I’m only just now getting my breath back after a busy September/early October. The month’s main features were two very successful launches for The Heirs of Owain Gyndwr. But almost as soon as the second launch had finished I found myself on a train heading north for the first ever Saddleworth Literary Festival.
The first launch was the Welsh launch, held in Caernarfon at Palas Print book shop on 10 September. It was attended by a group of true book enthusiasts, who kindly agreed to depart from their usual practice by speaking English for the afternoon, and bombarded me with excellent questions, not only about my writing, but also about attitudes to the Investiture of Prince Charles and about Welsh politics generally. It was very stimulating, and I’m glad to say, resulted in the book selling well in North Wales. I would like to find a reason to go back. I felt very much at home in Caernarfon. As I was signing a book for one gentleman, he confided in me that they would not ‘put up with’ another investiture in Caernarfon, so perhaps a sequel beckons. I don’t think Ben is going to join chambers in Cardiff, but perhaps he could make another visit to Wales. Many thanks, a huge diolch yn fair iawn, to Eirian James at Palas Print, and to my Welsh mentor, Emrys Llewelyn who ‘interviewed’ me during the launch. Eirian seemed to like the fact that Palas Print was my model for the Siop Llyfrau’r Tywysog in the book, which she had read before the launch – a first in my experience for someone hosting a launch, and an indication of the fact that Palas Print is truly a haven for book lovers. Pictures below: top row, drawing attention to the nice display of Owain Glyndwr in Palas Print which the camera doesn’t quite pick up, in a gale force wind (see my hair); and the legendary Emrys Llewelyn meditating on his questions for my ‘interview’. Bottom row, the audience thinking up questions in Welsh to ask in English, and chatting with Eirian after signing the last books.
On 22 September, we convened in the elegant library at Middle Temple, my Inn of Court, for the London launch. The event was co-sponsored by the Association of London Welsh Lawyers. Advertised by the Middle Temple as well as the Welsh lawyers and No Exit Press,it was very well attended indeed. In fact we pretty much ran out of books by the end of the evening, and No Exit had brought quite a stock with them. The library was rather forced on us as the venue, because the other rooms in the Inn are currently being refurbished. It has its drawbacks. It is long and thin, and you can’t have red wine there – something to do with the carpeting. But the atmosphere of the room more than makes up for that. I had attended a launch there for the official history of Middle Temple a few years ago, and since then I always thought it was perfect for a book launch. I gave a reading, successful, and an attempted welcome in Welsh, somewhat less successful and perhaps on a par with Prince Charles in 1969. But with the aid of a good wine and delicious canapés, everyone seemed to have a good time. Many thanks to Ion, Clare and everyone at No Exit, to the wonderful Middle Temple Staff, and to Emyr Thomas and the Welsh lawyers, whose enthusiastic contribution to the evening was much appreciated. Picture shows a little of the ambience and yours truly, hopefully not while trying to speak in Welsh. Note the Welsh dragon bow tie, self tied, I would have you know.
The first Saddleworth Literary Festival was held on 1 and 2 October at Uppermill, which, according to who you ask, may be either in Lancashire or Yorkshire. The Wars of the Roses, it seems, haven’t quite subsided yet in this particular part of the world. Uppermill is beautiful, surrounded by luscious green hills, and is increasingly a tourist attraction, though a nightmare to get to by train, as I was to discover. The inaugural festival, held in the Civic Hall, was, for me, very enjoyable. I gave a talk and a workshop for aspiring authors. The workshop was very rewarding. Two authors sent me specimens of their work in advance, so we were able to discuss it in some detail, and two or three other authors attended. I wrote some notes on writing and finding a publisher for a novel specially for the occasion, and I will be making these notes available via this website shortly. The Festival was not entirely smooth. The Civic Hall was not an ideal venue, and the organisers will have learned some valuable scheduling lessons for next time, but it is great that this new festival got off the ground well, and will no doubt go from strength to strength in future. Thank you to Allan Graham for inviting me to the first of many. No pictures as yet, but if I am sent any I will post them.
Sadly, we had to cancel the Huntingdon dinner planned for 29 September when my co-speaker Emrys Llewelyn was unable to attend. But John Hoskins at the Old Bridge is determined that we will continue the literary dinner series before too long. Watch this space!