Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Festivals 2010: And so we face the final photocall

You know how sometimes you'll spend ages on a document/email/blog, getting everything perfect and embedding images and links and so on only to have something (say, Firefox) crash and leave you back at square one with nothing left and suddenly you can't face it and avoid the problem for days? And then other commitments leave you with very little time to do anything and it all gets a bit fraught...

Yeah. Sorry. Let's rush through to the end of the Book Festival, shall we?


Debi Gliori. She was lovely and nervous about speaking in front of a crowd, but did magnificently; the adults were entertained by tales of her techniques and the children entranced by the reading of her new book and then being taught how to draw seals and rabbits. Made me feel a bit soppy, really.


Trying to get atmospheric shots of the site, I was playing with the juxtaposition of these flowers, the logo on the door and a queue going into the tent. Sadly, one grouchy old man (not seen here) decided that it was Immoral And Illegal And Wrong for me to be taking pictures of people without their permission, and despite my explanation of why I was taking pictures and what they were for and the legal status of what I was doing he was unshakable and insisted that he was going to complain. Oh well.



A group of Arab writers involved in the Beirut 39 collection; they each read some of their work and then had a translation read out. What was very moving was when one said that he was from Jerusalem, couldn't really move away from Jerusalem and would probably (he said in a matter of fact and slightly resigned to his fate tone of voice) die in Jerusalem. He then read some poetry in Arabic with such energy that the translation seemed far less exciting o interesting, even though I could actually understand it.



Dum di dum, trying to pap the staff cos they're important too...



Alasdair Grey, everyone's favourite jolly Scottish Santa.



Martin Bell, former independent MP and general nice guy with a grudge against corruption.



I was passing through the Signing Tent and grabbed a few pictures, as is my wont, when I suddenly realised it was Michael Rosen!



Despite being a bit of Danish totty, Lars Husem didn't draw the eye of the girls on site...



Here we see Dom Hastings the Front of House manager (who was very patient when faced with my running in and out of events) looking dynamic against a backdrop of Nick Barley, the newest Director of the Book Festival.



And the strangely disappointing David Shrigley. It's not so much that HE or his event were a disappointment, but I kinda wanted him to be a grotesque stick figure rather than a tall, well bred and recently washed Englishman with a near-RP accent.



Chris Close, who has been taking dramatic portraits of authors, was quite pleased to see that people were enjoying them.



Christopher Brookmyre at Unbound, singing with the assistant of Billy Franks. This was bloody packed - due in part to the free whisky I suspect...



And the man who DID draw the eye of the girlies: Alan Bissett, the gayest straight man I've seen in a long time.



Onto my last day then (sniff).


Tim Berners-Lee looking moody for the Press.



My brief foray into the Children's Bookshop and it's activity centre (because taking pictures of children scares me!)



A meeting with Maisie the Mouse and her creator, Lucy Cousins,  with signing and enthusiastic Sian in the background.



Quintin Jardine, a man who exudes a strange enthusiasm.



The inimitable Lord Robert Winston (who may or may not have stolen a duck).



Ian Rankin talking about what he loves about Twitter (part journal and part uber-reliable source on up to date information) and why he has a white iPhone (they had run out of black ones, so he keeps it in a black case).



Nicholas Parsons, two thousand years old and still going strong - even if he does look like a fairy tale wicked witch.



A rare view of the Press Pod (Yurt) - here showing Frances Sutton aka The General, hard at work even long after she really should have gone home.



Mr John Hegley regaling the Unbound crowd with songs and stories in English and French.



Candia McWilliam here, just before she panicked at the sight of the camera and asked me not to use flash, "or I shall go totally blind!". I mention this because I had heard of her sight problems from one of the staff and so felt rather pleased with myself for the fact that I wasn't using - and indeed rarely do use - flash.



And the King of the Charlotte Square Castle, Nick Barley himself. I had been tasked with getting a Good Photo of him against the bustle of the festival but it never happened, so this was my last attempt.



And so it ended.


But then I popped back for Alan Moore (squeeeee!)


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Festivals 2010: Wet books and Englishmen

Day 4. Children. Actual, honest-to-god children, barely large enough to open a door. It's not nice, as a)a photographer and b)a man to be asked to point a camera at children. People get hysterical and assume the worst. On the bright side, the Imagination Lab is run by my friend Sian who is able to make anything acceptable. "Hello kiddies! This is my friend CHRIS, do you know what that is hanging around his neck?" "A CAMERA," they chant. "That's right, and he's here to take pictures for the Book Festival. So if you or any of your parents don't want to be in them you can sit over there and he'll not take your picture." Genius.



This first kiddies event was Bookbugs, and I was in awe of the performers' energy and enthusiasm.



After a few miraculously dry days, the skies went dark and wet. The nice thing about Edinburgh though is that it often looks lovelier just after a rainshower.



Onto Jeremy Hardy then, who pointed out only half in jest that his followers, mostly Radio 4 listeners, were a rather fragile fanbase. Since the Book Festival is basically Radio 4 listeners, this was a bit close to the bone. I hear the goal is to get Radio 2 listeners...



A couple of behind the scenes glimpses for you here. Firstly, "Anon's Colin Fraser" who is operating the @EdBookFest Twitter account (he's usually on @AnonPoetry). Here we see him editing a recording to post on AudioBoo.



