If I were having coffee I’d invite you to my new favourite haunt, a mysterious cafe in an exotic land of my imagination. We’d have the sun shining down on us, warming our backs with gentle breezes, palm trees above us, and the sweet aroma of flowers too. It would be so hot that we’d have a chilled coconut coffee filled to the brim with large scoops of ice. Or perhaps if the mood takes us we might indulge in one of these cheeky delights: Tequila Mockingbird, a Margaret Atwood, The Sunday Librarian, in The Study with The Lead Pipe, or a Watership Down!
Our iced drink would be decorated with one of those fancy cocktail sticks. The theme of the cafe would be books, and an abundance of titles would be artistically placed everywhere, decorating every nook and cranny, because this week my coffee share post is all about the Cambridge Literary Festival: http://www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com/
I’m been looking forward to telling you about my recent experience working as a steward at the Cambridge Literary Festival. But before I begin let me fill you in on the first event at the Festival that I attended with my friend. On Friday evening my friend and I had a lovely Thai meal at Thaikun, from the streets of Bangkok, in our very own Cambridge: http://thaikhun.co.uk/
Followed by some Raving Beauties: Hallelujah for 50 ft Women at the Union library!
More about them here: http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/hallelujah-for-50ft-women-186
It was a blast, these ravers have had a beauty of a sell out run at the Edinburgh Festival. Their cabaret of diverse, passionate poetry listed above explores the themes of love, sex, creativity and work. When I say sex I mean it! Some of the titles are kinda in your face (look away if you are easily offended!): Cunts Cocks and Balls -Sally St. Clair, Cunt Artist Boyfriend – Rebecca Smith, Rutting – Arundhathi Subramaniam and a few very female orientated poems such as Women’s Blood – Vicky Feaver, and to my last period – Lucille Clifton. Oh and one for top heavy ladies: the trials and tribulations of a well-endowed woman – Hira A. There were a few men in the audience and I wonder what they made of the Raving Beauties! I’ve mentioned a few of the poems – I think if my memory serves me right they performed 35 altogether, including my favourite: Recognition – Carol Ann Duffy.
After the event my friend mentioned that she’d intended to do an English Literature degree when she was younger and had been persuaded by her then controlling boyfriend to do Law. She seemed to be touched by regret after listening to the talk! But I cheered her up by saying that Law had enabled her to be financially secure career wise. But, it does make you wonder, doesn’t it? How the pathways that we choose can shape your life in an entirely different way. Who knows what she might have done if she’d ignored her then boyfriend and done English Literature. Perhaps she might have become a poor impoverished poet, or been a featured poet in the Raving Beauties!
One can’t help but wonder! I digress. Back to my stewarding duties. It all began on Saturday. In the afternoon I helped out in the Old Divinity School, a wonderful setting for the 2.30 talk by journalists Robert Verkaik and Andrew Hosken: Reflections on the Middle East. The talk was a riveting sharing of their views on the ‘middle east cauldron.’ Robert Verkaik, is the author of Jihdi John: The Making of a Terrorist, (he is the only journalist to have interviewed the ISIS terrorist, thought to be of Arabic origin.)
Andrew Hosken wrote Empire of Fear: Inside The Isalmic State. The event was chaired by Helen Lewis, Editor of the New Statesman.
After that at 4pm I had the opportunity to steward in the Tracy Chevalier, Helen Dunmore & Linda Grant event: Reader, I Married Him.
This talk celebrated the 200th Anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth. The three speakers, Tracy Chevalier, Helen Dunmore and Linda Grant’s short stories were inspired by Jane Eyre, questioning who, how and why we love. Again, another wonderful talk that I was able to tune into gratis via my stewarding role!
For those of you who might be interesting in volunteering for literary events here’s a brief rundown of what I did while I was stewarding at the Divinity School:
I made sure that everything was in order before the talk began, that the auditorium was clear of rubbish, that the viewers of the previous talk left, (with a little gentle cajoling,) and that the speakers had water and the appropriate number of glasses. Also I had to keep an eye on the heavy door. I had to ensure that it didn’t slam shut with an almighty bang when latecomers came! (The building seemed to echo with the least noise so we were asked to keep disturbance to a minimum!) We helped with organising the queues for the auditorium, and the book signing, and generally tried to get festival goers in the right direction for toilets, etc. Oh, and we smiled a lot!
