Posts Tagged ‘Guildford Book Festival’

Guildford Book Festival 2014

October 21, 2014
Ben Collins aka Stig at Guildford Book Festival

Ben Collins aka Stig at Guildford Book Festival

This year 12-19 October 2014 marked the 25th aniversay of the Guildford Book Festival.

The execution of Charles I was a huge disconnect in English history, not only the killing of a King, the English Civil War, but the awful retribution metered out to those responsible. This was the topic for Charles Spencer The Killers of the King. Sold out.

ghost town of Famagusta sealed off behind rusting razor wire

ghost town of Famagusta sealed off behind rusting razor wire

ghost city of Famagusta seen from the sea

ghost city of Famagusta seen from the sea

The latest from Victoria Hislop is The Sunrise, the story of Famugusta, an abandoned ghost city on the Island of Cyprus, abandoned since the illegal Turkish invasion and occupation of 1974. The world turns a blind eye, Famagusta surrounded by rusting razor wire and crumbling to ruins.

Maybe Victoria Hislop writing of Famagusta will focus world attention, but I would not hold my breath. Even more so now the world needs Turkey in the fight against ISIS.

A special edition of The Sunrise from Waterstone’s has an essay in the back on Famagusta.

A literary lunch placed the event outside the pocket of many people, and limited numbers.

Coffee morning. House of Fraser! It could have been worse, Costa or tax-dodging Starbucks. At least pick somewhere that serves decent coffee, Harris + Hoole or Glutton & Glee.

I am Malawa with co-author Christina Lamb, left many people disappointed as the venue was far too small. And that was even before she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Head of State, A Political Entertainment a very interesting insight by Andrew Marr into how corrupt and rotten the political system. Party apparatchiks who have not done an honest days’s work in their life in the pocket and at the beck and call of Big Business, lack of respect from the electorate, out of touch with real people, in Scotland a move to independence, in England a shift to Ukip and the Green Party, EU dictating policy. Following in the footsteps of Jonathan Swift, Head of State, the latest book from Andrew Marr, is satire.

Too many events running concurrently. An illusion of choice. No real choice as cannot be in two places at once.

Kate Mosse a natural story teller, The Taxidermist’s Daughter, discussing the background to Labyrinth, Citadel and her latest book The Taxidermist’s Daughter.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter is set in Sussex, gloomy marshland, a river estuary, very much the setting found in The Moonstone. The seed, the gem of an idea, a museum, no longer there, in Arundel. A Gothic thriller in the mould of The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Frankenstein, Dracula.

There is currently an exhibition of Gothic literature at the British Library.

Poorly designed website. Irritating pictures flicking across the screen. But worse were highlights that were not live links, and live links not highlighted that you had to stumble upon. Books and authors were highlighted, these should be live links to pull up more information on the books and authors.

Guildford Book Festival is a registered charity, in receipt of public funding, I would therefore expect to find published accounts on their website.

Very poor use of social media. Puerile, sycophantic, drooling tweets.

Please no. Stick to straight forward factual information. And please no, please do not re-tweet every sycophantic, drooling tweet. Added to which a fundamental lack of understanding of social media, social networks.

  • social —> interaction
  • network —> many to many

A dialogue should be taking place.

Steve Lawson gave a three hour talk on the use of social media at the Digital Music for Musicians seminar held in Leeds at the Belgrave Music Hall. He summarised in a five minute video. A must watch for those clueless on the use of social media.

Book festivals are springing up all over the place.

Lincoln Book Festival, an interesting line up, half a dozen authors. OK with that. What is important, have they something worthwhile to say, can they write, are they worth reading.

Halfway up Steep Hill at a suitable resting place, BookStop Cafe, a little coffee bar tucked in a Norman Undercroft. Inside lined with books, emphasis on local writers, looking out a stunning view, occasional evening talks with local writers.

The world’s oldest and the largest book festival is the Frankfurt Book Fair, established by Gutenberg, an estimated 300,000 visitors over five days. This year the highlight was a discussion on publishing between Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho and festival director Juergen Boos.

Two books around which there has been a great deal of buzz, The Zero Marginal Cost Society and This Changes Everything. Naomi Klein was in London, then Oxford, a pity not Guildford too. Last year there was a lot of buzz around Feral.

Too many events are taking place concurrently. An illusion of choice. Not possible to be in more than one place at the same time.

One Tree Books has for the last few years been the official festival bookseller. And that is as it should be. The Festival depends upon local support, in return the Festival supports local indy bookshops. It was offensive to book lovers to find WHSmith selling the books, a failing High Street chain that has no interest in books.

Kate Mosse stressed the importance of supporting indy bookshops.

Ironic then Guildford Book Festival has ditched One Tree Books and this year the Festival book supplier was WHSmith. A High Street chain that does nothing for books, hated and despised by book lovers.

One Tree Books used to have a wonderful display of books in the Electric Theatre during the book festival, you could talk to them about books. Sadly not WHSmith. They could not even be bothered to mount a display in their own bookshop. Nor was there any mention of the book festival in their stores in neighbouring towns.

