I like the 'yurt' at the Edinburgh Festival. It's there for performers to hang out. It's such a beautiful construction and is a great place to chill, before and after your event, and to meet both old and new friends. We get complimentary food and drink in there too, and it even has a fire, for those chilly, Scottish evenings:
I took these early in the morning, before anyone famous was around to complain about being in shot...
My storytelling was last Thursday afternoon. The festival put me up the night before, so I got the earliest train I could bear on Wednesday morning, to allow me as much time as possible at to cavort at the festival.
I was on Sheffield station at 6.30am (ugg) but it was worth it, as I got to Edinburgh around lunchtime, ready to get stuck in!
It was really sunny and there wasn't a seat to be had outside in the garden area, so I decided to do a quick sketch of the inside of the Spiegeltent: a big cafe & performance space. Even in there, I had to share a table occupied by two elderly ladies. Unfortunately, they got very interested in what I was doing and we started to chat so I not only didn't finish it, but nearly missed the start of my 1st event - Maggie O'Farrell:
She was great - funny, really easy to listen to and very honest about how she writes.
It was still sunny when I came out, and I at last managed to grab a chair in the garden:
It was very relaxing: people-watching and sketching in the sunshine. But it didn't last long - the forecast for 2 days of hot, dry weather was wrong.
It started to get very overcast and windy, and then... it started to rain. Naturally.
Never mind - I had more tickets: this time for TV presenter, scientist and adventurer Steve Backshall. He had been on an expedition to the wilds of Papua New Guinea, to try and discover new species of animals in the rain forest (and he did too!).
It was a quite astonishing talk, which made me desperate to be official artist on a similar trip (apart from the big spiders - not sure about them...).
In the queue I met illustrator Geoff Waring. He had just finished his storytelling event, promoting his new picture book Just One Bite. It sounded fun - he had a bit of string he got the children to roll out across the theatre, to show how big a sperm whale was. He was so sweet: he gave me a signed copy - thanks Geoff and lovely to meet you!
My publisher wasn't with me this time, so I hooked up with the (frankly quite hunky) author Cliff McNish for dinner. It was still pouring so we leapt into a cab, but had a fun time getting to the restaurant, as the road was closed for the Edinburgh Tattoo. We got the shock of our lives half way through our Green Curry, when it sounded like a missile had dropped right outside, but it turned out just to be exploding fireworks: all part of the Tattoo show.
Next morning I went to see fellow author / illustrator Steve Smallman in action. We so rarely get the chance to watch each other. He was totally brilliant. Really funny.
He was so good with the kids too, especially the tiny ones, who kept mobbing him! His book The Lamb Who Came to Dinner is one of my all time faves.
I also squeezed in an event by author Jasper Fforde before lunch - I confess, I haven't read his books, but they must be very funny as he was just nuts. Every time he was asked a question, he would go off on a wild flight of surreal imagination, all of which was hilarious.
Then it was time for my event.
I was actually invited to do Bears on the Stairs at last year's festival, but the book had literally just come out and I didn't want to do such an important event until I'd had a chance to warm up, by reading it at a few other places first, so we put them off until this year.
It went very well indeed. As with Steve Smallman, it was a much younger audience than usual - the Edinburgh schools had already gone back, so the children were all pre-school age (yikes!). But they turned out to be really well behaved and stayed with me, listening and taking part for the entire hour.
I had meant to stop for a drawing break half way, but the time flew by. Pippa, my festival 'minder', suddenly realised we had about 2 minutes to go - we had all been having such fun, we hadn't noticed the time (gotta be a good sign I reckon!).
My very last ticket before I had to head back, was for legendary John Byrne: Scottish author, playwright, painter and all-round creative genius:
Astonishingly, he is in his 70s - you would never guess. Unfortunately, my view of him was largely blocked by a man with a tree-trunk neck, who kept sitting forwards, then sitting back, then forwards again... so I was dancing back and forth in my seat, gritting my teeth as I was sketching the above.
Another snag was that they started 10 minutes late. I was so tight for time: 10 minutes at the other end was enough for me to miss my train home. So I had to try and sneak out. I was sitting with illustrator and new friend Layn Marlow in the middle of a row, near the front (so not the most obvious 'sneaking-out' seat). I did the whispered 'excuse me' thing and people stood up to let me out, but Layn crunched the foot of the woman next to her. I didn't hear the scream as I left the fall-out behind and ran...
I only just made it - thank goodness, as it was over 4 hours to get home. I passed the time in the usual fashion, as you can see. There are more sketches of my journey, and of the festival too, in the gallery, if you are not bored with me by now (sorry about these looooonnnnnnggggg posts - there is just too much I want to say!).