On Sunday I did it all again! Here’s us stewards posing for this photo opportunity twittered via Kate Kirk, and yours truly!
Crack team of stewards gearing up for last afternoon in the Union! Gonna rock it! @camlitfest pic.twitter.com/jDKFF6Gl4N
— Kate Kirk (@KateEKirk) April 10, 2016
There’s me second on the right of the photo!
On Sunday morning I was due at the Fitzwilliam museum at 9.30, via a back entrance which was quite hard to find. Luckily I came across another steward who seemed to have a better sense of direction than I had and we found our way into the Goods In! Now that we were tagged, and signed in, we took a large (no I lie, an enormous lift,) into the museum.
I was so lucky! I was stewarding at the Claire Harman: Charlotte Bronte: A life, talk.
I have to say that this talk and the Hallelujah for 50ft. Women were my two favourite events at the Festival this year. Perhaps the Fitzwilliam event was in part due to the venue, my photo doesn’t do it justice, the room was beyond stunning:
But, moreover I was riveted by Claire Harman’s discussion of her acclaimed biography: Charlotte Bronte: A Life. After the talk, audience members were able to enjoy a display of Charlotte Bronte’s personal letters dating from 1845 to her death in 1855. These letters cover the period during which Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette were published, as well as her marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854. The letters are still available for a short time period (a week, I believe) from today to view. The event was chaired by Tom Gatti, Culture Editor, New Statesman.
In the afternoon it was time for a quick bite to eat and then I was off to the take part in the Children’s programme! Yippee!!!
At 2.30 it was time for some Roman Mysteries and Quests with best selling author Caroline Lawrence in the Union Blue Room. Her novels are mostly set in ancient Rome. To find out more visit Caroline’s website:
I was impressed by Caroline’s ability to get her young audience members to join in at every opportunity, making the event a very fun and interactive experience. In fact, when she mentioned the xylospongia, an implement to clean yourself after you’ve been to the toilet,(in Roman times,) that got more than a few laughs. Toilet humour, always does the biz!! Below she’s grinning holding a xylospongia at the ready!
Thanks for shouting me out in discussion on xylospongia @CarlyASilver One of my fave things: https://t.co/JgYvaDxzTI pic.twitter.com/QIbcR3qkZa
— Caroline Lawrence (@CarolineLawrenc) April 13, 2016
I managed to have a chat with Caroline and the tech guy, before the talk. Caroline was really lovely, so friendly and nice. And the tech guy was too, he trusted me to be responsible for his expensive piece of tech, I was the microphone lady for Q & A. First time doing this….. think it went ok. I didn’t drop it! Thank goodness. I didn’t mention I’m a bit accident prone! Though, I think the head steward might have guessed when I tripped over the queuing rope barriers. Luckily there was no harm done, just a bruised ego.
At 4pm I was in the Blue Room again this time helping out with Monica Vaughan’s talk on her book, Six. This is the American cover:
A thrilling and chilling sci-fi mystery that tackles controversial topics. Like the sound of this…. As before I wielded the microphone, for Q and A, and afterwards I managed to talk briefly to Monica before I left. Again she was very lovely, and thanked me for my help which was very sweet of her.
Here’s a link to Monica’s website to find out more about her:
and a photo of her at the Festival that I pinched from her twitter account!
Brilliant day at @camlitfest – amazing to see kids holding SIX for the first time! pic.twitter.com/yKQVDSPwtM
— Monica Meira Vaughan (@NoSleepNeeded) April 11, 2016
I hope you enjoyed finding out more about my stewarding role, perhaps it might inspire you to help out at the next Literary Festival near you. It’s a very worthwhile thing to do, particularly if you are a book worm, or a budding author, (you get free attendance at talks that aren’t sold out, have a chance to chat to authors, particularly in the smaller events.) Of course you do have to get in the spirit of the festival by wearing a free lurid tee-shirt, or perhaps shuffling about in a funny costume, ha ha!!! While you’re stewarding you can listen to talks and generally have the opportunity to meet like minded people. Stewarding gives you a marvellous insight into the workings of event management too. So do have a go. My motto at the moment is try everything at least once!
