature in my snake's mouth.
I always worry if anyone will come. Off The Shelf is very well organised, but I'm a bit paranoid with festivals: on a couple of occasions in the past, so few have turned up, organisers have resorted to grabbing kids off the street or hauling in their own offspring!
I arrived 30 minutes before kick-off to a fabulous sight: a tea party! A big central table covered with a plastic cloth, had place settings created from my snake colouring sheets (see My Crazy Morning), crayons and glue sticks instead of cutlery, pretty paper beakers full of sparkles instead of juice, and silver streamers all over the place. Every inch a children's party! And the icing on the cake: we had a 2nd room prepared the same, because we had so many coming!!
They sat on the floor while I read the story, with the grown-ups huddled on the periphery. Then they coloured and collaged their pictures. Off The Shelf provided every paper colour known to man, including snake-skin. As well as my fur, there were feathers, spangly stars and sparkly pipe cleaners. We all had great fun (certainly I did anyway). Most used my snake colouring sheet, but a few more adventurous kids created super-long snakes of their own, based on my collage. It was abuzz with creative chaos!
I gathered them all in at the end to finish with Class Three (otherwise I find it just fizzles out). Rhyme & Reason, the local children's bookshop, had set up a little stall in the room, and I seemed to sign quite a few books at the end.
Thank you so much to Off The Shelf's Su Walker and to all the helpers for the brilliant party idea, and for helping to create a truly memorable afternoon!