WHSmith a huge mistake. Hopefully not to be repeated next year. Or if is, buy your books elsewhere and bring them along for signing.

Amazon often get the blame for killing off indy bookshops. It is not Amazon. It is chains like WHSmith, that not only destroy indy bookshops, but also destroy our town centres, draining money out of the local economy and turning them into Clone Towns.

Mid-August Paulo Coelho had a new book out Adultery, WHSmith had it on special offer at half price. It was an international best-seller from an internationally known author, and yet WHSmith staff clueless as to title and author, most stores did not have in stock or only two copies and when sold, not restocked. One of the worst was WHSmith Guildford where it was claimed only opinion an international best-seller.

September This Changes Everything was published. About to ask for it in Waterstone’s Winchester, I saw it was piled up, a few weeks later, was told it was an excellent read, well written, well researched. Asking in WHSmith Guildford, they had not a clue, never heard of title or author, and no it was not in stock, it was not even showing on their computer.

High Street sales are falling at WHSmith (no surprise there), down 5% compared with last year. The only reason they are not posting big losses is strong performance in travel (56% profits compared with around 20% nine years), in-store Post Office counters and cost cutting.

How soon will it be before WHSmith follows Clinton Cards, Jessops, HMV, Phones4U into oblivion?

WHSmith is to books, what McDonald’s and KFC is to food and Costa and tax-dodgining Starbucks is to coffee.

It is important though to differentiate between the company and its employees. They shrug their shoulders in despair at not being able to provide a service, and some go out of their way to try and be helpful.

Indy bookshops need our support. Guildford Book Festival should be setting the example.

Guildford Book Festival has become far too celebrity focussed and obsessed. A PR bums-on-seats mindset. Where are the poets, the local writers, the up and coming writers, local publishers?

One would hope Guildford Book Festival would promote other book events happening in Guildford. Sadly not.

During the summer, Steph Bradley author of Tales of Our Times and forthcoming Flip Flop, did a book tour. She stopped off at Guildford between Brighton and Oxford. Not a whisper from Guildford Book Festival.

Most festivals have a fringe. It is long overdue, a Guildford Book Festival Fringe.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter

October 17, 2014
Kate Mosse books

Kate Mosse books

Kate Mosse book signing

Kate Mosse book signing

We will each write a ghost story. — Lord Byron

I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. — Mary Shelley

A natural story teller.

Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel are based on historical fact set in France, important to get the historical facts right, which necessitates a lot of research.

In France, Kate Mosse unknown, thus known for what she was, a writer. She had written books before, but only family had read. To see people, strangers, reading Labyrinth, was a delight.

Writers, write to be read. They want to share their thoughts with others.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter was an interlude, a pleasant break. A thriller, a Gothic thriller, no need to check facts.

A Gothic thriller in the mould of The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Frankenstein, Dracula.

You cannot understand or appreciate Northanger Abbey, without having read Ann Radcliffe. It is also self-referential with her gullible heroine, Catherine Morland, being handed a copy of The Mysteries of Udolpho to read. The original is vastly superior to its parody.

There is currently an exhibition of Gothic literature at the British Library.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter is set in Sussex, gloomy marshland, a river estuary, very much the setting found in The Moonstone. The seed, the gem of an idea, a museum, no longer there, in Arundel.

What are ghosts, are they something out there, or something within us? Or maybe both but we have tried to rationalise out of existence?

Odd, some readers want to know what happens to characters after the end of a book.

Kate Mosse stressed the importance of supporting indy bookshops. Ironic then Guildford Book Festival has ditched One Tree Books and this year the Festival book supplier was WHSmith. A High Street chain that does nothing for books, hated and despised by book lovers.

One Tree Books used to have a wonderful display of books in the Electric Theatre during the book festival, you could talk to them about books. Sadly not WHSmith. They could not even be bothered to mount a display in their own bookshop. Nor was there any mention of the book festival in their stores in neighbouring towns.

WHSmith a huge mistake. Hopefully not to be repeated next year. Or if is, buy your books elsewhere and bring them along for signing.

Amazon often get the blame for killing off indy bookshops. It is not Amazon. It is chains like WHSmith, that not only destroy indy bookshops, but also destroy our town centres.

WHSmith is to books, what McDonald’s and KFC is to food and Costa and Starbucks is to coffee.

Indy bookshops need our support. Guildford Book Festival should be setting the example.

Guildford Book Festival 12-19 October 2014 at venues in and around Guildford.

Head of State, A Political Entertainment

October 15, 2014
Andrew Marr book signing

Andrew Marr book signing

I arrived at the venue Raddison Blu, to find there were no tickets left. Most annoying, as Tourist Information had told me there were tickets, turn up.

I was then given a different time. Even odder. Turned out I was at the wrong venue. At least explains why it was not same location as the map.

I arrived at correct venue, Mandolay Hotel.

It was packed, must have been a couple of hundred or more people.

