Our DBA launch event on 18th October was the biggest ever, with over 1500 children taking part in a fun-filled celebration of poetry, pictures and stories at the Doncaster Dome. As my committee colleagues and I gathered that morning to make the last-minute preparations in the huge hall, we were all really excited but probably a tiny bit nervous too! However we knew our special guests, the very funny poet Paul Cookson and former Children’s Laureate, author and illustrator Chris Riddell, not to mention the wonderful Talegate Theatre, would all be fantastic, and that we were in for a memorable day. As our lovely volunteers from the DWP began to show the arriving schools to their seats, the buzz of excitement and anticipation was at fever pitch!
Our Chair, Lesley, officially welcomed everyone, then James and the TalegateCompany got the event off to a ‘magical’ start. They put on a fabulous routine of song, dance and magic tricks (just possibly!) influenced by a certain boy wizard…….?? It was funny, loud and frenetic, and really set the scene for a celebration of the joy of reading. Next up was Phil with a quick run-through of the long-list books to whet the appetite of our young readers and show them the great titles on offer this year.
Poet Paul Cookson then took to the stage. A brilliant performer, he immediately had the huge audience on side by ‘allowing’ them to choose which type of poetry they wanted to hear. He explained that he had written many poetry books and had in fact prepared two sets of poems to perform – they could either choose a set of poems about flowers and nature and unicorns, or instead a set of funny poems with lots of rude words! No prizes for guessing that the second option had hundreds of hands up in an instant!! Audience participation was very much the theme of Paul’s performance and we all (teachers included at Paul’s insistence!) enthusiastically shouted out responses and did all the actions to poems about a toilet seat with teeth, a non-uniform day with a twist, a scary dinner lady and a sneaky, soft-shoed teacher. It was raucous and great fun and the kids absolutely loved it. Paul also announced this year’s poetry competition and I am sure that he has inspired many of the children there to have a go and create fabulous poems of their own.
After a break for lunch, Lesley then welcomed the wonderful Chris Riddell onto the stage to talk about his books and to demonstrate his truly amazing artistic talent. At the start of Chris’ talk Paul joined him on stage to reprise some of his poetry from the morning session. As he performed each poem, Chris spontaneously and seemingly effortlessly illustrated them with a series of wonderful drawings, capturing the mood perfectly each time. It was a joy to watch.
As Paul left the stage, Chris began to speak about his love of illustration and the enjoyment he gets from creating his characters and putting lots of pictures in his books. He had brought along a copy of his latest Goth Girl book, Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony, from which he read a short extract. He showed a picture of Ada, the heroine of the series, describing how he created Ada’s world, the wonderful Ghastly GormHall and its cast of very eccentric characters. He delighted in showing off the book’s gorgeous shiny cover, gleaming end papers, zombie-green edging and the mini-book tucked inside the back cover, mentioning these several times and making his audience laugh. They were gripped as Chris went on to speak about his time as Children’s Laureate, travelling the world and attending all sorts of book events where he was sometimes asked some very odd questions by the public! He even spoke about his dog, Ruby, the not-so-sweet Jack Russell, while all the time drawing amazing pictures to illustrate his words.
Lesley drew the event itself to a close with a special presentation to Chris of a wonderful ceramic sofa with his most popular characters seated on it. However the fun went on for some time out in the foyer as hundreds of children excitedly posed for photos on our fabulous Big Red Sofa, kindly loaned once again by DFS, and queued for book signings and to say hello to Chris and Paul.
The biggest-ever DBA launch was a great success and the committee would like to thank our fantastic volunteers, the supporters from the public library staff, DFS and all our guests who helped to make the day so special.
We are looking forward to lots more fun and exctiting events throughout the year.
Secretary, Doncaster Book Awards.