Looking Back at Looking Sideways or “How I Got There”.

Being asked to write a “While we were here” post always throws my own personal thread of approaching Greenbelt blog posts usually an A –> B process. A being the blog post that bigs up what I’ve booked and then B being the reflective “wasn’t it ace” blog post. It’s not a bad thing to root myself right in the midst of the festival experience and reflect on the here and now (it also makes me prone to lyricism and less caustic about the world, not a bad thing).

Last year I called this post “mechanics” and then posted the best bits but this year I’m going to blend the two as it was a more blended experience this year.

I spent the weekend tweeting from the Greenbelt_Lit account which was lots of fun and I think I came up with a couple of funny comments. Greenbelt places a high value on the skill of humour and I’m proud to be counted among the “funny” community. (Briefly thought of it as a fraternity but some of the funniest people I know at Greenbelt are of the girl variety so it’s a community)

 Best bits (in no particular order):

Bobby Baker – The performer/artist Bobby Baker appeared at the festival and exhibited some of her personal diary paintings. (She also provided an exclusive numbered print which festival goers could get after collecting stamps at various visual art installations) I had just wrapped up a talk and was gently ushering people out and chatting to people when someone carrying a falafel platter and wearing a vibrantly coloured hat zoomed past me towards an empty seat, it was Bobby Baker. Deep breath and then launch into being a fan.

Four-poster Bed – I stayed in the Clarence Court Hotel in Cheltenham (my review on tripadvisor) and the room had a four poster bed. The room was high ceilinged and wonderfully charming. I often come in for criticism by staying in a hotel but I’m buzzing about the site all day and to be frank, camping and I don’t get along. You don’t want to see me after a less than perfect night under canvas.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey with Andrew Tate. Andrew is intimidatingly clever and switched on, I know that I could give him an hour slot and he’d fill it with witty, interesting and thought-provoking content on almost anything. Going toe to toe with him on The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder was a joy. Punching far far above my weight but loving every second of it. He had historical and literary context, I had the greatest llama description ever. I think it was as fun for the audience as it was for us to do.  I’ve got a couple of ideas for next year for Andrew, I hope at least one of them comes together. 

Chris Wills – My friend Chris came to the festival for the first time as a volunteer (his first proper festival experience last year was as a contributor) and I think he had an awesome time. On the final night we went for a drink in the Blue Nun Bar (it’s the trendy wine bar for the festival) and he was dancing by the bar to some trashy sounding pop and completely failed to notice the barperson offering him his change. It was a good two minutes of bopping before he realised she was there.

Francis Spufford. A very selfish booking as I adore his non-fiction writing but he went down a storm with the festival community. See, I do know what I’m burbling about. He was warm, inspiring, generous with his time and people just responded to his talk wonderfully. (Moved me to tears at one point hearing people talk about reading books as a child and thinking “Nope, you’re not the only one”. Wonderful.)

All weekend I’d hear my name yelled at me and then get hugged, briefly catch up and then I’d start to move on and hear my name yelled by someone else and get hugged again… you get the picture. I felt a little self conscious as I was usually with other people or trying to get somewhere or was hungry. I think I’ve passed from being a normal human being into being a true part of the Greenbelt community. And it seems everyone already knew everything that’s been going on over the last 12 months without me needing to tell them. Seems Greenbelt has it’s own Grapevine. 😉

Lessons Learned:

Find out if people want cars rather them asking too late.

Trying to meet and talk to everyone who wants to meet and talk to me is a hard thing to do. I’m thinking of programming a session called “Meet the Curator” and having an open session where if anyone wants to chat about process and ideas for the next festival.

I enjoyed being able to delegate some of my tasks to the wonderful and generous literature volunteers.

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2 Responses to Looking Back at Looking Sideways or “How I Got There”.

  1. maggi says:

    so we were in the same hotel and never passed on the stairs…

    • Ben W says:

      Oh my ears and whiskers, we were in the same hotel! I’m surprised you didn’t catch me getting “valuable feedback” over breakfast from the other greenbelt punters. It’s a lovely hotel- mind you the four-poster bed room is very nice. How was your room?

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