Head of State is a satire. Andrew Marr, is following in good footsteps. Was not Jonathan Swift writing satire? If it cannot be written as fact, then disguise as thinly veiled fiction.

We no longer have politicians, who we may not necessary like, but at least we respect, Winston Churchill, Clem Atlee, Harold McMillan.

The political class is not up to much, never done an honest day’s work in their life, party apparatchiks, yes men, lobby fodder, and with each intake it gets worse.

Andrew Marr suggested minimum age of 40 to gain entry to Parliament.

But would that work? Surely what we need are intelligent, articulate, independently minded Members of Parliament who understand the issues, who act for their constituents and not Big Business and other vested interests.

And that is only one of the problems, Parliament has no power. It has been transferred to the EU and and global corporations.

And it will get worse. Most trade agreements are not about trade, they are about passing power to global corporations.

How many have heard of TTIP? is it being discussed? And yet that will involve a massive transfer of power to global corporations.

Journalists are not up to much either. Real journalism involves hard facts, hard graft, doing the leg work, checking, double checking.

Someone has to pay for it, and no one is willing to pay.

How do you get on the bottom rung? Work as an intern for nothing. Only the rich can afford to work for nothing at least voluntarily. The poor are forced to work for nothing under Workfare.

Add in corporate ownership of the media, and the media is seen to be owned by the same corporations as the politicians.

Add in the revolving door, same schools, same universities, same clubs, and you have the media-political establishment driving the mindset.

Stephanie Flanders, once BBC chief economic correspondent, now works for an asset management company. Other BBC journalists have become political spin doctors. Former spin doctors get wheeled out by the BBC to spout garbage. Former newspaper editors get their own shows.

It is less an owner barks orders than the servile journalist knows what is expected.

George Orwell:

Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip. But the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.

John Pilger:

The truth is, Britain’s system of elite monopoly control of the media rests not on News International alone, but on the Mail and the Guardian and the BBC, perhaps the most influential of all. All share a corporate monoculture that sets the agenda of the “news”, defines acceptable politics by maintaining the fiction of distinctive parties, normalises unpopular wars and guards the limits of “free speech”.

There is a room in Parliament with a print out of speeches. The Member for So and So gave a speech Somewhere. Most of those speeches did not take place, no one bothers to check, and yet they get reported as fact.

Most journalism is churnalism, regurgitation of what has already been reported, or worse still, copy and paste of press releases as news.

The Scottish referendum and UKIP have served as a wake up call. SNP has seen a tripling of its membership since the yes vote. There is a massive rejection of Westminster. In Scotland this is reflected in the desire for independence and a rejection of austerity. In England, anti-EU and vote for UKIP.

In Scotland there was a massive turnout. There was engagement. How doe we achieve this in England?

One way is to engage people, devolve power down to people, involve them, participation.

In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein shows there is an alternative, we just have to have the will.

The media political establishment is itself a satire.

  • Caroline Lucas cut off mid-sentence on wato when arguing for inclusion of UKIP and Green Party in any national debate
  • failure to report massive anti-austerity march a few weeks ago
  • failed Chancellor and has-been politician Nigel Lawson wheeled out as climate expert
  • the ignorant views of Owen Paterson on climate and energy given airtime let alone credence
  • failure to report let alone discuss any alternatives to austerity
  • tittle-tattle
  • yah-boo politics
  • emphasis on Westminster

The ultimate satire has to be the book launch of Head of State hosted by David Cameron at No 10 Downing Street with the media and political circus in attendance.

Pause for one moment. If Vladimir Putin hosted a book launch in the Kremlin for a Russian journalist, would that journalist have any credibility?

Andrew Marr has made an incredible recovery from a stroke he suffered a couple of years ago. He is still frail, needs a stick to walk. NHS has brilliant intervention to save the life of a stroke victim, but very poor after care to aid recovery. Most stroke victims are written off. But as Andrew Marr has shown, you can suffer a stroke and recover. But it needs intensive physio over years and that is not available on the NHS. He paid for it privately.

Andrew Marr provided a tantalising insight into the political world.

A model introduction by Jim Parks, no waffle, no preamble, simply welcoming Andrew Marr to come and join him on the platform. Which is as it should be.

One Tree Books has for the last few years been the official festival bookseller. And that is as it should be. The Festival depends upon local support, in return the Festival supports local indy bookshops. It was offensive to book lovers to find WHSmith selling the books, a failing High Street chain that has no interest in books.

Head of State is the first attempt at fiction by Andrew Marr. He did not find it easy. Like dropping the innards of a watch on a table, then wondering where all the pieces go. As an aid, he drew caricatures of the characters.

Andrew Marr was the founding editor of the Independent and BBC Political Editor. He currently hosts the BBC1 Andrew Marr Show, and presented the Radio 4 Start the Week from 2005 to 2012. His acclaimed television documentary series include Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain and Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain (both of which have associated books of same titles). Head of State was written whilst he was recovering from a stroke in 2013.