Do pop over to Diana’s blog, Part Time Monster to see all about the weekly Coffee Share post:
All about Weekend Coffee Share :http://parttimemonster.com/weekend-coffee-share/
Link up to the Weekend Coffee share blog by clicking on Diane’s blog, Part Time-Monster, there’s a blue link: https://parttimemonster.com/category/weekly-features/weekend-coffee-share/
Have you ever stewarded before? At a Literary Festival or perhaps another event? Do share your experiences I would love to hear all about them.
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx
In case you’re curious to find out more, do visit my links:
Great post. You must have had an absolute blast by the sounds of this x
It was definitely an interesting experience, and one I’d recommend to others. 🙂
I grabbed myself a cup of ginger tea (alas no cheeky cocktails 😒) before settling down to read your post as I’d been looking forward to reading about your days at the festival. Despite my best efforts I’m trying not to be envious 😀 What a wonderful array of writers to greet and meet – good for you and definitely inspiring. Give me kick when you volunteer next year and if I’m around I would love to have a go! I’m not accident prone but do have problem recognising folk …would this be a handicap?! A great informative post, Marje. Well done and I’m off to check out some of these books.
Oh, I’ll bear that in mind Annika. I have a problem remembering everyones’ names but you get by as best you can… Glad you enjoyed the post, and found it inspiring, hope you enjoyed your ginger tea Annika!
Great post! Looks like lots of fun
Thank you. It was 🙂
Reblogged this on Meredith's Reveries and commented:
As my hiatus from Meredith’s Reverie is extended, I offer a blog filled with interesting books, authors, clever drinks and a festival. by Marjorie Mallon
Thank you so much For the reblog Meredith. 🙂
That ROOOOOM!! *Keels over and dies* Perfection!
Thanks for sharing such a fun and fascinating experience with us. 🙂
Thank you Diana. Yes the ROOOOM was stupendous… thanks for your comment, and for the coffee share! 🙂
What great fun. I loved the post. 🙂
Thank you so much! 🙂
Excellent post. as per usual… BTW, I have nominated you for an award… look for your name at the end of this post https://aquileana.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/%E2%96%BAhistory-the-greek-theatre-literature-aristotles-poetics-theory-of-tragedy%E2%AD%90%EF%B8%8F/
All my best wishes. Aquileana ⭐️.-
Thank you so much Amalia, I appreciate your nominating me for The One Lovely Blog Award but just recently due to time constraints I went Award Free: https://kyrosmagica.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/kyrosmagica-is-now-award-free/
As a thankyou for the nomination I’ve added your link to my above post and reblogged your post. Thank you so much I really do appreciate the gesture. :))
Volunteering is rewarding as you are help making a difference. Almost everything can use extra help. I have volunteer most of my lfe.
That’s wonderful Betty, I agree, I also help run the local Cambridge Children’s writing group in a volunteer role too. As you say volunteering really does make a difference, and I would like to continue to volunteer in various ways. Thank you for your comment and for stopping by. 🙂
Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.
Thanks for the reblog, Kate. 🙂
Wow Marje, how exciting! What a thrill that experience had to be for you because it was so action packed and exciting to read all about it, Thanks for sharing with us and taking us along, 🙂
Thanks for commenting Debby! Yeah it was definitely some experience! Glad you enjoyed coming along!
Loved it! 🙂
Thanks for the coffee.I love literary festivals and attend the Sydney Writer’s Festival every year, although I am reconsidering this year and I’ve been able to attend local events and it’s a real hike to the venue in the city. However, I do love that sense of being immersed with other writers, Writing is usually a fairly solo thing and while my blogging has satisfied my cravings for contact, I also love that people contact. That experience of being immersed in writing, writers and readers….along with the inevitable concern about how we’re all going to get published and read!
Meanwhile, I’m writing a series of letters to dead poets who have inspired me through the years. It’s very full on and I feel like I’m using a snorkel to breathe but very productive.
Good luck with your letters to dead poets, hope the snorkel breathing technique works!! Thanks so much for your comment. Yes I love literary festivals too. I also attend the Edinburgh literary festival too – links on my blog if you’re interested. It’s great getting involved with festivals, and generally being as productive and as sociable as a writer can be!
Love literary festivals.
What a fun weekend.
It was.. love literary festivals too. 🙂