This weekend I journeyed deep into the heart of North Yorkshire to take my Travelling Suitcase Library to Ryedale Book Festival. I haven’t been to Malton since I was a kid, all I remember is it smells of meat and there are Roman ruins, but you can’t actually see them.
Malton is LOVELY! The festival itself took place all over town, including the Library and various pubs, but my ‘bit’ was in the Milton Rooms, a gorgeous Victorian hall complete with stage, and the Studio, a lovely side room converted into a cafe, with a lovely view across the market square. It may have been that I came early enough to see the market setting up, with an early morning light against the medieval church, but there is such a sense of romance about the place. The people were all so friendly (apart from the men who tried to harass me in the pub afterwards-one of the pitfalls of being a woman with a large heavy suitcase is the legions who want to “help” you with it) and welcoming and so enthused about the whole idea of the Suitcase Library, I haven’t had as pleasant a day in a long time.
The Milton Rooms hosted a variety of booksellers and local publishers. I was besides the Stairwell Books table, a small press publisher founded by the incredibly friendly and enthusiastic Rose Drew, who is also a spoken word artist and hosted an Open Mic session in the afternoon in the hall. Also in attendance were Persephone books, who are just amazing, and for which I was gutted it was still a week before payday as I was lusting after a copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day quite badly. I was also chuffed to discover my home town of Scarborough now hosts an independent publisher, Valley Press, working out of the regenerated Woodend, which use to be my favourite museum as a child. They publish a range of local authors and poets, and people looking to buy Christmas presents for book lovers should bookmark their page as this is the sort of thing we should seriously be supporting.
During the day, I for the most part hid at my massive book swap, what with all the donations to the cause by the lovely organisers and volunteers, eating scrummy lemon drizzle cake (that was 50p a slice!!!!) and started reading The Thrall’s Tale, which I am now obsessed with. I also ran a Recommended Read session, which was really informal and lovely and included having a vampire-book-off with a young woman who loves Jane Austen as much as I do. The swap itself went really really well, I met a lot of lovely people and got to give away some really very good books-including three copies of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, which was great. It was also lovely to see people dragging their friends over to take a bag of books, and to have a long and serious talk about the world of Darren Shan with the nicest little boy in a leather cowboy hat I’ve ever met.
In the afternoon the hall was host to The P Factor, a poetry performance competition between the local primary schools which was just such a brilliant idea, the children were all so enthusiastic, confident and proud of themselves. Personally, I think the kids who did The Dragon Who Ate My School were robbed, as I’ve had the chorus in my head all weekend, but hey, I’m not the Mayor of Norton, so who am I to judge?
All in all, it was a brilliant day. The organisers should be bloody proud of themselves, and I would love love love to go back next year.