Guildford Book Festival 12-19 October 2014 at venues in and around Guildford.

Top Story The Katzing Digital Report (Thursday 16 October 2014).

I am Malala

October 15, 2014

I am Malala, was one of the events at the Guildford Book Festival.

I would have attended, only the local Amnesty International group screwed up big time and booked a venue that was far too small. It was oversubscribed with a long waiting list, and that was before she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Same night was Andrew Marr discussing his satire Head of State, and so Andrew Marr it was.

Malala, when she opened Birmingham library donated a book. The book she donated was The Alchemist, her favourite book and the book that has inspired her.

War correspondent Christina Lamb is co-author of I am Malala. The Zahir is based on Christina Lamb. She was one of the few journalists granted the privilege of interviewing Paulo Coelho on his latest book Adultery. She approached the interview with trepidation, wondering if once again a books based on her. Her fears were unfounded.

Guildford Book Festival 12-19 October 2014 at venues in and around Guildford.

Guildford Book Festival 2013

November 4, 2013
Guildford Book Festival 2013

Guildford Book Festival 2013

One Tree Books stall

One Tree Books stall

Guildford Book Festival is an annual ten day event held mid-October in Guildford. This year 17-27 October 2013. It used to be worth attending, spoilt for choice, but in the last few years it has gone rapidly downhill. This year a new festival director, had he made a difference?

Before the festival began, I was receiving moronic tweets, including re-tweets of moronic drivel from some of the festival authors. In the days before the festival began it got worse and began to resemble spam. During the festival, it was not too bad, except now getting re-tweet of every sycophantic tweet from anyone who had been to a book festival event.

If anyone wants a case study in how not to use social media, then look no further than the Guildford Book Festival, as it is one of the worst examples I have seen in the use of twitter.

So bad was this drivel I was getting on twitter, that it put me off the festival.

But no, give the new bloke a chance. I looked through the programme. Ironically no mention of twitter in the festival programme, though maybe a mixed blessing.

It was not good. The best I could say was, a little improved than the last few years, and they were dire. There did seem to have been an effort to make the festival a little broader in its appeal.

I found two events that looked worth going to, a talk on Victorian London and the Amnesty talk on families of political detainees.

Victorian London was at the Electric Theatre at the strange time of midday.

I was pleased to find One Tree Books had a stall, especially as I had seen no mention of them in the festival programme. I queried this. It was pointed out their logo was printed.

Big deal. They should have, as official festival bookseller, received a mention, but I guess they wanted money for that.

I was disappointed to see the books were not being discounted, or at least not paperbacks, some of the hardbacks, maybe all, were discounted.

At least Waterstone’s has not this year thrown a childish tantrum. They did at least have a poster and a few books in their window.

Why is the Electric Theatre plugging teapigs? Rubbish tea, and no teapigs are not from an independent tea company. It is former Tetley executives and the company is 100% owned by Tata, an Indian global corporation that also owns Tetley.

What is it with the volunteers standing around in purple sashes? I could see no use for them whatsoever.

I was pleased to see the Electric Theatre has abandoned their extremely childish No Photography policy. It has now been replaced by a No Flash Photography policy.

Why the irritating TV chat show format? It is totally unnecessary, as was the waffle that preceded the talk, but once the talk started, the audience was held spellbound to learn of the London where Dickens walked the streets, less of the buildings, more of the people who were on the streets.

An excellent talk by Judith Flanders, and purely on the basis of her talk, I picked up a signed copy of The Victorian City.

The Victorian City looks well researched. My criticism is that it is a paperback, tiny print and poor quality illustrations. It cries out to be a high quality coffee table format.

The Amnesty talk was a grave disappointment. I arrived slightly late, which in many ways was an advantage, as I missed most of the pre-talk waffle.

What made the talk something of a disappointment, was not the calibre of the speaker, Victoria Brittain, or the subject matter, families of political detainees, but that it was very one-sided. The questions to her, were even more one-sided.

I picked up a signed copy of her book, Shadow Lives, maybe I will find it a little less one-sided.

No information or mention of the Arctic 30, the Greenpeace activists held for over a month in Russia nor of Pussy Riot. Of special concern no one knows the whereabouts of Nadya, not her lawyers or family.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of Pussy Riot, was put into a car on the 22 October. Her whereabouts remain unknown.

A pity and a lost opportunity, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head and left for dead by the Taliban, not invited to give the Amnesty talk.

Why were potential venues being told they would have to pay a fee, should they wish to host a book festival event?

Maybe that is why the Guildford Institute hosted nothing this year. Usually one or two events are held at the Guildford Institute.

If the Guildford Book Festival cannot get their act together, maybe it is time to launch a Guildford Fringe Book Festival.

During the summer, The Star Inn held a Fringe Summer Festival. By all accounts it was a huge success, and certainly their programme looked far more enticing than that for the official summer festival.

As the Guildford Book Festival shows no sign of improving any time soon, it is time to give serious thought to a Fringe Guildford Book Festival for October 2014.

