Seeing the whites of their eyes

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Phil: Regular readers of this blog are probably a bit tired of our rattling on about the Stratford Literary Festival, I promise this will be the last time but I can’t resist telling the story from my point of view as you read Candice’s on Tuesday.

I arrived at the venue far too early, or so I thought. It was a cold and damp day and having perused the second-hand bookshops of Stratford, I decided to wander in to take a photo of the attractions board for the day. We were on it and I wanted a record of the fact in case it never happens again.

Seconds after I walked in however, a lovely steward called Gail asked if I was attending one of the sessions. I explained I was but as the bloke at the front. Suddenly I was hauled off to the green room. I protested that I really ought to wait for Candice but to no avail. There I was trapped in a room with cakes and wine – what could I do?

Anyway, there were official photos to be taken and the man with the camera used me to set up the lighting. That’s what he said anyway, it might just be that the dozens of shots were to find one in which I don’t look too stupid. Suffice to say the Nolan was only in the studio for a couple of minutes when she arrived.

My plan had been that we would run through our cue cards before the show. As it was, we got chatting to people and never quite managed this. Time came and were led down to the Drawing Room where we were to perform. As we settled at the front, I was received to see some people arrive in the audience. OK, not many but at least we didn’t have to scuttle off in ignominy.

Now, I’m used to presenting in front of people, but as was said last time, bigger crowds. When there are 50 people staring at you, it’s not possible to focus on a single person, unless they insist on sitting in the front row eating chocolate cake but that’s another story. With a small audience you can see all the reactions at once.

My plan had been to introduce our talk with a short (1min 32s – I timed it in advance) reading from the book that describes the scene where we were told the place was closing. As I did this, I felt myself warming up and had the terror that I was going bright red.

Eventually we settled down and the second problem appeared. The lack of cue card run through meant that neither of us knew when the other was going to stop. Add to that my ability to waffle for England and I had to keep reminding myself to let Candice get a word in. Fortunately, she is more than capable of interjecting and we quickly bounced between us, bantering like we do.

We’d thought that simply talking about us would be dull but as it turns out, people are interested in people. Our attempts to  stick in some stuff about writing as a team hopefully helped the lady who is struggling to complete a novel. Half an hour isn’t long once you get going though so we had to pack everything in. We wanted people to go away feeling they had value for money even though it was free.

Our small audience really enjoyed themselves and we handed out flyers to everyone – if you are reading this because of one, thanks for coming, you made our day!

Afterwards, it was back to the green room to collect our belongings and a bit more chat then we escaped to the HR Coffee bar, supplier of the excellent cakes for a calming cup of tea.

So, we’ve done it. A proper literary festival. They looked after us the same as any of the stars and for a few minutes we felt like real authors. If we one day make it big, part of this is going to be down to Annie and her team running the show. Oh, and Rupert Barnes who took the superb photos of us both in the green room and putting on a show – in which we actually look like real authors. We’ve got a taste for this, now we want more!

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