Nothing less than MESSY with Christopher William Hill

By Lizzie Arnold and Georgia Penrose 

Within moments of introducing himself, award-winning playwright, radio dramatist and children’s author Christopher William Hill filled the marquee with laughter. During the first few minutes of his workshop he revealed that he had been ‘watching us’ – that is, the audience – mentioning the ‘Bee Girls’ who had shrieked in horror at the bee that had found its way into the tent. ‘It’s because I am an author,’ he explained. ‘I have to steal things from around me.’  

Christopher made his aim immediately clear, stating that he planned for the budding writers to be ‘amused, shocked and appalled’ by his ideas and work. To kick start his fun-filled workshop, concurrent images of rainbow unicorns and a smoothie were presented to the audience on a large screen behind him whilst he claimed that he would certainly not write a book about rainbow unicorns. Instead he would, ‘put them in a blender.’ The young writers were certainly amused, shocked and appalled. 

It took the children just a few moments for them to become comfortable with one another, and with Christopher. The blossoming writers were eager to get involved from the start, particularly when he declared his two newest enemies – ‘Reluctant Bee Girl’ and a boy who had shouted ‘I don’t like honey!’ The bee jokes continued through the workshop to the children’s amusement, and to Christopher’s theatrical dismay (‘O curse you, Bee!’). He later muttered, ‘You know those situations where you think “I wish I never brought that up?” …this is one of those moments.’ 

Christopher mentioned his family life and his past in his discussions with the children. He explained how life in the 80s was hard because with no internet, his choices of entertainment were limited to, for example, creating a peg bag out of a coat hanger and fabric. To his surprise, the children were fascinated with this creation and showed their joy when the author began to hand out pegs to members of the audience. Almost every child began to shout ‘me! ME!’ while pegs were passed around the marquee. Shouting over the already laughter-filled room, Christopher called the children ‘grasping and greedy’ for their behaviour, but made sure to reward them too, telling a child, ‘I like you. One for you because you’re enthusiastic.’ 

Before going on to explain about his ‘gruesome books where terrible things happen to grown-ups,’ he presented the audience with an image of a sofa, enlightening them with the wise words that ‘the side of the sofa is the equivalent of a writer’s brain’ – one often finds loose change and crumbs (inspiration) down the side. 

It was evident that the energetic author was more than pleased to hear the thoughts and ideas of his young audience, asking, “I like this cup because it is empty; as writers what do you like about this cup?” The entire marquee was instantly filled with arms stretching as far in the air as possible to be sure to catch Christopher’s attention. Some answers were smart, and some were as ridiculous as Christopher’s. 

For the event finale, Christopher Hill allowed two of the children to get hands on and messy with a ‘taxidermy’ themed Bake Off. With three minutes to create a masterpiece ‘stuffed cat’ out of cake, icing, chocolate and eyeballs, the race was on. It did indeed get messy, but it resulted in both of the children being lucky winners and rewarded with the gift of two books wrapped with ribbon handed to them personally by Christopher.