A wish list: Paulo Coelho, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Canon Andrew White, Martha Payne, Malala Yousafzai, Rob Bell …

Plus there are local writers, local poets.

Shadow Lives

October 22, 2013
Shadow Lives

Shadow Lives

Victoria Brittain signing Shadow Lives

Victoria Brittain signing Shadow Lives

Amnesty International talk by Victoria Brittain, part of the Guildford Book Festival.

I have to say I found this talk a grave disappointment. There was much that could have been challenged that was not.

Victoria Brittain is a war correspondent, she has covered the Vietnam War, Congo, Middle East. For her, the war on terror was a game changer, like the Vietnam War.

She was asked to interview families of detainees of Guantanamo for a play at the Tricycle Theatre. From these interviews grew a book, Shadow Lives.

All a bit one-sided, clearly her sympathies lay with the families, but then the same would apply if time was spent with the families of serial killers. But as she her self-posed the question, but did not then answer: What of the victims?

We had Communists as the enemy, is this now true of Islam?

Alimentation, but who alienates who? Is the West alienating Islam, or is it Islam aliantinting the West.

If you live in a country, it is reasonable to comply with the customs and practices of that society, not take advantage, then demand rights, then scream persecution. Even more so when you are an uninvited visitor.

She spoke of the women in the families being very strong, the children, if they were girls, being achievers. But then as one questioner rightly pointed out, girls get married off at ten years old. Arranged marriages, rape under any other name.

She had no problem giving this talk before a group in Guildford. Quite another matter in the US, especially if at a mosque.

Victorian London

October 21, 2013
the London of Charles Dickens

the London of Charles Dickens

Judith Flanders signing The Victorian City

Judith Flanders signing The Victorian City

A talk by Judith Flanders at The Electric Theatre, part of the Guildford Book Festival, scouring through the programme, one of the few events it looked worth going to.

And yes, it was well worth going to, a fascinating speaker, only a pity she did not have longer than an hour, and several minutes were taken up at the beginning with introductions.

I have never understood why I have to be told how eminent or erudite a speaker is, I can draw my own conclusions. And why do we have to have the ghastly TV format, let a speaker speak.

Judith Flanders started off by defining the period her book covered, 1812-1870, the life of Charles Dickens, this was pre-Victorian which meant she could show how the Victorian city had evolved, and the late Victorian was not so interesting.

Victorian London, was not just special to England, it was special to the world, it was the largest city the world had seen.

Cities, until then, we know their size, the walled city. There were various factors that controlled the size of the city, how to you get the food and goods in, how do you get the sewerage out?

Her starting point was a line by Dickens, the dead were elevated to waist height. She had read this many times, and it suddenly struck her, what did this mean?

Note: This is not an exact quote.

The cemeteries lacked room. This was solved in two ways. Dig the bodies up, break them up, and dispose of the bodies. This could be a short a period as four weeks had elapsed, before bodies were dug up and disposed of. The other, was to keep piling the bodies one atop the other. There were graveyards as tall as a one storey building. Hence the line the dead were elevated waste high. Readers of Charles Dickens would have known what was being spoken of, but it has become lost to us.

The city would awake in the morning. No alarm clocks, arrangements would be made, to be knocked up. No time for breakfast, cooking breakfast would have meant lighting a fire, too costly in time and fuel.

Public transport was available, stage coach which was expensive, and the omnibus, which was extortionately expensive, later had the tram, which was affordable, and special fares on the trains, which enabled people to commute. There was also steam ferries plying up and down the river.

Lacking any means of affordable transport, the only alternative was to walk. People came in waves, the workers, followed by the clerks, earlier were the drovers bringing the animals to Smithfield market.

The roads, or what passed as roads, were chaos, horse and carts, carriages, stagecoaches, all over the place. The walkers on the other hand were very disciplined, Dickens described them as a black line.

Having had no breakfast, this was picked up on the hoof as they walked to work.

Street sweepers, swept the streets clean.

As the clerks neared their place of work, shoe shine boys, who cleaned their shoes, brushed down their trousers.

Life was lived out on the street. Dickens was a journalist, he recorded what he saw on the street.

Trafalgar Square built, Regents Street. Regents Street was a destination, not a place to pass through.

A fire would be street theatre, everyone would come to watch. The firemen would call upon volunteers to man the pumps, the water was literally pumped. Very hard work, had to change manpower every ten minutes. The volunteers would be paid, and fed and watered.

One coffee stall, we know his shift, from his accounts. He would set up at nine o’clock at night to serve the theatre goers, then those worse for wear from a night out drinking, then the waves of different people coming in to work, the drovers, the workers, the managers. During the night, he would let the prostitutes huddle around his stall to keep warm. At nine o’clock in the morning, he would go home.

At night, the prostitutes would walk in for the night shift. We know where they lived from the Census. Houses where there were girls in their twenties, houses where there were no men.

A city of water shortages, water available for only a few hours, that is when it was available.