And here's one of the big containers out back. This is where books come in from the publishers etc. in preparation for an author event, before going back if any are unsold. The amazing thing is that it's constantly in motion. The boxes of books never look the same from one hour to the next, which left me with an urge to set up a month-long timelapse next year. Somehow.



Signings, signings, Ian Rankin photocall...



David Shrigley sharing book space with Barack Obama...



Signings, signings...



Alastair Darling's event should have been dramatic, but due to a slip by his press people, everybody knew what he was going to say before he got there. What I did enjoy were the salute from Brian Taylor:



...closely followed by a mimed moustache from Mr Darling:



David Shrigley was a bit of a disappointment to me. Nothing to do with his work, just that he was a bit tall, clean and well-spoken. Perhaps expecting a mangled stick figure to come to the Book Festival is a bit much?



And then the day closed. I pointed a camera at someone whose face seemed familiar and afterwards realised that it was David Bishop (former editor of 2000AD, tutor of a well-respected Creative Writing course at Napier University and more, I'm sure) and that Anna from Edinburgh City of Literature had popped up in the background. Nice!



Saturday, 14 August 2010

Festivals 2010: Oranges may actually be the only fruit


This will be a big one, because I’m trying to catch up with myself.


Day 2 was a day filled with oddments and unexpected shots. It started early because my choir were singing in the Ross Bandstand, after which I was required to take some new photos of us (as there were none less than three years old).



This meant I missed a Storytime event (which I eventually got along to a few days later) and it took me a while to focus on the task at hand. Thankfully there was a need for random shots of the site, so I spent the afternoon split between processing yesterday’s and documenting the punters. This shot was in no way set up . Honest.



Scattered throughout my Book Festival days are the Photo Calls; I don’t attend all of them because I’m often in an event or catching some atmospheric shots of the site, but if I notice some distant flashing behind the Press yurt I pop round to see what’s happening. Here we see Fatima Bhutto posing (and she seemed to be quite happy to pose) for the press photographers.



Hanging around the site are some awesome portrait photographs of authors, from last year and this. They are taken by Chris Close, who works with a terrifying ring flash and manages to get today’s photos processed and printed onto canvas by tomorrow. This is what people mostly think he looks like…



The biggest surprise of the day was the queue for John Green. Clearly the organisers didn’t anticipate his popularity, as he was booked into the Children’s Bookshop tent for his signing… and the queue pretty much filled the tent!



This was followed by an exciting multilingual event in the Corner tent which inexplicably always made me nauseous and woozy - I'm pretty sure it wasn't the event to blame. Here we had five poets from different countries reading their work in their native tongue and having careful and intricate translations performed immediately after.



And then onto the first Unbound! Here we had a group taking it in turns to read us through the history of literary pornography, assisted by burlesque-style flashcards. Although I quite enjoyed some of the works shared from the stage, the high fpoint for me was all the people who walked out within the first ten minutes with looks of disgust on their faces.



There was a handout as well, but since nobody assigned homework I didn't pay it much attention.



Day 3 started me off with another big crowd, although with fewer children than Pullman pulled in.



This time it was for Jeanette Winterson, a woman known for her astonishing ego. The remarkable thing I found was that although she was pretty much just monologuing  about herself, her childhood, her philosophy of life etc. she was nonetheless a captivating and entertaining speaker. I’m almost tempted to read some of her books now…



We also had some quality time with a chair round the back.



This chair was representing, I think, all the writers who couldn't attend the Book Festival due to being imprisoned. Harsh stuff!


Nothing book-related in Edinburgh would be complete without a visit from Ian Rankin, and sure enough he appeared to be interviewed non stop for hours.



Who else? Erm, Louis de Bernieres?



Simon Callow? (I totally spent ALL DAY squeeing about him being there).



Having mentioned queues, this was awaiting the Sir Ian Blair event an hour before it started:



I then had the dubious pleasure of being shoo-ed by Sue Perkins. Having spotted her (and papped her) I dashed over to one of the Press team to squeal in hushed tones "ohmygod it's SUE PERKINS!", to which she replied " I know, isn;t it GREAT and there's Simon Callow being interviewed over there!"... and apparently this was all too much for poor Sue (who I love, btw - this is entertainment, not bitching) and she waved me away and asked me to move behind the camera. It seems she was unable to keep her eyes off my blightly shining hair though, as one of her crew then told me in no uncertain terms to go away because I was too distracting. Tsk.



After a brief visit to Sir Blair I went to see Fay Weldon with Fatima Bhutto being interviewed by Ruth Patel. I've never been a big fan of Fay Weldon but was always aware of her. I didn't realise how old she now is, and it was a little distressing to see her tottering up on stage. Once she got going though, she was totally there, and when she laughed it was like a beam of sunshine! I ended up speaking at cross-purposes with one of the staff because I came out talking about Fay's amazing face and he thought I was saying that Fatima was a bit of alright and it took a while to untangle...



Thanks to not being able to read or think, I missed Iain (M) Banks talking about his latest book, but I made up for it by taking apicture of just about everyone who came to get things signed - and what a mixed bunch they were! It was both heartwarming and demographically satisfying. Also, he looks way better now that all the ginger has gone.



The day ended with some question over whether writing the word BLUE on a pieve of white paper actually assigned a certain blue-ness to the paper, or whether it just meant that bureaucracy will soon end us all.