We can map when clean water and sewerage systems were connected as the rate of disease dropped. Before connected to mains water, the water had to be collected from standpipes in the street.

The Thames was much wider. The Embankment was built to house the sewers.

Women were on the streets, even those who stayed at home, interacted with the street, as there could be as many as twenty or more deliveries to a house, including the postman who managed a dozen deliveries in a day.

The rich lived almost cheek-by-jowl with the poor. The rich lived on the main street, the poor in the side streets.

The poor would live a whole family to a room, everyone would work, they earnt enough to sustain life, but nothing more. If one of the family fell ill, they would fall into destitution.

A city of people, not a city of buildings.

One Tree Books were running the bookstall. A pile of books. I did not think they would sell, neither did they. Only a couple were left. This must have had everything to do with the calibre of the speaker.

Book signings of The Victorian City.

Guildford Book Festival 2012

November 15, 2012
Robert Cotton speaking from the pulpit used by Lewis Carroll

Robert Cotton speaking from the pulpit used by Lewis Carroll

Now in its 23rd year, the Guildford Book Festival is a ten day annual event that takes place in October. This year 18-27 October 2012.

It used to be well worth going to, spoilt for choice, but sadly in the last few years very poor, the emphasis on trash fiction and celebrity culture, rather than books and authors worth reading.

This year a noticeable improvement, but still a long way to go to what it used to be. The emphasis is still on trash fiction, celebrity culture, but if you looked hard enough, it was possible to find something worth going to, usually the more obscure fringe events.

I usually go to the Amnesty International event as it is always worth going to, but unfortunately this year it clashed with the e-books debate, and it was on the same night as poet Alwyn Marriage.

A friend who went along to the Amnesty event said it was good, she was impressed by the speaker, but less than impressed by the local Amnesty group that hosted the event.

The book festival website was poor, mainly lack of links.

Peter James knocked 50 Shades of Crap off the best seller list. Probably because at 20p a download, his latest book was virtually being given away. The Festival writes about it, says see events, but no link. It was billed as Friday night at the Electric Theatre. Had I realised it followed the e-book debate I may have stayed.

Follow this through to the session, click on the authors, highlighted in blue, but no links, it goes nowhere.

This was true for all authors on all pages. If you wanted to know more about an author you had to do your own search on google. Bad web sdesign.

As an aside I note that during the festival, or maybe shortly thereafter, Paulo Coelho knocked 50 Shades of Crap off the top spot in Italy, without having to churn out rubbish or give away at 20p a download.

I am pleased to note that following criticism, listening to and responding to that criticism, Guildford Book Festival has become far more interactive in their use of twitter.

Social networks

– social – interactions
– network – many to many

cf broadcast – one to many.

They are also making use of #gfordbookfest as the hashtag for the Guildford Book Festival. I would also recommend using #Guildford and #books as then gets picked up by folks who may not know about the Book Festival.

During the second half of the festival they were tweeting two for the price of one. What did this mean as it was not clear? Did it mean two events, two books? I asked at the Tourist Information Office (who are also the festival ticket office). They did not know either, but to their credit they will always try to find out. The offer was two events for the price of one, but only if you could quote the code sent out on twitter. Did I have the code? Unfortunately not.

A steep learning curve when only ten days once a year.

The Guildford Book Festival can only be a success when made a community event and that means interaction on twitter

But at least to the credit of Guildford it has a book festival, unlike nearby Aldershot and Farnborough which are cultural wastelands, and host not a single cultural event.

I only made two events.

The e-book debate was as much about the pros and cons of self-publishing as it was about e-books.

It was stated Amazon is good at what it does. True, good at shafting authors, publishers and readers, good at dodging tax.

The Random House House Penguin merger is being driven by the bullying tactics of Amazon. But this is the wrong approach. What is needed is for the Big Six (hopefully not soon the Big Five) publishers to establish an e-book digital platform, open to all, not just the Big Six, using non-propriety open source format with no DRM e-books, available for download at one dollar, with the revenue (less costs of running the platform) split 50:50 author and publisher. The low price would reflect the zero costs involved in e-books, lead to more downloads, make piracy irrelevant, like bandcamp, readers would be encouraged to share.

The e-book debate was in the Electric Theatre. Infantile the prohibition on photography. Something the book festival organiser must resolve for future festivals.

The book launch by Canon Robert Cotton in St Mary’s Church of Reimagining Discipleship was very well attended. Robert Cotton spoke from the very same pulpit used by Lewis Carroll. It was unfortunate that he only spoke for about ten minutes as he is a very good speaker.

I regret I did not attend Kate Mosse as she is a good writer, but why put her with someone else, and why the tacky TV interview format? Good writers are more than capable of talking about their work and answering questions.

Other writers I missed out on: R J Ellory, but again why with another writer? Tom Holland talking about the early rise of Islam looked interesting.

There were workshops, how to write, how to aim at a specific market, how you too can write the next me-too 50 Shades of Crap.

It always possible to tell those who have been to these workshops, their writing is so bad, wooden, as though writing in a straitjacket.

Write because you want to write, because you have something to say, because you want to be read. Not write for a market.

Had anyone wandered into Waterstone’s, they would have been forgiven for not knowing there was book festival as not a mention. The usual sour grapes from Waterstone’s at not being selected as official festival bookseller.

Another example of how useless Waterstone’s. NeverSeconds, the story of Martha Payne and her food blog NeverSeconds was published today. Waterstone’s do not even have it on order!

NeverSeconds is published by Cargo Publishing, based in Glasgow. Not one of the Big Six publishers. Books in Waterstone’s are there as a measure of the clout of the publisher, not merit of the book. To be on display, a bribe is paid by the publisher.

And yet, NeverSeconds in advance of publication, had already made it into the Top 100 for biographies on Amazon.

It once again raises a question mark as Waterstone’s as a serious bookshop.

I was pleased to see W H Smith had the festival programme on display at Guildford Station and outside their store in the High Street. W H Smith was also a festival sponsor.

Kobo were running workshops on their range of e-readers. It is a pity only on two days not throughout the ten days. I wanted to know were they behaving like Amazon and arbitrarily deleting books off e-book readers without rhyme nor reason. A big advantage of Kobo, is that they are using open source e-book formats, not proprietary formats as does Amazon or Apple.

I have dropped into W H Smith three times since the book festival. They have an area laid out like a mobile phone shop with several Kobo devices on display. Not once seen any customers, not once seen a member of staff. I hung around for several minutes, no one came to ask did I require help or assistance. So much for support for users of Kobo devices.

An absolute must if using e-books is to download Calibre: manage e-book library, find and download cheapest e-book, built-in e-book reader, convert between e-book formats, copy books to and from e-book readers and other devices, strip e-books of DRM.

The best advice is stick to books. Try getting an e-book signed by an author at the Guildford Book Festival.

Writers and authors for Guildford Book Festival 2013: Paulo Coelho, Canon Andrew White, Martha and David Payne …

Book launch of Reimagining Discipleship

October 23, 2012
Robert Cotton speaking from the pulpit used by Lewis Carroll

Robert Cotton speaking from the pulpit used by Lewis Carroll

Re-imagining Discipleship - Robert Cotton

Reimagining Discipleship – Robert Cotton

Following the anti-cuts rally last weekend Giles Fraser, former Canon-Chancellor at St Paul’s (the man who a year ago said St Paul’s in-the-Camp could remain) and now Priest-in-charge, St Mary, Newington, commented: Didn’t see one church banner on today’s march.

A damning indictment of the church today, and why many people see the church as an irrelevance. A church that grew out of a small Jewish sect led by a charismatic leader who did not hesitate to get his hands dirty, who walked among the poor, the diseased and disadvantaged.

I rarely set foot inside a church. Nay correction, I rarely attend a service, I am happy to set foot inside. The reason why is that I cannot stomach the hypocrisy. It is as though the world outside the church door does not exist.

It is not just the poverty and greed that sits cheek by jowl on their own doorstep that is ignored, they turn their faces away from what is happening in the Middle East, where Christians ask why do they ignore us in the West?

In Russia we have seen two members of Pussy Riot, having been sentenced to two years in a Stalinist-era show trial, for what was at worst a misdemeanour, now being sent to penal colonies, the modern day Gulags.

Jesus spoke out against the corruption in the Temple, the abuse of power and was crucified. Pussy Riot spoke out against the Mafia Monks of Moscow and get two years in a Gulag.

Had Giles Fraser been in St Mary’s in Guildford this evening for the book launch of Reimagining Discipleship he may have in part had an answer.

After offering everyone wine, which I thought was very generous, Canon Robert Cotton spoke from the pulpit, the very same pulpit from which Lewis Carroll delivered the occasional sermon.

Reimagining Discipleship is a book in three parts. It draws on anecdotes and his experience of being part of and working with communities in Guildford.

A sense of space. St Mary’s provides a sense of space, a safe space. As do in a different context the Street Angels who work on the streets of Guildford late at night until the early hours of the morning.

Shakespeare Guildford Company was given as a community group, the community plays, the community is the audience.

We cannot manage volunteers. We can only lead by example, inspire.

Robert is a very good speaker and it was a disappointment he did not speak for more than about ten minutes. He said he did not wish to say too much about his book, he would rather we went out and read, but in the meantime, please enjoy the wine, circulate and chat to each other.

I had an interesting conversation with the lady who was sitting next to me.

What Robert was embracing, was a cultural shift that is taking place. Two strands are coming together. One is the people who occupied St Paul’s in-the-Camp (and curiously church people were very heavily involved) who are seeking alternatives. The other is poor and disadvantaged who have no choice than to explore alternatives (something Robert would have seen and experienced in South Africa). We have a soft revolution, not a hard revolution, existing institutions are being hollowed out from within or rendered irrelevant.

St Mary’s was packed. Many times the number who attended the e-book debate at The Electric Theatre, and unlike the Electric Theatre, no childish prohibitions on taking pictures.

Robert kindly signed a copy of his book with a lovely dedication. I shall look forward to reading it.

We had a brief discussion on the possibility of two writers for next year, which if comes to fruition, will very much be the stars of the Book Festival.

Canon Robert Cotton is Rector of Holy Trinity and St Mary’s. An unusual parish as it has two churches.

The book launch of Reimagining Discipleship was one of the events of the Guildford Book Festival, an annual ten-day book festival in October that takes place in Guildford.

Earlier in the day I had spent a misty afternoon in Godalming. In the Parish Church I lit candles for Canon Andrew White (who is currently undergoing treatment in Holland), writer Paulo Coelho and my lovely Russian friend Lena.

On my way into Guildford I noticed Eden People were meeting at The Keystone. I would have liked to have gone along, but decided to go home. Somewhat depressing, no information put out for this meeting. Only last week, I had someone ask me when were Eden People next meeting at The Keystone. I said I did not know, as I had not heard anything lately, and I was in The Keystone that evening.

Passing through Aldershot Station, a very unpleasant incident, a man fell down the stairs and smashed his head on the ground, he was not moving, his head in a pool of blood.

Top Story in Publisher’s Daily (Wednesday 24 October 2012).

Misty afternoon in Godalming

October 23, 2012
candles lit in Godalming Parish Church

candles lit in Godalming Parish Church

amazing tea set

amazing tea set

It was not cold, though it felt cold and wet, water dripping from the trees from the mist in the air.

Train to Guildford, then train to Godalming.

I do not know why, but Godalming always feels colder than anywhere else. Maybe it is the presence of the river nearby.

I wandered into the Parish Church. Lit candles for Canon Andrew White (who is currently undergoing treatment in Holland), Paulo Coelho and my lovely Russian friend Lena. I also wrote out prayer cards.

There is something very satisfying about lighting candles. I had what seemed at the time to be a clever idea. Light a tissue and have smoke curling around the candles. Very aesthetic. I burnt my finger.

In a charity shop I found the most amazing tea set. I hope they sell as a complete set. They have a bad habit of selling off piecemeal.

Lunch at Café Mila. Very quiet.

I asked in Waterstone’s, did they know when Manuscript Found in Accra was due out. No, they did not. But to the credit of the girl who checked, she was aware or found it in Portuguese.

I asked about Amazon deleting books off a Kindle. She knew nothing about it.

I asked in Oxfam about a shortage of secondhand books. They said a shortage of all donations.

Walking through Godalming, the 71 bus passed through on time. Usually it is at least ten minutes late, but today I was going in the opposite direction. Luckily I did not have to wait for a bus to Guildford, indeed I had to run to catch it.

In Guildford, I popped into W H Smith. During Guildford Book Festival they are running Kobo workshops, but not today. Kobo section like walking into a mobile phone shop. Guy claimed Kobo would not delete. In reality he did not know. I asked that he asked the Kobo team. One good thing I learnt which is a plus for Kobo over Kindle, they do not use a propriety format for their e-books, they use an open source format, which make the books transferable between devices.

I then went along to St Mary’s Church for the book launch of Re-imagining Discipleship by Robert Cotton. An excellent, if somewhat brief talk by Robert Cotton from the pulpit used by Lewis Carroll.

As I came into Guildford, I saw Eden People were meeting at The Keystone. I would have liked to have popped along, but decided to go home, via Aldershot, to save a long walk.

At Aldershot, tragedy struck. Walking down the stairs in the underpass, a man seemed to keel over, maybe he tripped, he fell down the stairs, he smashed his head at the bottom, a pool of blood started to form.

I shot back up the stairs, called for an ambulance. The ambulance centre asked me to go back down and describe the scene to them. They asked were there station personal around, if yes, were they First Aid trained? If not, would I ask everyone to back away from the man, including the station staff. The station staff were not trained in First Aid, when asked to back away, they started arguing with me, a yob threatened me (this is after all Aldershot). Station staff threatened to evict me from the station.

Ambulance station managed to speak to station staff, said it was ok, they would talk to them and thanked me for keeping them updated.

I left, as I was leaving, I directed the ambulance crew, well actually para-medics, to where the man lay.

I was appalled by the behaviour of the station staff. What is also appalling is that no one on the station trained in First Aid.

There is a problem with the stairs at this underpass. Some months ago I fell, I injured arm, knee and leg. At the time I thought myself lucky as I fell going upstairs, not down.

I hope the man is ok, though he did not look too good. I think he smashed his skull open. But maybe it looked worse than it was. He fell on face and maybe his nose acted like a cushion and all he suffered was a bloody nose. But the way he fell (I was just behind him), he probably fell on his forehead, and he did not move, a pool of blood started to form around his head. I waited a second, saw he was not moving, shot back up the stairs and called an ambulance.

When I got home I found myself feeling very sick. Whether it was delayed shock from the incident or that I was not feeling well I did not know.

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